Home 2016 elections Ugliness Ahead, Either Way

Ugliness Ahead, Either Way


If Donald Trump wins next Tuesday – God forbid! – then it goes without saying that American politics are in for a time of profound ugliness.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that even if Donald Trump is defeated, a time of ugliness lies ahead.

That forecast now goes well beyond the issue of Trump’s telegraphing of a refusal to accept the outcome. The ugliness may well begin with that violation of the American norms – such as a concession speech – that are part of that essential aspect of our constitutional system: the peaceful transfer of power. (Dousing Trump’s Insurrectionary Fire) But Republicans in recent days have announced that it will not end there.

These Republicans are declaring that they will never confirm any Hillary Clinton nominee to the Supreme Court. There has even been talk of beginning impeachment hearings against the new president even before she has had a chance to begin her presidency.

With the ugliness of the Trump-wins scenario, there is nothing much that we can do. Such an outcome would signify that we have lost a battle of essential importance that we have been fighting for more than a year.

But with the ugliness of the Trump-loses scenario, it is important that we see it not only as the American tragedy that it is, but also as an opportunity. There is much that we not only can, but must do.

It is an opportunity to destroy the Republican Party—or rather, to destroy that part of the Republican Party that insists on such ugliness. (Which means that it might be possible to join forces with another part of the GOP to free that party of the destructive element that has already done so much damage to the nation.)

A Trump refusal to concede gracefully is part and parcel of the same thing that leads Republicans to refuse to concede to the legitimate role of a duly elected president to name a Supreme Court justice to fill a vacancy. And for that matter, that same thing also produced the general obstructionism of the GOP since President Obama took office.

The people – through the constitutionally mandated system – have hired someone to perform the vital job of President of the United States. But these Republicans — not accepting that the people have had the gall to hire their opponents — have chosen (since 2009, and apparently again in the coming year) to thwart the people’s will.

Here’s what all this ugliness adds up to: It is a rejection of the norms of constitutional democracy in favor of politics as all-out war. It is an assault on a system of laws and norms in favor of politics as only about power.

It is by wielding that basic truth about what they are up to that these Republicans can be attacked and, if it is done well enough, brought down.

So if Trump and the Republicans make good on the threats they have lately voiced, it should not be impossible to show the American people how clearly disgraceful — how clearly contrary to the spirit of the system our founders gave us — their conduct is. The effort should be made with some intensity to convince the majority of the American people that the Republicans are assaulting the foundations of American democracy.

How that battle might best we waged is not self-evident. But that question should be front and center, and now is not too soon to get to work on it. (It is good that Harry Reid has already indicated that a Democratic-controlled Senate could eliminate the 60-vote cloture requirement for the confirmation of justices.)

The Republican Party of our times has been an increasingly monstrous force in American politics for a generation. The nomination of Trump has put that monstrousness on more blatant display– and this has gone some distance in bringing about the crack-up of the GOP. Now, the promise of yet another effort to delegitimize and thwart a Democratic president will hand the Democrats another opportunity to discredit the GOP and compel it either to change its ways or to be driven into oblivion.

This is not a time to quake or cower before these Republican threats. Nor to think about this ugly future purely in terms of playing defense. It is a time to counter-attack with determination to win, and with whatever level of ferocity that good strategic judgment calls for.

  • So true, I don’t see a rosy outcome no matter what. The only difference is that a Trump victory would mean utter catastrophe for America and the world, while a Clinton victory would mean we COULD make progress if it weren’t for Trump-style authoritarian/extremist Republicans.

  • Andy Schmookler

    Chris Hayes just now on with a long segment about the Trump/Guiliani/FBI-leak/congressional-Republican coordination of an effort to suggest that Hillary is guilty of such crimes that even if elected she’ll end up in prison. An FBI “fifth column” leaking dubious stuff (founded on a hack anti-Clinton book) and then distorted into something dire-sounding without any real substance behind it. All in an attempt to tilt the election.

    What was not broached in the several “All In” conversations was any inquiry into what can be done to keep these efforts from succeeding. The whole thing is disgraceful on the part of Trump and his various allies. But where is the determination to find a way to make sure they are PUNISHED and NOT REWARDED for that disgraceful behavior?

    Can something be done to make sure that Trump does not profit on Election Day from his ongoing lies to criminalize his opponent, with help from elements in the FBI?

    And if something CAN be done, will it?

    There are two parts to my article above. One is that there is ugliness ahead, even after victory. That’s the part, Lowell, about which you said, “So true.”

    But the other part is a call to find the most powerful available strategy for using the disgraceful and ugly conduct of the Republicans to demolish them and drain their power. That’s really the MAIN point of the article.

    Watching Chris Hayes delineate so well the ugliness, but not even broach the question of how it might be punished, underscores my fear about the Democrats’ tendency to be too passive in relation to an enemy — not just an opponent, I regret to say — that will stop at nothing to grab power, even if that means dismantling American democracy.

  • Andy Schmookler

    For example… It is clear that wrong things have come out from the FBI, playing an inappropriate political role in this election. First there was the Comey letter, and subsequently there have been leaks about other supposed investigations involving Hillary Clinton.

    Given that the FBI has stepped out of bounds — both officially with Comey, and unofficially with leakage (to Fox News, it seems, and perhaps directly to the Trump campaign (a recent article has said that the FBI is “Trumpland” — it seems to me it would not be inappropriate to have the Director (Comey) take a step to right that wrong.

    Perhaps the President (or the Attorney General) could compel (?) Comey to come forward and correct the mis-impressions that are being played for electoral gain. It would involve saying only those things that he can say truthfully.

    It was said, for example, that there has been no “re-opening of the investigation” of Hillary’s email server issue. But the Republicans immediately characterized the Comey letter as signifying just such a re-opening. If that is so, it would seem to be incumbent upon Comey to state clearly the truth, and to indicate clear that his letter should not have been utilized by politicians to indicate otherwise.

    As for the other matters concerning the FBI leaks, I am not sure what Comey would be in a position to say. But if he could truthfully say, for example, something like, “The FBI is in possession of no information that would justify some of the statements that have been made suggesting that Hillary Clinton….” and here there would be language to counter assertions of the kind that Trump has been making to criminalize Hillary.

    Of course, the criminalization of Hillary has been going on for a good while –“Lock her up! — but the statement from Comey would deal only with the use of politically motivated leaks from the FBI.

    Whoever makes a mess as a responsibility to clean it up. In this case, Comey has made a big mess all on his own, and he is responsible for the conduct of his agency, including the politically motivated leakers. So for both those reasons, it is his job to clean it up however much he can prior to the election.

    I’m not sure about whether anyone has the authority to compel such a statement, whether Comey would be willing to do so (without compulsion), whether there’s any reason it would not be good for American democracy to seek such a pre-election public correction, or whether it would in fact undo the damage done for such a statement to be made.

    But it sure would not be good for American democracy if misconduct by the FBI determines the outcome of a presidential election. (Let alone if, as in this case, it would mean making a monstrous man like Donald Trump president.)

  • Andy Schmookler

    Or is this whole criminalization-of-Hillary/FBI bit no big deal, something better ignored?