In the neglected tradition of learning from history, I hope I don’t have to remind everyone that it was complacency that got us in the mess we’re in today. While it is true that this past handful of days has unquestionably proven to be the most damaging to Donald Trump’s misbegotten presidency so far, the depredations of his latest scandal, Ukrainegate, are not sufficient, by themselves, to defeat him right away. The options within our power that were open to us in August, impeachment and conviction or defeating Trump in 2020, remain the same options that are available in early autumn. In that sense nothing has changed.
And we also need to remember that Donald Trump himself hasn’t changed that much either. He still lives in the same fantasy world he’s always lived in. While we have given him cause to worry, for the time being he still holds the cards. And what cards they are. The presidency is power, and Trump can still use that power to hurt the country, possibly even destroy it.
Another thing we need to recall is, but for the lone outpost of a Democratic House of Representative, Trump’s nation is still Republican, and will remain Republican for at least the next sixteen months. That power is maintained and misused by men and women for whom the rule of law means nothing – except what they want it to mean. And the malign force behind that power, the vast corporate wealth that fuels evil for its own Machiavellian ends, will never cease from plotting.
Neither can we afford to assume that the chaos that reigns at the White House will, through some arcane process, somehow bring Trump down. I’m sorry to have to report it but a badly run White House provides no mechanism for the instantaneous removal of the president. Nor should the chaos that prevails there provide us with undue hope. Contrary to the popular notion of “Nazi efficiency,” Hitler’s government was a similar mess. The upper echelon of the Nazi regime was endemic with internecine rivalries, petty squabbles and hopeless mires of red tape, presided over by a Fuhrer who often slept until noon and was himself notoriously undisciplined. Evil doesn’t need to be efficient to kill.
Nor can we hope for Trump’s base to turn against him. Their indestructible, bovine devotion remains unflappable. When, for them, all news is fake news, there exists no avenue to penetrate their glassy-eyed malevolence. Their continued fidelity to Trump is made implacable by hatred, “the only thing that lasts,” as Bukowski put it.
This fight is far from over, and we do ourselves no favors by pretending otherwise. Of course Trump could resign any day, or he could die of a junk food-induced heart attack, or Pence could implement a 25th Amendment removal of him. But we have entertained such thoughts every day since the election, and they have brought us nothing but false hope. Certainly we should entertain a certain amount of hope to sustain us, of course. But we should also continue to fight, fight as if this horror will go on forever if we don’t. Because, in the end, that just might be the actual truth of the matter.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.