After Donald Trump was inaugurated, I heard dozens of predictions about how soon he would fall and be forced out of the presidency. I talked to people In The Know or people who would mention a friend who’s an intelligence agent, and they all knew, with near certainty, that we were mere months from the wheels of justice and the righteous government of the United States rejecting Trump like he was a dog’s arm grafted onto our precious human bodies. I was told it would be October 2017, November 2017, “by Christmas” 2017, and then it was several times throughout 2018. “You see, they’d say, “the spooks are gonna take him down. The career officers, they know that he’s up to his neck in money-laundering” or “child sex trafficking” or simply “Russia.” These savior spies never appeared.
But we, oh, we hoped, god, how we hoped, listening to every confident conspiracy-spinner on MSNBC, just believing that, at any second, a thread would be pulled, the wrong Jenga piece would be moved, and everything would finally fall apart for Trump. We moved on to the investigation of Robert Mueller, and we thought that here, finally, would be the back-breaking straw. And while we have not fully grappled with what was actually in the report Mueller and his team produced, while the number of times Trump clearly obstructed justice is overwhelming and the associations with the Russian government are damning, still, it didn’t shake the foundation of this administration in any permanent way.
Because we are such hopeful creatures, we liberals, we keep believing that some cataclysm will break this dark fever. Some of us even thought that the horrors that would be revealed in the indictment of child rapist Jeffrey Epstein might be awful revelations about Trump that led to his comeuppance. That case is still in its early stages, and this is not to mention what Mueller might say when he testifies next week, but stop, just stop.
No one is going to save us. It’s just that simple. While there have been and may still be a couple of Supreme Court decisions that don’t gut democracy and civil rights, no one is going to save us from the depravity of this administration, from its extravagant flouting of rules and laws meant to prevent corruption of public officials to its enraging, inhumane mistreatment of migrants to its utter incompetence in just about every area that requires a rational federal government to its abandonment of any policy that would mitigate the speeding train of the climate crisis that is going to wreck us.
There is no political Santa Claus. There will be no insurgency by angry intelligence agents. There is no ninth-dimensional plan that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has as to why she’s not calling for an impeachment inquiry. She has no secret information that Trump is going down for some other crime. And while I could spend the rest of this post on the boggling refusal of Pelosi to impeach while she has the House pass meaningless bill after meaningless bill, I don’t want to just focus on her failure in this pivotal historical moment.
We are seeing the result of decades of conservative planning to get the public to the moment where they no longer believe in anyone but the right’s own media, where plain facts don’t matter, where images of strength are far, far more important than actual strength. And, as Ryan Grim demonstrated in a great piece, we are dealing with a Democratic leadership group that has never gotten over its post-Reagan stress disorder. Democrats never learned to fight Republicans. We thought winning elections would be enough. We thought that the factual reality of more people having access to health care would be enough. We thought that things that polled well, like abortion rights, like stricter gun laws, like action on climate change, would be enough. We thought that Trump being a damned embarrassment every time he opens his mouth would be enough. We thought that going high when they went low would be enough.
It’s not. It never was.
Republican learned back when Reagan was calling the news the “liberal media” on a regular basis, when they impeached Bill Clinton because it made the evangelicals and Clinton haters happy, when they hammered every minor thing, like a flag-burning case, into a national crisis, that the fight is all there is. They relish the fight, they live for the fight, and they can’t wait for the next chance to fight, even if they have to manufacture it. They don’t care about rules, they don’t care about pissing off their opponents, and that’s why Trump will end up appointing nearly a third of all federal judges by the end of his first term. That’s why Republicans will end up contorting our voting rights until only white conservative men get a say.
And while a whole lot of us on the left, many of us who call ourselves “Democrats,” have fought like hell, and while Democratic leaders may want to fight on issues, they hate it when the fight becomes personal. Sure, some Democrats will call out particular Republicans on their awfulness, but the goal is to try to shame a shameless person like Mitch McConnell. When Republicans go after someone, the goal is to destroy them and create a new identity for the person. Look at what they did with the Clintons. Look at what they’re doing with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Republicans do this because it works. Democrats won’t. They flinch and shy away, as if it’s just too unseemly.
What do I mean by that? President Obama should have had Democrats go on the warpath over McConnell’s refusal to consider the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. McConnell should have been turned into an enemy of the nation. Instead, it was treated with the political equivalent of an eyeroll. Would it have worked? We’ll never know.
You want something more recent? Trump was credibly accused of rape, with activity that is of a piece with other behavior he’s admitted to. It should be something that Democrats say with outrage over and over, in every discussion. And if Democrats can’t take the head of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who helped get a sweetheart deal for child rapist Epstein, then they have no business in modern politics.
That’s all blind hope, the same kind of blind hope that made us think that some bit of scandal magic would take down Trump. Sorry. No one is going to save us. We’re on our own. So we damn well better save ourselves.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on July 7, 2019 on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.