Trump deserves to be dismissed, but the impeachment process will only play into his hands. It will give him the opportunity to wage a populist war in which anything goes. Boris Johnson has ditched the admirable English tradition of fair play and has opted to copy Trump. The two old Anglo-Saxon democracies are now involved in a struggle between civilisation and barbarism.
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” said Donald Trump a year before his inauguration as president of the United States. He hit the nail on the head. And it is the reason why the newly announced impeachment process could cost his enemies dearly.
During the 981 days that Trump has been in the White House there have been 981 reasons to dismiss him. He is corrupt, seedy and cruel; he is a liar, xenophobic and vulgar; he is a narcissist and a nepotist; he has the emotional age of a child in nappies, the judgment of a hamster and the intellect of a lettuce. Not 24 hours pass without his showing all his flaws to the world, usually through his inane tweets.
Trump as commander in chief of the most powerful country on earth is the most ridiculous politician I’ve seen in almost four decades writing about politics on five continents. In addition, his example of chaotic irresponsibility encourages third world dictators and European democrats (Hello, Boris Johnson) to do likewise.
However, the news this week that the US Congress is going to start an impeachment process against Trump, whose hypothetical end could be his removal, caused me only a fleeting joy. That does not raise any doubts that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, was right to decide that Trump this week had given her a golden opportunity to move for impeachment.
We have just found out that two months ago, Trump behaved like a Mafia godfather in his dealings with the brand new president of Ukraine. Yes, Trump would give him military aid, yes he would help him build his economy, but first, as the transcript of the telephone conversation between the two demonstrates, Trump wanted “a favour.” He should investigate whether Joseph Biden’s son had been dubiously enriched through a Ukrainian company. Biden, remember, was Barack Obama’s vice president, and is currently one of the main candidates of the Democratic Party for the presidential elections next year. The logic is inescapable: Trump was using US public money to pressure a foreign leader in order to improve the chances of extending his presidential term for four more years.
The only surprise is that it was made public through a CIA agent. Abusing power is what this silver spooned clown has done every day of his life. His objective now has to be, above all, to get away with it and win the elections next year. For that reason, impeachment is not a good idea no matter how good are the legal reasons for proceeding with it. Rather, it presents a high risk not only for Trump to triumph again but for the US political climate to heat up to lethal extremes.
First, the chances are remote today that Trump would end up being dismissed. That decision is finally in the hands of the Senate, two thirds of whose representatives must vote against him to make him leave the presidency. That will happen only if at least 20 senators from his party desert him: at the moment, an impossible dream.
Second, the long impeachment procedure will give Trump the opportunity to deploy all his talent in the only thing he knows how to do well: the populist war in which anything goes. He will launch his artillery of lies, slander and threats against those he defines as the enemies of the people, Washington’s progressive elite.
Third, he will have the considerable gormless sector of the American population howling beside him. It has always been true that Trump voters are able to forgive anything, including his murdering someone on Fifth Avenue in New York. This is not politics, it is religion. For his faithful, Trump is not the trashiest president in the history of the United States; he is a messiah. They will follow him until the end of the world. The danger is that the war of words translates into war in the streets. Trump has no scruples or awareness of the pain of others, and before he falls, he will destroy the temple.
Whether that step is reached or not, rhetorical violence and chaos are the waters in which Trump moves best. That is why Pelosi, a veteran Californian politician, had refused to contemplate impeachment, despite the clamour of many of her Party. This week’s revelations left her, as she understood, with no choice. But surely she still has her doubts, surely she is aware of the warning of the Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw: “Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and, besides, the pig likes it.”
We live in a time when those who succeed in politics are the pigs. Here in England, for example, we saw on Tuesday the reaction of Boris Johnson to the result of the summary “impeachment” of the British Supreme Court, whose 11 judges unanimously decided that he had broken the law when he suspended parliament earlier this month. The next day he not only denounced the court’s judgment, but also threw himself into a Trump like counterattack, accusing the members of parliament opposed to his Brexit policy as traitors to the homeland. Johnson was not always like that. Not long ago, when he served as Mayor of London, perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in the world, his speech was moderate and tolerant, even sympathetic. No longer. The old English idea of fair play does not fit in with today’s world. Johnson has taken off his gloves and opted for a no rules fight preached by his new teacher with the straw hair on the other side of the ocean.
This sounds alarmingly pompous, but I suspect that it is not an exaggeration to say that a battle is being waged between barbarism and civilization in the two old Anglo-Saxon democracies. Barbarism today is winning. Hopefully I am wrong, and the legal, fair and appropriate weapon of the impeachment will work in the United States. What I fear is that Trump, far from being worried, is pawing the ground.
John Carlin is a journalist, author and columnist for both English and Spanish language newspapers. His main areas of interest are international and national affairs, food and football. He is the author of a number of books about Nelson Mandela, and writes regular columns for La Vanguardia and Clarín, (Argentina). This column appeared in Clarín, Argentina, on 29 September 2019, and is translated by Kieran Tapsell