As we try to make sense of President Trump’s impeachment by the Democrats, the unified Republican opposition to it, and the fact that the country is equally split on removing him from office (48 percent to 48 percent), there are two things that can put this in perspective: The Civil War (War) never really ended, and a shocking number of Americans don’t know how our government is structured.
Our modern version of the War is not North against South. It’s nationwide. While the analogy may not be exact, Donald Trump is the equivalent of Jefferson Davis, and Mitch McConnell is Robert E. Lee. The Congressional Republicans, White Supremacists, and White Evangelicals are their front-line soldiers. The “Confederates” are fighting to return to a White dominated political culture, devoid of science and process.
While I can’t find the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln, Nancy Pelosi, in this analogy, is Ulysses S. Grant. The “Union” side is fighting to defend racial and religious diversity, and preserve our democracy as we have known it over the past 243 years. It is committed to the Constitution, the rule of law, science, facts, and process.
The main battle in the Civil War, circa 2020, will not be Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. He will be acquitted by the Republicans. It will be in the Electoral College, where Trump only won by 74 votes (306 to 232).
Our current Civil War is experiencing horrific racial and religious casualties/murders of African Americans, Jews, and Latinos, with an increase in attacks on Muslims. Instead of secession, attacks on our democracy and the rule of law have been added to the fight. Trump, his Republican and White Supremacist and Evangelical “soldiers” repeatedly ignore the law and attack our Constitutional democracy.
These attacks can prove successful because there are enough Americans who have no understanding of how our form of government works and can carry the Electoral College. Recent surveys revealed that more than a third of us can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment, two-thirds don’t know there are three branches of government, 85 percent have no idea what the “rule of law” is, and 71 percent do not know that our Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
This relentless attack on Constitutional principles and the rule of law has, under Trump, risen to the level of propaganda. Propaganda has always been a part of our internal warring. During the War Between the States, almanacs and newspapers warned of the dilution of the White Race if the slaves were freed and disparaged African Americans as being unfit to be soldiers. Today, Trump et al. are running a successful propaganda campaign against Ukraine, and former vice president Joe Biden. More than 4 in 10 Fox News viewers believe Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, while a plurality of their viewers (43 percent) believe Trump’s accusations that it is Biden not Trump who is corrupt.
Trump and his “army” know their path to retaining power includes (1) ensuring a politically weak opponent, i.e., one who is not beating him in the polls, whom he can demonize to his base and swing voters; and (2) excusing Russia for the attack on our election which is sure to occur during 2020.
The Democrats need a campaign capable of combating Trump’s propaganda. The theme for that campaign should be Trump’s corruption. Surveys show that corruption is one of the public’s, including swing voters, main worries, ranking it second to the economy. Name-calling against Trump will not move his base, Congressional Republicans, and undecided swing voters. However, understanding his corruption can.
Donald Trump’s history of corruption (stiffing contractors, using bankruptcy as a business tactic, defrauding Trump University students, using his nonprofit charity for personal gain) is baked into the public’s consciousness. His withholding military aid to Ukraine for his and Russia’s benefit was corrupt. Siding with Putin in Helsinki over our intelligence agencies was corrupt. His trying to build a Trump Tower in Russia during the 2016 election was corrupt. His separating children from their parents at the southern border was not only immoral, it was corrupt. The list could take up this entire article.
The Democrats should unite around this corruption theme. They should promote it relentlessly to the battleground swing voters who will decide the 2020 presidential election in the Electoral College. What’s at stake if they don’t? Our democracy and the rule of law.