In a recent Guardian op-ed titled “The liberal punditocracy thinks Donald Trump is toast. Not so fast,” Ross Barkan challenges the popular liberal belief that Donald Trump is barreling headfirst toward impeachment.

Yet impeachment feels like less of a pipe dream every day the Russia story grows and Republicans begin to publicly entertain the idea.

And why not? Barkan’s central argument—”Republicans waited eight years for Barack Obama to disappear and aren’t ready to make war with one of their own, despite what people like John McCain may intimate”—rests on several faulty premises.

First, Donald Trump is not “one of their own.” Why should a seasoned politician like Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan let some blowhard waltz in and act like he owns the place? It’s an affront. Trump isn’t part of the Washington club; he has more in common with the president of the dreaded fake news mill CNN than with his own Senate Majority Leader. If it comes to impeachment, Trump won’t have any personal bonds of loyalty to fall back on.

So long as Trump signs Ryan’s bills like a good little boy and a majority of Republican voters still support him, there may not be a problem. However, Barkan acknowledges the impeachment process is “ultimately political,” and that Republicans in Congress will put their chances at reelection ahead of any loyalty to the man. Trump’s falling approval ratings may drive the nail in his coffin.

By contrast, Mike Pence is on the inside, and somehow keeping his hands clean.

The former governor of Indiana has already exercised great power as vice president, casting the first three tie-breaking Senate votes since 2008 while staying above the developing Russia scandal. During the Flynn debacle, Pence was cast as victim, not co-conspirator. The most controversial image of Pence to emerge all spring was a character sketch in the Washington Post. You may find Pence’s politics odious as I do, but he can’t be tarred with the same brush as Trump.

In the GOP’s worst-case scenario, Pence becomes the oafish, good-natured Gerald Ford to Trump’s Nixon, who nonetheless recoups some of the party’s lost credibility with his dull Midwestern charm. In their best-case scenario, the presidency is wrested away from the the party’s insurgent populist wing and returned to the establishment conservative faction that controls Congress. Then as an incumbent, Pence gets a head start on the next election, and per the 22nd Amendment he could remain in office until 2029 if Trump isn’t removed until January 20th, 2019 or later. If FDR is any indication, three terms of presidential continuity can shape the century.

And that, I can only assume, is the endgame for McConnell and company. Congressional Republicans have the power. The moment is fast approaching when they will decide to use it.

Prairie Kid

Prairie Kid

Prairie Kid hails from Illinois, where he enjoys shucking satire and writing corn.
Prairie Kid