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I feel compelled to write a short post just to acknowledge my support last year for impeaching President Trump. I have just now reread that post, as well as the Yoni Applebaum feature in the Atlantic that persuaded me at the time.
It feels far too early to start wailing in despair that the whole thing was a mistake and we were all wrong. Applebaum’s article used the impeachment and acquittal of Andrew Johnson as its augur, and by this measure he predicted a period of celebration and a flare of support for Trump after his own acquittal — as obvious an outcome in January of last year as it was last month.
And lo: Trump has, as I write this, begun to celebrate in his favorite way, going beyond obvious gloating (though there’s plenty of that too) and immediately delighting in the retaliation of all who wronged him through either political opposition or mere disloyalty. Not just individuals, mind you, but also their families, their constituents, and the very lands they call home.
Applebaum’s stated hopes that the act of impeachment would corrode the president’s support in the Senate, of course, proved entirely unfounded. Instead, senate Republicans just shrug, either too cowardly to protest or openly supportive of the executive’s rampant and overt abuses of power. Certainly, they do nothing at all to temper my own earlier assessment that the modern Republican party stands against human progress, or even its long-term survival.
So we all look ahead to November, once again. I do not, at this time, consider any candidate, the president included, a lock-in; I expect that Trump’s steady unpopularity balances both his incumbent advantage and his eagerness to fight dirty, including using the powers of his office to harass his political opponents. It seems currently that if the president’s impeachment carries any effect on the looming election, then it will take the form of citizens’ reaction to his unsubtly vindictive rampages upon his preordained acquittal. Now that he has little left to fear, we witness this president at his most unmasked.
We should forgive those who voted for Trump in 2016. I know my parents would have done it, were they still alive. Hillary Clinton was the second-least popular presidential candidate since such things have been tracked — losing that mantle only to her opponent — and countless people beyond die-hard Republican supporters had no love for her. I have sympathy for those who thought, not entirely unreasonably, that a jokey novelty president would shake things up and give us a few years of amusing pro-wrestling kayfabe from the White House while conducting business more or less as usual behind the scenes.
I feel plenty of reason to hope that enough of these people recognize their error and have no taste for repeating it, and will quietly make amends in the privacy of the voting booth this fall. Even if that happens, it will be impossible to say how much impact the impeachment-and-acquittal dance had. And I have to acknowledge how frustrating and sad this rare scrap of foreknowledge feels, at a time when the world needs sure-footed leadership more than ever.
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