I fell asleep last night to the sounds of a media frenzy, as a wave of bombshell revelations in the Mike Flynn/Trump/Putin scandal had frothing cable TV pundits in full "All the President's Men"/what-did-the-president-know-and-when-did-he-know-it mode. By the time I woke, #TrumpImpeachmentParty was trending on Twitter. Did I mention that Donald Trump has been president of the United States for only 26 days?
Anyway, despite the lack of better offers, I'm going to hold off on my ticket to the #TrumpImpeachmentParty for now.
For one thing....President Mike Pence? That said, it's clear that Congress, our investigatory agencies and probably a special prosecutor (I hear Sally Yates is available these days) clearly need to determine the extent that Russia fu...er, meddled in our 2016 election, whether Trump aides had either knowledge of or active involvement in Putin's schemes, and whether the president himself knew what was happening.
Trump is clearly the most dangerous and most unqualified president America has ever had, but the evidence of actual high crimes or misdemeanors linked to his performance as POTUS or as a candidate hasn't really emerged...yet. If the worst suspicions are indeed confirmed, the impeachment and removal of the 45th president could be warranted. That would solve America's Donald Trump problem. But it wouldn't solve America's much bigger problems -- the ones that created the Trump administration in the first place. And that worries me. Let me try to explain.
Let's stipulate that U.S. voters didn't get the election we deserved in 2016. Citizens from all across the ideological spectrum agreed, in a broad sense, that American society lacks fairness, that the deck is stacked against everyday people, and that too much power is vested in unaccountable elites. Yet the Democrats put up a candidate who was too closely tied to those elites for the taste of too many voters. while the GOP nominated a reckless demagogue who pandered to the middle class by appealing to people's worst instincts on race, religion, gender and a host of other issues.
Then, in this election season of two fairly unpopular candidates, something even weirder happened. The so-called "Deep State" intervened. By the Deep State, I'm referring to the faceless, permanent government in Washington, dominated by the so-called "three-letter agencies" such as the CIA, NSA, and FBI who -- with the rise of the post-World War II national security state -- have accumulated power to spy on, harass and thwart citizens and political movements. That mostly unchecked power has persisted and even grown while presidents of either party come and go.
The weirdness started over the summer and fall when the FBI's Jim Comey exerted a ridiculous and completely unjustified influence over the presidential election by highlighting a nothingburger investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails while keeping under wraps the much more explosive probe into the Trump campaign's contacts with Moscow.
But the equilibrium did shift dramatically after Trump's election on November 8 -- and after Trump said harsh things about an intelligence community that at one point he even compared to Nazi Germany. In rapid fire succession, Americans heard on the news that U.S. intelligence has concluded that Russia intervened in the election with the goal of a Trump victory, that the FBI was probing possible links to Trump's inner circle, that a dossier of salacious charges involving Trump himself, and his team, was making the rounds and -- last night -- that our spies had monitored constant contact during the election between Team Putin and Team Trump.
All of these bombshell disclosures hinged on the same reality: That the United States has massive spying capacity to monitor phone calls and online contacts, even those involving our own citizens, and that top officials in the Deep State are willing and able to leak the results, anonymously, to the news media if and when it serves their purposes.
It's honestly not my intention to re-hash the early 1970s and Richard Nixon's Watergate downfall every single day. But it must be noted that the same type of warfare within the Deep State -- growing unhappiness with the 37th president in places like the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- did more than anything else to drive Nixon toward his 1974 resignation. The most famous source of truth about the president -- the infamous leaker named "Deep Throat" -- was a high-ranking FBI official motivated not so much by patriotic fervor as by his anger that he wasn't picked to replace J. Edgar Hoover. When Nixon quit, a lot of Americans -- especially liberals -- crowed that "the system worked." But after some cosmetic changes related to ethics and "campaign finance reform" (how did that work out?), the national security state chugged along largely unchanged and rise of an exploitative billionaire kleptocracy soon took flight.
In 2017, that history may be repeating. Make no mistake: A Trump takedown -- even one driven by the CIA and FBI -- would have some hugely positive impacts, such as removing a hot-headed buffoon's fingers from the nuclear button. But in a strange way, a sudden, Deep State-driven Trump meltdown would also have a negative impact...because too many born-again activists would say "the system worked, again" and return to the safety of their couch and their TV remote control. And thus cut short a beautiful people's movement that began on January 21, 2017.
That was the Saturday, you'll surely recall, when more than 3 million people, mostly women, took to the streets to assert their desire for a more just and equitable society -- one that valued the rights of women but that also the rights of every individual citizen. It was the beginning of a mass movement in which diverse people with diverse interests -- uniting in their disgust and opposition to the Trump presidency -- started to see how their issues were interconnected. Ending racial profiling and discrimination of Muslims. Support for immigrants. A $15 living wage. Health care as a right for citizens. Full equality for the LGBTQ community. And so on.
Simply put, the resistance to Donald Trump has the potential, the size and the passion to do a lot more than simply block the horrific actions of Donald Trump. Success could overturn some of the underlying conditions that caused too many voters to turn to a strongman like Trump in the first place -- the destruction of the middle class and the sense that average citizens lack a voice in today's American society. That's as a much a threat to the entrenched elites -- including some of the Deep State players now working behind the scenes to take down the president -- as it is to Trump himself.
Take a step back, and you'll see that today's most significant news might not even be the widening probe into Flynn and Trump's White House ties. The sudden withdrawal of Trump's nominee for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, is in many ways a monument to the work of thousands of protesters -- many organized by labor unions and affiliated groups like Fight for 15 -- who hit the streets and flooded the offices of Congress members to voice their anger over Puzder's mistreatment of workers at the fast-food empire that he created. Likewise, it was rank-and-file teachers who came within a vote of blocking the supremely unqualified Betsy DeVos at Education. This is the base of a real movement for workers' rights that could do so much more for the working class than Trump's phony campaign promises.
That's also the kind of opportunity for social change that was squandered in the confused afterglow of the Watergate scandal. We know that leaks from FBI agents in underground parking garages and CIA drops of wiretap transcripts can change the president, but that won't change America for the better. That's our job.