I was thinking this morning in the shower (it’s where I do all my best existential thinking) that for all the Republican whining and pearl-clutching about imagined election fraud and far-fetched conspiracies causing them to lose the White House, they have only themselves to blame. It seems to me they had at least two chances in 2020 to seize the initiative and take total control of the government.
What saved our democracy? Their own incompetence and short-sightedness, with a dollop of cowardice.
Before the trolling begins, hear me out.
Almost exactly a year ago in December of 2019, The House of Representatives impeached Donald J. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of justice. This was not a huge surprise, since the Mueller report had earlier cited at least 13 incidents of obstruction.
Almost immediately, in fact even before the impeachment was voted on, Senate Republicans began loudly proclaiming that they had no intention of doing their duty and holding an impartial trial. Instead, they had already decided (with the exception of Mitt Romney) to vote to acquit, and refused to hear any evidence or introduce any subpoenas.
The main reason? Fear that a few angry tweets might cost them their seats in the 2020 election.
Consider for a moment what would have happened if just a handful of Senators had grown a spine or a conscience, and actually done their duty and examined the evidence, issued subpoenas, and made a fair judgment. What exactly would they have lost had they voted to remove Trump from office?
Nothing. They would still control the White House through a much more malleable Mike Pence, and they would still control the Senate.
What would they gain? They could have had Senators not up for re-election for four or six years, or those in heavy Republican states cast the guilty votes. They could have postured that while they supported Trump’s “policies”, they must respect the Rule of Law and protect the country and Constitution.
They would have stolen the thunder from the Dems, and still be able to continue to pack the courts, their main business for the past four years. Better yet, the party could have gone with a moderate candidate in the presidential election (like Romney or Kasich). This would have thrown the Democratic primaries into disarray, as their main argument was we must prevent a second Trump term.
If he was gone, removed by the Republicans themselves, what could they say about it? What candidate could the Dems have come up with to run against a moderate?
The second blown opportunity falls right on the White House – the total mismanagement of the coronavirus.
Again, before the trolling starts, I’m not saying the pandemic was his fault, or that he did nothing right. Although you have to admit, throwing out the pandemic response playbook and firing the experts does not look like the work of a stable genius.
What I’m saying it that the short-sightedness of fixating on the Stock Market blinded the White House to an opportunity.
We know from recordings Bob Woodward made in interviews for his book “Rage” that Trump was aware in January and February that Covid-19 was a serious problem. He knew how deadly it was, and what a problem it could be.
But he chose to downplay it, call it a hoax, falsely claim it would disappear on it own, etc. just because he was so afraid a dip in the Stock Market might hurt his re-election plans.
Consider the alternative. There are plenty of examples in history (the most recent being 9/11) where a party in power seizes on a crisis to pull America together. To show strength and courage in the face of adversity, and force their opposition party to either back them or look un-patriotic.
If the White House had early on called for strict shutdown measures, nationwide mask initiatives, help to hospitals and first-responders, and insisted on generous monthly payments to taxpayers to make it easier for them to stay home (instead of bailouts to cruise lines that pay no taxes, for instance), they could have rallied the nation behind them.
Sure, the economy still would have suffered, but perhaps not as much. Besides, people would be pulling together and fighting for a common goal. In such times, Americans are more willing to face hardship.
And really, if like some other countries the White House had been sending taxpayers $1500-$2000 a month since March, paying restaurants and bars to stay closed, and setting an example for safe behavior, who do you think would have won the election in November?
Instead they went with dividing people and making mask wearing a political statement. They refused to set an example and gathered in public without CDC recommended precautions. And even now, ol’ Mitch McConnell continues to celebrate the Christmas season by trying to block the Congress from helping Americans in need when let’s face it – we are no longer talking about “stimulus” we are talking about “disaster relief”.
While it is true that hindsight is 20/20 (although with 2020 the way it has been that sounds more like an insult than an observation), but if these thoughts could occur to me while I’m soaping and rinsing, surely some paid political hack should have been able to look beyond the immediate goals and think strategically?
Maybe they are all just bath tub people ….