Why a Trump Impeachment Should Terrify You

President Trump deserves to be impeached. But the prospect terrifies me, and it should terrify you, too.


That’s not to say that it’s the wrong move. Arguably, it’s the only move, at least in terms of fidelity to the Constitution and to basic decency. From the moment that Trump stepped into the office of the presidency, he has degraded it ― with words that a president has no business speaking (or tweeting); with ceaseless lies; with infantile and often unhinged behavior; with raging conflicts of interest; with managerial ineptitude; with a rapacious ego that’s never sated; and with foreign dealings that compromise America’s values, independence and interests. How can principled lawmakers not tell him, in the most emphatic manner available, that enough is enough?


But there’s no way to say what happens now that a formal impeachment inquiry is being opened. None. You’re going to hear a lot in coming days and weeks about Bill Clinton, but using the example of his impeachment in late 1998 is a bit ridiculous: He was a very different president accused of very different offenses at a very different time. Besides which, political analysts who do cite it don’t agree on the lessons. So a pundit making confident predictions about the political fallout from the impeachment of Trump is a pundit far out on a slender limb.

但在正式启动弹劾调查之际,人们现在绝对无法知道将发生什么。一丁点都不知道。你会在未来几天和几周里听到很多关于比尔・克林顿(Bill Clinton)的话题,但用克林顿1998年底遭弹劾的例子说事儿有点荒唐:他是一位非常不同的总统,他在一个非常不同的年代被指控犯有非常不同的罪名。此外,引用那次弹劾的政治分析人士对弹劾的教训没有一致意见。因此,一名对弹劾特朗普将带来的政治后果自信地做预测的权威,也是一名处于极其危险境地的权威。

Any scenario is possible, including one in which impeachment redounds to Trump’s benefit and increases the chances of his re-election, because he paints himself a martyr, eludes conviction in the Senate, frames that as exoneration and watches his fans mobilize and turn out as never before. And a second Trump term wouldn’t just be the sadly suboptimal byproduct of a noble stand; it would be disastrous. Morally as well as practically, limiting this unfit, amoral, unsteady man’s time in the presidency takes precedence over any small cluster of sentences written centuries ago.


But while an impeachment’s impact on November 2020 is unknowable, its effect on us as a nation is almost certain. A dangerously polarized and often viciously partisan country would grow more so, with people on opposing sides hunkering down deeper in their camps and clinging harder to their chosen narratives as the president ― concerned only with himself ― ratcheted up his insistence that truth itself was subjective and up for grabs.


That’s not a reason to blink, but it’s a reality to brace for. At a juncture when we so desperately need to rediscover common ground, we’d be widening the fault lines. Bringing the country together afterward would call for more than a talented politician; it would demand a miracle worker. None of the Democratic presidential candidates qualify.


Impeachment should terrify you because it would mean a continued, relentless, overwhelming focus on Trump’s lawlessness, antics, fictions and inane tweets. He would win in the short term ― and all Americans would lose ― because as long as most of the oxygen in Washington is consumed by the ghastly carnival of this barker, there’s too little left for the nation’s very real problems and for scrutiny of his substantive inadequacy in addressing them.


From the House Republicans’ persecution of Hillary Clinton through the permanent hysteria of House Democrats under Trump, Washington has devolved ever further into a place where process muscles out progress, grandstanding eclipses governing and noise muffles any meaningful signal. To be engaged in politics is to be engaged in battle ― and that shouldn’t and needn’t always be so.

从众议院共和党人对希拉里・克林顿(Hillary Clinton)的迫害,到众议院民主党人在特朗普治下没完没了的歇斯底里,华盛顿已比以往任何时候都更严重地退化,成为了一个程序取代进展、哗众取宠胜于治理、噪音盖过任何有意义的信息的地方。参与政治就是参与战斗――这不应当也不必总是如此。

Where’s the infrastructure plan that we’re ― oh ― a quarter-century late in implementing? Where are the fixes to a health care system whose problems go far beyond the tens of millions of Americans still uninsured? What about education? Impeachment would shove all of those issues even further to the margins than they already are.


