James Comey testified earlier this week about Donald Trump’s apparent attempt to obstruct justice, and once again the word “impeach” is showing up in my Facebook feed.
It might seem like there has to be an end to this, that this cataclysm of awful and probably true accusations will break the system. The problem is that the system only breaks if people are motivated to break it.
“Impeachment” is the word people run to, but it’s important to remember a few simple truths about the possibility of Trump being impeached:
- Republicans will always see impeachment as a loss and House Republicans will be worried about being challenged in a primary back home if they vote to impeach Trump. Since he’s perfectly willing to enact their agenda, impeachment is all downside and no upside to the vast majority of House Republicans, meaning that it’s all downside for Paul Ryan. Impeachment only comes up if Democrats re-take the House in 2018.
- Even if impeachment happens, Trump will never be removed from the White House by the Senate. 67 Senators have to vote to remove him. Getting 60 Senators to agree on something was almost impossible even when Democrats had a super-majority in 2009; getting 67 to agree to remove Trump when it’s looking like the Democrats won’t even have a majority in the Senate for a while just won’t happen.
- Removing Trump would just replace him with someone who is also terrible in his own right: Mike Pence. While there are legitimate reasons for advocating that Trump be removed from office (to show that Congress still believes in the rule of law, for example), better policy is not one of them.
I want to focus on the third. Maybe it’s because Pence actually had a job in politics before becoming Vice President that he seems less destructive than Trump. But that’s unlikely.
There is very little ideological diversity in the GOP. There may have been a couple dozen Republican primary candidates in 2016, but it wasn’t because there was much disagreement about policy.
Pence appears to pride himself on his conservative orthodoxy. I could go through the issues with Pence – like his staunch and long-standing opposition to LGBTQ rights – but this comment from last week about climate change sums it up:
“For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world,” Pence said during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”
Pence’s identity is so dependent on being conservative that he sees predictions of millions dying as an “issue for the left.” Someone like that isn’t going to break ranks with the GOP on anything important, just as Trump isn’t going to break ranks with the GOP.
For different reasons, Fox News rules both of their worlds.
That said, there are minor points of competence, and it hardly seems possible that Pence would be more incompetent than Trump.
On the other hand, one of the reasons the transition to the Trump Administration has been so slow is Trump’s laziness when it comes to appointing people to jobs. Trump’s inability to stick to a single topic makes passing sweeping legislation hard. While he might accidentally start a war with a country just because he doesn’t really know what’s going on, there’s a case to be made against competence.
Anyway, this topic is really just academic. Trump is only leaving office if he chooses to or if he gets voted out in 2020.