Sunday, March 26, 2017

Listen: the cavalry isn't coming -- and that's good news.

"President Trump will resign," says someone, confidently.  "The press or the FBI will uncover something too big and he'll have to."

"No, he'll be impeached," says someone else, smiling and shaking their head.  "Congress isn't going to want him around forever."

These people are waiting for the cavalry: the mounted troops thundering onto the battlefield to join us, sweeping the president from office.  In this vision, the FBI's investigation eventually shows that President Trump is acting under orders from Russia's Vladimir Putin.  Or some newspaper's expos√© reveals that the president's top aides plan to give clandestine support to neo-Nazis.  Or Congress is shocked at some foul deed and votes to impeach President Trump, ejecting him from office.

I don't blame these optimists for hoping for the FBI, the press, or Congress to rescue them.  But it's probably not going to happen.  Donald J. Trump will be our president for the next four years.  There's no cavalry on the way to save us.  But here's the thing: that's good news.

Why isn't the FBI going to save us?  Well, first of all, it's really unlikely that the Trump campaign engaged in the sort of misdeeds that would lead to the president's indictment and conviction.  I'm not underestimating their incompetence or skullduggery, but rather, I'm looking at it from the other side: Russia.

If I'm a Russian oligarch, there's a clear upside to throwing the U.S. presidential campaign into chaos and badly weakening the likely winner, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  But very few people, including my own Russian analysts, think Trump can really win.  By the best estimates, he has maybe a 30% chance of victory.  I am not going to risk a catastrophic international incident by directly working with Trump -- not with chances like that!  Instead, I just try to muddy the waters as much as possible, using asymmetric methods that allow me to expend few resources to achieve maximum gain.  My hacker teams cost -- what, a few million rubles?  That's a cheap price to pay for a good chance of causing damage, and there's very little risk to myself.  Why would I screw up a good thing by trusting an incompetent and reckless long-shot like Trump?

At absolute best, the Russia investigation will reveal an infiltration throughout the Trump campaign of Russophiles, plus an eager willingness on behalf of the campaign to capitalize on Russian hacking efforts.  And we already know those things are true.  The president already openly praises Putin, and he once stood at a podium and requested further hacking help.

His covert misdeeds can't possibly eclipse his overt ones.  The FBI isn't going to save us.

Why isn't the press going to save us?  Because that would require him resigning.  And there's a single dominant reason why no number of editorials or investigations is going to pressure Trump into resigning: Trump has no shame.  I don't mean this in a pejorative sense, but rather quite literally: he does not appear to feel shame when publicly exposed.  He becomes angry and defensive, he lies and blusters, and he happily deflects -- but he shows no evidence that he actually feels shame.

You cannot shame someone who refuses to take responsibility, who views reality as flexible, or who always responds by going on the attack.  The president was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, and weeks of public fury barely managed to elicit a brief, rote, and insincere apology.

One must be capable of grace before they can be threatened by disgrace.  The press isn't going to save us.

Why isn't Congress going to save us?  Congress has a majority of Republicans, and it will likely retain that majority until 2020.  And Republicans will not impeach a Republican president.  I would love it if this weren't true, but tribalism is unbelievably fierce.  Even after these disastrous first couple of months, for example, Trump retains the loyalty of virtually the entire Republican party -- both voters and politicians.  His approval numbers have gotten steadily worse as independents and undecided voters have turned away... but Trump's tribe has not yet deserted him.  It will take many months or years before that happens.  In terms of pure showmanship, after all, there are still a number of cards he can play, as I talk about in this post (particularly prescient, if I do say so myself).  And he has already shown with the Muslim ban that he is perfectly willing to do cruel and inane things if he believes it will please his base.  Until such a time as Trump's unpopularity with the Republican base begins to hurt the bulk of Republican politicians, who represent safely red seats, they will not desert him.

Even if the 2018 elections deliver a Democratic majority in the House (which is possible, though not easy) or a Democratic majority in the Senate (incredibly difficult), there probably won't be enough votes to impeach without some sort of smoking gun that directly implicates the president.

The red tribe will protect its own.  Congress isn't going to save us.

So don't look to the FBI.  Don't look to the press.  Don't look to Congress.  They're not the cavalry, and they're not going to save us.  But here's the good news:

We are going to save ourselves.  The cavalry is already here, and it is you.

You're going to rescue us.  You're going to register people to vote.  You're going to call your representatives.  You're going to demand town halls and show up to them -- and if your representative won't hold a town hall, you're going to go to their office or their fundraiser.  You're going to seek out the truth, reading the news and thinking about the issues.  You are going to march and protest.

You want the FBI or the press or Congress to save you?  They work for you.

We don't need to wait for heroes to show up.  I was at the Women's March on Washington.  I saw heroes.  I have gone to Greylock Together and other activist meetings.  I saw heroes.  I have worked on voter registration drives.  I saw heroes.

This past week, we saved Obamacare.  Countless rallies across the country put pressure on representatives of every ilk.  Democratic congresspeople and senators held the line because they knew they had the support -- the insistent support of their supporters.  Moderate Republicans were made to fear their constituents, those who angrily crowded their town halls to tell about how Obamacare saved their lives.  Even extreme Republicans were forcibly made aware of the dangerous consequences of a terrible repeal bill.  We were assisted by Trump's ham-handed attempts at negotiation, general incompetence among GOP leaders, and pressure from interest groups, but politicians respond to voters above all else.

There are more fights in the future.  Victories beget victories.  We can keep it up.  We can call and write and march and protest.

You shouldn't wait for heroes to ride in and save the day.  We are the heroes.  You are the hero.

You can save the day.

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