Saturday, June 10, 2017

Response to Not Quite Watergate

(See: Just Above Sunset: Not Quite Watergate)

Friends have been asking me why I post so rarely in the current days of rage, when there seem to be so many obvious things to say, and I tell them it’s precisely because there’s so much to say that everyone beats me to it — that when I began writing a few years ago, I vowed to try not to say things unless I thought either they weren’t being mentioned at all, or maybe were just not being said enough.

So here are a few topics that I think have been somewhat neglected of late:

1. I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually find that there was little if any collusion in the elections between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Still, Donald Trump and the Republicans do seem to be hiding something, don’t they?

Why is it, whenever the subject is broached that we need to seriously look into the invasion of our democracy by Russia, Republicans always try to change the subject to questions of “Who leaked this information?” and “What can we do to plug all these leaks about Russia?”

Why do Congressional and Justice Department probes into this stuff seem to make them so nervous? It might have little to do with exposing collusion between Russia and Trump, of which, at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence; it might be something else, maybe having to do with illegal or shady business deals, I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.

I can’t help but believe that, had the roles been reversed and Hillary had won, Democrats would still be seriously concerned — unlike the way the Republicans are acting today. This is, in fact, because the two parties are not carbon copies of each other. Liberal Democrats tend to believe in the motto, “It matters not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” while Conservative Republicans tend to believe the opposite: “It matters not how you play the game; all that matters is that you win."

And by the way, this contention that all this Russia talk is just a bunch of Democrats who are looking for a way to explain why their candidate lost?

No. In fact, I’ve met very few Democrats who believe the Democratic emails published by Wikileaks had anything to do with Hillary’s loss. And, in fact, if anything, our chagrin isn’t so much how come Hillary lost?, it’s the even-more-shocking question of how come that idiot, Donald Trump, won!

2. Did Trump and his attorney really claim that James Comey’s testimony “vindicated” Trump, in that he admitted that he did, indeed, tell Trump three times he wasn’t under investigation? Do those two guys find it at all interesting that nobody else seems to share their view that the hearings “vindicated” the president?

(A sidebar here: This is another case of Donald Trump telling us all what to think about something. Along those same lines, I’m convinced that one reason he hates the media is that they refuse to go along with his belief that he, as the subject of the news of the day, gets to determine what the news of the day is! Anything else the media chooses to cover is, by definition, just fake news.)

Anyway, I find it curious that Trump had been obsessing over whether he himself was under FBI investigation, to the point of bizarrely including mention of it in his letter firing Comey — reminding everybody that Comey had assured him that he was not being investigated, so no one could then accuse him of firing the guy who was investigating him.

But nobody was even contesting whether or not Comey ever told him that  simply because it wasn’t an issue! — in fact, everybody realized that the FBI probes were not so much about Trump as about Russian interference into an election that was won by Donald Trump, knowing that, at some point in the future, the investigation might find itself looking closer at the candidate himself!

In other words, no matter how the President tried to noodle this, lots of people of both parties were likely to look at any Comey firing askance, seeing it as Trump firing the guy who is investigating a matter that will necessarily be of major concern to the president.

3. I keep hoping nobody tries to disabuse Trump of his dubious belief that it’s very hard for Republicans to win the Electoral College, just on the off-chance that, in the meantime, maybe we can talk him into helping us do away with the damn thing.

(And the only reason I even broach the subject at all is the knowledge that neither he, nor anyone close to him, ever lays eyes on anything I write — and even if any of his advisers did try to tell him about this, he obviously wouldn't listen anyway.)

So here’s the thing about why I think he could be wrong about that. It comes from William Murphy, a professor of American history at State University of New York at Oswego, who made this argument last December on Newsweek/Quora, that Republicans seem to have at least a temporary advantage:
Democratic voters live in large urban areas, and are concentrated in several parts of the country. There are more of them, somewhat, but they live in relatively compact geographic areas. This gives Republicans a mild advantage in the electoral college; Republican voters are more spread out, and the Electoral College system potentially over-represents them slightly as a part of the overall population. This is, as I said, slight; it does not mean that Democrats cannot win the electoral college, or that Republicans are always more likely to do so. 
All it means is this: in the event that circumstances line up just right so there is a split between the popular and electoral votes, the split is, for the moment, likely to favor Republicans. 
But that’s a far cry from having a decisive advantage in the electoral college, because the electoral college is still mostly weighted by population. States have a total number of electoral votes equal to their total representation in the two houses of Congress; seats in the House are apportioned according to population, but every state has two senators. Aside from a handful of states with overwhelmingly large populations (chiefly California, New York, Florida and Texas), there is not enough difference in population among most of the rest of the states to balance out the effect of those two votes every state gets regardless of population, from their two senators. 
So in a very close election, the possibility of a popular vote/electoral vote split becomes a reality, and if it happens, it is somewhat more likely that it will favor the Republicans. Right now.
Right now?

Okay, but I tend to think urban folk being mostly liberal and rural folks being mostly conservative, at least in this era of political division, is a bit more of a permanent condition than Murphy seems willing to admit. But also, one would think the condition that tips the College to the Democratic vote in any given election will be there being so many more of them  which would also, one might think, have them winning the popular vote as well.

Still, as long as we have it, this Electoral College foolishness should continue to favor red states, at least until we Democrats start having a whole lot more babies.

In any event, had there been no such thing as an Electoral College last year, Trump wouldn’t be president now. In fact, I will predict the same result for 2020, assuming he’s still in politics at that time.

Which brings us to this:

4. I’m starting to alter my thinking about the possibility of impeachment, or at least the threat of it bringing on a negotiated exit.

Up to this point, any suggestion on either side that Trump could get impeached has been countered by a reminder that the Republicans, who hold both houses of Congress, won’t let that happen.

But I think Martin Longman makes a good point — that the Republicans wisely came to realize that Donald Trump is one of them after all, and offers them the best chance they have had in years of getting their agenda passed — the problem being, buffoon that Trump is, their agenda keeps getting stalled by all these distractions that have nothing to do with their agenda.

So as the case against Trump becomes stronger and stronger, isn’t it just possible that Republican congressmen and senators might start contemplating whether their programs might be better served by a President Pence?

How would this work? I can see a negotiated settlement in which Trump resigns, in exchange for no jail time, or at least avoiding the disgrace of impeachment.

The only problem I see with actual impeachment is, what if the Democrats don’t play along? 

Remember, it takes a two-thirds majority of senators to convict, and after all, there’s always the chance that Democrats would prefer a klutz of a president who is too incompetent to get anything passed, to a Republican capable of getting things done.  Not that I have a vote count at this early date, but I think we'll all have enough time to work out the details.

But if you think things are strange now, wait until next year, when we get to watch Democrats struggle to keep the Republicans from kicking Donald Trump out of the White House.

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(No trolls, please! As a rule of thumb, don't get any nastier in your comments than I do in my posts. Thanks.)