Now the scandals come in batches. President Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone is arrested. A new filing suggests former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s interaction and information sharing with Kremlin-connected Konstantin Kilimnik is at the heart of the special counsel’s work. The Post now has uncovered a massive scheme to hire illegal immigrants at Trump properties, a revelation that would doom, say, a governor or CEO of a major company or induce calls for impeachment from Republicans if a Democratic president were in office.
The Washington Post spoke with 16 men and women from Costa Rica and other Latin American countries, including six in Santa Teresa de Cajon, who said they were employed at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster. All of them said they worked for Trump without legal status — and that their managers knew.
The former employees who still live in New Jersey provided pay slips documenting their work at the Bedminster club. They identified friends and relatives in Costa Rica who also were employed at the course. In Costa Rica, The Post located former workers in two regions who provided detailed accounts of their time at the Bedminster property and shared memorabilia they had kept, such as Trump-branded golf tees, as well as photos of themselves at the club.
We haven’t even gotten to a final report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller lll or completion of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York’s investigations. The New York state attorney general continues to probe Trump’s foundation, which was forced to close due to massive irregularities. If even one set of inquiries had been at issue before Trump ran, he never would have made it through the primaries. And now, with so much more yet to uncover, one wonders why Republicans don’t jump from a sinking ship.
Trump, besieged on multiple fronts by investigations, losing political influence with each passing day and growing increasingly unhinged, in all likelihood will drag Republicans down to defeat in 2020 just as he did in 2018. Given Trump’s strong approval within the party, a sycophantic right-wing media, more “respectable” conservative pundits who feel compelled to rationalize support for a grotesquely unfit president and (at least for now) a strong economy, Republicans might simply stick by him, going down with the ship in 2020.
Taking a step back, such a development might be exactly what the party and the country need. Unless and until the Trumpian GOP suffers an electoral wipe-out, the party will remain in the grasp of the right-wing nativists. Only a devastating election, some argue, can cleanse the party and give it an ideological and ethical fresh start. The country will rid itself of a manifestly corrupt, erratic and ignorant leader, proving once more that when a party loses its bearings, it loses power. An era of normality can then ensue.
However, removing Trump in advance of the 2020 elections — at the hands of his own party — has its benefits, Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner argue:
We understand the argument that the best result would be for voters, rather than the Republican Party, to do the job of removing Mr. Trump. But we believe this argument neglects an important reason that Mr. Trump’s removal by his party would be at least as healthy, democratically speaking: It would reinvigorate the idea that political parties exist not just as vehicles for politicians but as protectors of vital democratic norms.
The most troubling — and from our point of view the most disappointing — development of the Trump era is not the president’s own election and subsequent behavior; it is the institutional corruption, weakness and self-betrayal of the Republican Party. The party has abandoned its core commitments to constitutional norms, to conservative principles and even to basic decency. It has allowed itself to be hijacked by a reality television star who is a pathological liar, emotionally unsteady and accountable only to himself. And it has embraced presidential conduct that, if engaged in by a Democrat, it would have been denounced as corrupt, incompetent and even treasonous.
However, the argument against a party coup — something I would find emotionally and intellectually satisfying, to be sure — is that it would leave an embittered base convinced the “deep state” stole the presidency. If not moved to actual violence, these voters will be alienated, angry and more attracted than ever to right-wing authoritarianism. By themselves they wouldn’t be able to control elections, but they would deepen political divisions, perpetuate a white-grievance mentality and continue to pull the GOP in the direction of right-wing nativism as future candidates vie for their support.
Moreover, there is another way to boot Trump out and rekindle some of the party’s institutional integrity: Defeat him in a primary. That, too, would “reinvigorate the idea that political parties exist not just as vehicles for politicians but as protectors of vital democratic norms.” Just like impeachment/removal or a forced resignation, a primary defeat would give the GOP a shot at “reasserting its institutional prerogatives — by setting limits to the depredations and recklessness it will accept . . . acting to deter hijackers in the future.”
Rauch and Wehner make a compelling case that, while support for Trump now runs high, it could dissipate quickly due to “the collapse of his support among center-right Republicans who so far have wavered but not completely turned against him.” While they suggest this is grounds for optimism that his own party will remove him, it is equally true that a mass defection of this type would provide a base of support for a primary opponent..
Don’t get me wrong: I’d love nothing better than for the Republicans to recognize the error of their ways, reestablish standards of presidential conduct, return to fact-based governance and end Trump’s term with a humiliating impeachment and removal process, securing his place as the worst president in U.S. history. However, I’m doubtful that the sheeplike Republican Senate would summon the courage to remove him, and more important, I have a deep concern about the effect his removal would have on his rump group of supporters.
If Trump loses in 2020 either in the general election or the primaries, he and his enablers would be discredited, their ideology shown to be a dead-bang loser with voters. That might still leave a group insisting that Trump wasn’t racist enough, or protectionist enough. However, the majority of Republicans who went along with the Trump clique would be forced to acknowledge that their association with him and a twisted ideology was not merely morally reprehensible but politically disastrous.
In a democracy, letting the people get the last word is usually preferred.