The Perils Of Impeaching Trump
Target fixation could cost the Democrats in their quest to impeach Trump.
I would love to see President Trump and his sidekick, Vice President Mike Pence, impeached. It’ll be a great kabuki drama with everyone involved at the top trying to explain themselves. We can count on the drama, the suspense, the multiple floods of phone calls to the House and the Senate. In the end, legislators will make big speeches about how they could or could not vote for impeachment. But the looming election will remain ahead of us.
On the other hand, I just can’t help but have the sense that this debacle is one giant distraction from something else. It’s a shell game as far as the moneyed interests are concerned. While we’re looking for the ball under 3 empty cups, the elites will be passing legislation, starting a quiet war here or there, and shuffling players and actors around while passing power between themselves. Who has the ball?
Long ago, I learned about the “newshole” in newspapers. In those days, I could “buy” a newspaper for 25 cents and read it over dinner. That 25 cents didn’t pay for the news. The ads paid for the news. What was left between the ads was the “newshole”. And when newspapers like The New York Times talks about “independent” journalism, I have to ask them, “Who pays for the newshole?”
Big business pays for it. And all that money has an influence on the news we read.
And as I consider the influence of big business on the news, I am aware that they would rather not have stories published that could possibly gore their cash cows, their fiefdoms. They’re farming Americans for money and they really don’t want any disruptions to their businesses. So I think Leonard Goodman nails it pretty well on Truthdig when he expresses some confidence that this impeachment inquiry won’t be harmful to business interests:
Big business believes this impeachment inquiry will not threaten corporate profits or its ability to continue exerting control over government policy.
Or, they wouldn’t let it happen. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself, just how did Trump get $1 billion in free coverage in 2016? Did you think it was because he’s a nice person? I’m pretty sure there were businesses that wanted that kind of distraction during the election. If there is one thing that Trump is good at, it’s creating distractions. He loves drama, and he promotes it.
To give you a sense of what I mean by Trump and his drama, check out this article on Vox, “Trump’s Dallas rally showed how untethered from reality his impeachment pushback is”. Trump is taking the statements made by Congressman Adam Schiff and using them to make it look like Trump is the victim here. Even though:
Thursday night, Trump didn’t try to defend his efforts to cajole the Ukrainian government to undertake politically beneficial investigations — efforts that have prompted an impeachment inquiry. Instead, he made stuff up about House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), attacked a whistleblower whose core allegations have already been corroborated by the White House, and suggested his handpicked intelligence community inspector general is conspiring against him. None of these talking points can withstand the slightest bit of scrutiny. (emphasis mine)
At least Vox is getting closer to the issues than most places I’ve seen. And they’ve pointed out that the White House has inadvertently corroborated the evidence that the whistleblower has presented.
To his base, Trump is painting himself as a victim and has denied or ignored what his critics have to say. Trump isn’t really interested in having an honest and fair investigation of impeachment. Trump omits an important point in his dialogue: that an impeachment proceeding isn’t criminal, it’s political. Heck, even John Kasich, a staunch Republican if I ever saw one, is expressing support for an impeachment inquiry.
The Hill reports Kasich saying that the way that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine is an “abuse of power”, and that such abuse “cannot be tolerated”. That’s from just one long-time conservative Republican. Roll Call reports that multiple sitting Republican Senators have expressed interest in what the House can dig up with their investigation. If an impeachment proceeding rolls, true adversaries will fight over what is the truth. And as long as big business interests are protected, Trump can still be impeached.
My biggest concern is that the Democrats will use impeachment as their sole election tool. I worry that Democrats will use “I voted for impeachment” as a selling point for their re-election when what they should be doing is telling us what they will do for the country once Trump and his sidekick are out. I really don’t see how they could impeach Trump without taking Pence down, too. Pence has firsthand knowledge of what Trump has been doing, just as well.
I fear that Democrats think that all they really need to do is take down Trump to win. Since the Senate is controlled by Republicans and many of them see value in Trump, they are unlikely to convict Trump.
And when that happens, Democrats had better be ready for a positive campaign. They really need to be talking up what they can do, not just “I’m better than Trump and I’m better than Republicans.” They need to talk about why they’re better and why we should vote for them. If a vote for them is just a vote against Trump, they will lose, and they will lose big. Why? Trump is the king of negative campaigns.
Recall that in 2016, no matter how much dirt on Trump got in the press, and on the air, he still managed to get elected. I believe that one of the reasons why he got elected is something called, “target fixation”.
Imagine for a moment that you’re riding a bicycle on The Strand in sunny Southern California. As you’re riding, you notice an attractive member of the opposite sex, and with your eyes trained on that person, your hands steer towards that person. Our body and our will goes where our attention goes. That is what happened in 2016. Bernie Sanders describes the problem very well, as reported by CNN:
“But if — and this is an if — if for the next year, year-and-a-half, going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and Trump, Trump, Trump, and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, and we’re not talking about health care, we’re not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we’re not talking about combating climate change, we’re not talking about sexism and racism and homophobia, and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans, what I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage.”
Bernie understands target fixation. Bernie knows how to run a positive campaign, an alien concept to Trump. Sure, I still wince every time I read or hear of Bernie calling Trump a pathological liar. But in the end, I am confident that Sanders will keep his eyes on the prize. He will be laser-focused on the issues that are important to progressives and liberals. This means that if Trump is impeached, instead of being the only reason to elect Democrats, that will just be a bonus.
This minor detail, this attention to focus, is what I use when I look at the candidates and how they run their campaigns. I am hopeful that the other Democrats will follow the example set by Sanders and focus their message on all the good they can do for our country. If target fixation is a problem, let's fixate on something other than Trump.