Trexit May Be Inevitable But That Does Not Mean Trump is Finished
Donald J. Trump was once the star of The Apprentice. But now he captivates America, and the world, as the leading man in a drama similar to The Sopranos but seemingly directed in the surrealist style of David Lynch.
The ten day tenure of Communications Director Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, the humiliating survival Obamacare and the rollback of the Muslim ban by court injunctions, all exemplify the chaos of the Trump White House.
The new Chief of Staff, army man John Kelly, promises to instil discipline into the president and his regime.
Ultimately though, Kelly’s influence is irrelevant as long as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump camp’s links to Russia continues.
The pressure on Trump himself is increasing as Mueller seeks to scrutinise unreleased financial records that could verify a conflict of interest. He has convened a grand jury with the power to issue subpoenas and summons for evidence, as well as criminal charges.
Impeachment proceedings will be more likely if the Democrats win control of Congress in the 2018 mid-term elections. With the seats in play this will be tough but not impossible.
A Republican-controlled Congress should covet a Republican president to work in tow with. But with the firing of Reince Prebius as Chief of Staff and three and a half years of Trump’s term still to go, just how much patience does the GOP have left?
Policy differences and disputes between Trump and Congress, such as on raising the federal debt limit, will deepen their rift. As will sympathies for the Russian government reflected in his criticism of bipartisan-backed sanctions.
Trump’s pledge for tax reforms is undermined by his legislative incompetence. Campaign donors promised tax cuts will abandon him. His party could follow.
all of the “establishment” will be in former president Trump’s firing line
Vice President Mike Pence is allegedly preparing for his impromptu inauguration following Trump’s exit (shall we call it Trexit?) It’s no secret that the Congressional GOP would much prefer to work with a more mainstream President Pence.
To protect himself and his family, Trump could take the Richard Nixon route of a pre-emptive resignation. But conversely, the Republican leadership might want to avoid Trexit due to the new liabilities it will likely create for them.
US presidents typically hold a relative silence after leaving office. The presidency is a sacred position, so goes the convention, so former occupiers should offer the incumbent counsel or at least cordiality.
Barack Obama has only expressed his displeasure with the Trump agenda through press releases, not grandstanding oratory that would make global headlines.
But Trump is no ordinary president. Even after an impeachment it’s easy to imagine tweet-storms about the “fake media” and “sewer at Washington” continuing. The diehard Trumpites will still flock to rallies and buy the caps and t-shirts. A Trump News Network would broadcast counterattack against the “fraud news” enemy.
Unshackled and equally embittered with Democrats and Republicans, all of the “establishment” will be in former president Trump’s firing line. This Trump persona might be even more reckless and demagogic than the current one.
It’s a huge what if, but it’s even imaginable for Trump to run again after his ejection, this time as an Independent or third party candidate - revelling in maintaining his influence even if he had no chance of victory.
If Trump was forced from office by impeachment, he would be constitutionally barred from office; however, if he resigned he would not, forcing the Senate to vote to bar him from office.
Even then, there would be nothing stopping Trump from being the ideological godfather of a new party whose candidates he could promote and fundraise for - similar to disgraced Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia party, and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement.
In a rematch versus Trump Democrats would have the chance to strengthen their role as a progressive party
All of this speculation will be moot, though, if Trump clings to power. He already defied the odds in his nomination and election. Mueller’s inquiries could drag on until 2020. The gears of the law turn slowly.
An alternative to impeachment is a formal censure, officially criticising Trump for his misconduct but allowing him to stay in his post. The Democrats would call this a slap on the wrist but the GOP - who could still retain both houses of Congress in 2018 - might want a compromise.
In this event, with the Republican grassroots solidly approving of Trump despite his historic unpopularity, he would be guaranteed the chance to fight for a second term.
The most pressing dilemma would be for the Democrats in their historical responsibility to deny Trump re-election.
A study by Oxford University found that Trump won in 2016 via votes in Democratic strongholds, by appealing to working class communities devastated by job losses and the collapse of old industries under globalisation.
Learning from the popular Bernie Sanders - such as by backing a proper universal healthcare system - can make the Democrats a truly substantive opposition.
In a rematch versus Trump Democrats would have the chance to strengthen their role as a progressive party in a national exorcism of sorts: reaching out to those economically left behind while challenging the politics of prejudice and xenophobia, putting them in a stronger position to take both Congress and the presidency.
Nixon’s Watergate downfall resulted in a reduction of secrecy and increased limitations on presidential power. The lessons of Trump, whose populism promised to “drain the swamp”, should motivate bipartisan action to lessen the influence of corporations and lobbyists at Washington.
Congress is even less popular than the president, who successfully exploited disillusionment with ineffective politicians in his campaign. Constructive bipartisan collaboration should replace the trend of filibustering and deadlock.
Regardless of the outcome of the crisis, we can expect that Trump will continue to make his mark for a long time to come - even if his presidency is short-lived.
About the author
Jacob Richardson began his career with Disclaimer and writes on culture, politics and society. Politically he is a democratic socialist and Labour Party supporter. His other interests include cinema, psychoanalysis and professional wrestling.
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