During the course of his illegitimate and failing presidency and his worsening criminal scandals, there has been plenty of discussion about if, when and how Donald Trump will end up going down. Much of this has been based on guesswork out of necessity, because there is so little precedent for any of it in United States history. But I can tell you one thing with certainty: even as much as the laws of the land are being tested right now, the laws of politics still stand.
Many people on both sides are under the impression that political outcomes just sort of happen. But if you study it more closely, you realize that there are laws governing politics just as surely as there are laws governing physics. The laws of politics are more ethereal, more difficult to define, harder to measure – but they’re there. Politicians can’t just do whatever they want, without consequence. It never, ever works that way. In politics, there is a cost for every action.
For instance, when Michael Flynn’s illegal contacts with the Russian Ambassador were first publicly exposed, Trump fired Flynn in the hope of containing the scandal. That worked for awhile, in the sense that the public and the media was briefly satisfied that this was merely a Flynn-Russia scandal. But a year later, Flynn has cut a plea deal against Trump, and he’s providing evidence that’ll expose Trump’s role in the Russia scandal.
In another example, when Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, this was a criminal act of obstruction. Even as people keep asking how Trump “got away” with committing that crime, the reality is that he didn’t; it resulted in the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation. I could keep going. When a president pushes legislation that he believes is important even though it’s unpopular, even if he manages to pass it, his approval rating falls as a result. There’s always a cost to these things. Always.
There are also other crucial laws of politics. Politicians care the most about getting reelected. They may be willing to take risks by taking the unpopular side of an issue. They may be willing to stick their neck out for troubled members of their own party. But at the end of the day it’s all about reelection. The Republicans in Congress aren’t trying to prop up Trump because they like him. They’re doing it because they think it’s their least bad shot at reelection in November. If they throw him out of office right now, they might face even more electoral blowback from Trump’s base.
But rest assured, if Trump’s approval rating were in the twenties instead of the thirties, he’d be out on his butt right now. Why? Because the Republicans only care about getting reelected. At the end of the day, there is nothing beyond reelection. If you lose your seat, your career is over. There’s not one Republican in Congress who would purposely choose to lose his or her seat just to try to protect Donald Trump. Not one.
This brings us to the final law of politics. Now that Robert Mueller is moving in, and Donald Trump’s ouster feels more like a real thing, some within the Resistance are floating the concern that Trump will just stay in office even after he’s exposed as a criminal and no one wants him there anymore. But that’s not how anything works either. Again, no politician can ever do anything without consequences.
I couldn’t begin to tell you precisely when Donald Trump will become so nonviable that the laws of politics force him out the door. But I can tell you that when the time comes, he won’t be able to defy it. He doesn’t have a magic wand. Once critical mass is reached where Trump is nonviable, he’s gone. How do we know? Because it won’t be in anyone’s interest to allow him to remain.
If he becomes nonviable before November, the Republicans will dump him, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because they like to win. If you can’t understand that, you have a fundamental misunderstanding of why the Republicans do the villainous things they do. They’re not mustache twirling cartoon villains who do evil things just for kicks. They’re cold and calculating corrupt criminals who would sell each other out in a heartbeat if necessary. And if Trump becomes nonviable after November, the Democrats will have the majority and they’ll dump him.
It’s time for the Resistance to stop fretting over imaginary scenarios that Donald Trump could only pull off if he had a magic wand. He doesn’t have one. If he did, he wouldn’t be sitting here with a historically low approval rating, virtually no political accomplishments, and an imminent no-win decision about whether to give Mueller an interview or plead the Fifth. The laws of politics have been crushing this buffoon since the day he took office. No modern president has ever been as powerless or vulnerable as he is right now. So let’s dispense with the idea that he’s somehow going to magic wand his way out of this. One way or the other, when the time comes, the laws of politics will finish him off. We just have to keep resisting until that time comes.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report