Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Listen: our opponents are this White House and our own exhaustion, so make sure you fight both.

We have two opponents.  The first one is an insular group of amoral or immoral Republican legislators, funded by the dark money of the corrupt and the small donations of their victims.

The second one is exhaustion.

In the past two weeks -- that's fourteen days, folks! -- we have been assaulted with a flood of insanity:

  • Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has announced his office intends to ramp up the drug war once more and will be reviewing and rejecting many of the Obama-era attempts at police reform.  This shift in priorities is happening after years of hard-fought progress, when the Department of Justice worked with police departments all over the country to establish consent decrees -- agreements that can credibly compel reform.  It's happening when some of the first reforms (the use of body cameras) is starting to pay dividends, exposing blatant discrimination and abuse.  This incident, where officers drive-stunned a handcuffed man because they didn't like his mild protests of innocence, is one example.
  • It has been revealed that the president spoke in private to his FBI Director, James Comey, to say in regards to former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go."  Then when Comey declined, Trump fired him -- and has publicly admitted that it was at least partially because of that "phony" investigation!  And in a final shocking twist tonight, the relatively new Deputy Attorney-General, Ron Rosenstein, has appointed a special counsel to investigate the whole thing -- and that special counsel is the unimpeachable Robert Mueller!  The only thing I would have thought less likely than the president publicly admitted to obstruction of justice would be his administration's appointment of a superlative and steadfast man to investigate the matter!  Rosenstein reportedly didn't ask permission from his boss, Sessions, or the president-- indeed, he only gave them a half-hour's notice!
  • President Trump invited President Erdogan of Turkey to the White House, a man who is literally at the moment consolidating authoritarian power in a country that was once a free democracy, and has said nothing after Erdogan's private security force attacked and beat American protesters outside the Turkish embassy.
  • Two weeks ago, the House Republicans managed to wrangle enough deals to inch the American Health Care Act (AHCA, or Trumpcare, or Ryancare) out of their corner and into the Senate.  After managing to pass this bill -- a bill so wildly unpopular that it has actually doubled the nation's approval Obamacare to a majority! -- they then went and posed for a picture with the president.
This is the short list.  Off the top of my head, I can think of twenty more incidents in the past two weeks that would each have consumed a week of news cycles in calmer times.

These events and all others have taken their toll on American views of Donald Trump.  When politicians are openly and casually discussing the numbers on possible impeachment, and his own party is sizing up possible staffing positions in the future presidency of Mike Pence, it's no wonder his approval rating has cratered back down to a low point.

It's also taken a toll on all of us.  Activist energy has waned after a spike of outrage after the passage of the AHCA, and now it's as though we're all stunned -- either with dismay about this tidal wave of craziness or hope about a possible conclusive end to it.  Many of those in the Resistance have begun to think that the light at the end of the tunnel is right around the corner... or that it may never come.

And both groups are wrong.

Impeachment (that is to say, actual removal from office) isn't going to happen, not based on what we know right now.  And to be frank: we shouldn't hope for it to happen.

I'm sorry, and this may frustrate you, but it's true.  The numbers aren't there, first of all.  To remove a president from office, the House needs to pass articles of impeachment by a majority, and then the Senate must approve one or more of them by a 2/3 majority.  That means that, assuming every single Democrat voted as a bloc (a safe assumption), you'd need 25 Republicans in the House and 20 Republicans in the Senate to vote for impeachment.

The brute facts are these: it would take a level of heroic selflessness for Republicans to turn against their own party in such numbers, and there is virtually no evidence that they will do so.  With a handful of exceptions, very few Republicans have done more than say that they're "troubled" by the latest allegations, or that they want a "full investigation" before they make a judgment.  And even those few exceptions, like Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI), have a record of saying they're bothered by something and then voting for it anyway.

Republicans will call for investigations, call for a "course correction," call for advisers to be fired, call for a focus on legislation, and so on.  But when push comes to shove, they keep backing the president.  They will continue to do so long after the truth is obvious, especially now that they can say, "I'll wait to see what the special counsel has to say when his investigation is done" (i.e. in a year or two).

As Upton Sinclair once said, 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

This makes political sense.  There would be no escaping a Democratic tidal wave in 2018 and 2020 if the president were impeached and removed for malfeasance in a historical first.  Even if it weren't a matter of simple party identification, there's also the fact that these legislators have been working with Trump for months.  That picture of the whole Republican House caucus laughing together with Trump in the Rose Garden after passing the AHCA?  The video of Trump laughing and glad-handing with them after his "presidential" speech?  The ads would be crushing and simple and obvious: this guy is buddies with the corrupt monster we just kicked out, so kick him out too.

Indeed, there's only one reason I can imagine Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acting to impeach Trump: if they want Pence.  It is conceivable that they could make the decision that the massive hit they'll take from Trump will be worth it, if only they can do it quickly enough to put Pence in place and then start passing some legislation.  Paul Ryan would beat his own mother with a brick if it resulted in tax cuts for the wealthy, and he earnestly seems to believe they will help the country and result in rewards at the polls.  But the timing is so tricky as to be almost impossible.

And that means we're left with the long slog.  It's disheartening.  There's a special prosecutor: his work will take years.  There are special elections: to actually flip Congress we must wait 537 days.  They haven't passed a single piece of major legislation: they have a year in which to do so and hurt the country.

Thus, we have two opponents: the corrupt administration and our own weariness.

You know how to fight the former.  March, call, write, protest.  How do we fight our own exhaustion?

  • Self-care.  Take the time to take care of yourself.  If you run yourself ragged, you won't be ready when we need to bring the fight.  Take a nap in the shade with a magazine and a glass of wine.  Play video games for an hour with your son, and hit him in the back of the head with a pillow when he tries to cheat.  Watch a silly movie with your partner.  Sometimes, you need to give yourself permission to bolster your own strength.
  • Find something with a quick payoff.  It's hard to always work towards a distant goal, so find something you can do that will let you accomplish something in the short term.  Canvass for voter registration in a swing district, so you can come home with sore feet and a clipboard full of new names.  Find an issue that bothers you and a bill that might help fix it, and start pushing your representatives to support that bill.
  • Take a break.  If you go to an activist meeting every week or every other week, make a commitment to ignore the news for a while and to skip the next meeting -- but also to go back to the meeting after that!  A firm and discrete commitment to take a break will help you give yourself a little vacation, and you won't be at risk of just letting the whole enterprise slide away.
If you don't take the time to salve your own wounds, you won't be able to stay in the fight.  I promise you that.  You'll burn out, you'll become jaded, you'll give up.  Don't let that happen.

Take care of yourself, so you can help take care of everyone else.

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