During the Democratic primary and then the general election, the Trump melodrama and the Trump spectacle would overshadow all else. And many Americans’ estrangement from Washington ― their cynicism about its ability to improve their lives even a whit ― would intensify.


That could be all the more true on account of their confusion. If you’re favorably disposed toward Trump and receptive to his claims of persecution, you’ve watched the meticulous and drawn-out work of Robert Mueller, you’ve noticed a seemingly nonstop schedule of Capitol Hill hearings and of star witnesses (Michael Cohen, Mueller, Bill Barr, Corey Lewandowski), and you thought that the House Judiciary Committee was already doing an impeachment inquiry. The latest developments strike you as “Groundhog Day” on the Potomac.

由于人们的困惑,这尤其是再真实不过了。如果你对特朗普有好感,并且乐于接受他称自己受迫害的断言,看过罗伯特・穆勒(Robert Mueller)周密且花了很长时间的调查,注意到国会大厦似乎无休止地安排的听证会和明星证人(迈克尔・科恩[Michael Cohen]、穆勒、比尔・巴尔[Bill Barr]、科里・莱万多夫斯基[Corey Lewandowski]),而且你以为众议员司法委员会(House Judiciary Committee)已经在展开弹劾调查。这些最新事态于你就像是波托马克河上的《土拨鼠之日》(Groundhog Day)。

If you’re horribly offended and utterly exhausted by Trump, you’re tempted to cheer impeachment as long-sought justice and prayed-for release and forget that it’s just the prelude to the main act, which is a trial in the Senate. That chamber is controlled by Republicans, who, based on current conditions, are as likely to convict Trump as they are to co-sponsor Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax. So Trump’s supporters would wind up furious that he was put through what they regarded as an overwrought exercise with a foregone conclusion, while the frustration of Trump’s detractors would be exponentially multiplied. Let the healing begin!

如果特朗普让你感到深受冒犯,而且把你搞得彻底筋疲力尽,你会把弹劾当作等待已久的正义和你所企盼的获释感而忍不住欢呼雀跃,忘记了这不过是重头戏――参议院的弹劾审理――的前奏。参议院也是由共和党人控制的,从目前的情形看,他们给特朗普定罪的可能性与联名支持伊丽莎白・沃伦(Elizabeth Warren)的财富税法案的可能性不相上下。于是到头来,特朗普的支持者会对他被迫经历在他们看来是已有预料的必然结局的过分做法而愤怒不已,而特朗普批评者的挫败感则会指数式增长。让我们开始愈合创伤吧!

And would impeachment proceedings effectively lay bare ― and force Americans to focus on ― sins of Trump’s that are being ignored? That’s long been one of Democrats’ arguments for impeachment, but I wonder. For starters, some of the hearings to date ― Lewandowski’s in particular ― raise questions about their ability to pry loose what they want from witnesses and isolate the damning evidence amid the ambient vitriol. But more than that, there has been such saturation coverage of Trump that many voters may not be able to stomach it any more, and today’s political tribalism doesn’t allow for all that much in the way of epiphanies and transformations. Trump’s true colors were conspicuous from the start. You either saw a perverse rainbow or you stared into darkness.


Meanwhile, Trump. How vulnerable will drawn-out impeachment proceedings make him feel? How impotent? How desperate? To flex his power, vent his fury or distract the audience, what would he do? He’s untethered by scruple. He’s capable of anything. Maybe it’s not just a culture war that he’d whip up. Maybe it’s the real thing.


Certainly he’d do all he could to persuade Americans of the nefariousness of Democrats, and absolutely his strategy would be to smear the people, the procedures and the institutions arrayed against him as utterly unworthy of trust. If holding on to power meant ruling over rubble, so be it. Trump is beholden only to Trump, and he’d simply declare the rubble gold dust.



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