Correcting the electorate’s stupid mistake via an intricate legal process created by our Enlightenment-loving founders and enacted by entrenched experts in Congress is the elites’ version of “John Wick.”
I am assuming that “John Wick” is movie about a righteous, skilled underdog battling an incompetent, corrupt power. But I have no idea if that’s true, since elites have never seen any of the “John Wick” movies.
As much as I’d love to sleep soundly again knowing someone took the president’s finger off the nuclear button, his Sharpie away from government maps and his Twitter pulpit away from global trade, impeachment is a bad idea. Because it supports the populists’ narrative.
The main reason Trump won wasn’t economic anxiety. It wasn’t sexism. It wasn’t racism. It was that he was anti-elitist.
Hillary Clinton represented Wall Street, academics, law schools, policy papers, Davos, international treaties and people who think they’re better than you. People like me.
Trump represented something far more appealing, which is beating up people like me.
A poll taken a month before the 2016 election showed that only 24 percent of voters disagreed with the following statement, “The real struggle for America is not between Democrats and Republicans but between mainstream America and the ruling political elites.” I’m guessing that 24 percent number is even lower now.
Elites are stereotyped as self-serving and sneaky. In truth, we’re mostly just sneaky. And nothing is as sneaky as impeachment. It’s obscure committees issuing confusingly worded subpoenas for phone records and documents. It’s politicians parsing language in hearings where they perform for political points. One of the best fights so far was the one about whether regular congresspeople — or their specially trained lawyers — would question Trump officials. For impeachment, regular elitists aren’t good enough. We need elite-elitists.
This is why impeachment looks to a lot of folks like the ruling elite taking on mainstream America. Which is what the last election was about. Now, we’re doing it over, but this time only people in Congress will get a sticker that says, “I voted!” Impeachment is so elitist that it’s a word that means something that no one thinks it does. It is the “nonplussed” of political words.
Impeaching Trump without a chance of convicting him in the Senate is even more likely to damage us elites. Not only does it fail to save us from a madman, but it allows him to claim exoneration, sending a message that this was all elitist theater. And if there’s one thing all populists hate, it’s theater.
Given our politics, this play will devolve until it’s half about whether Joe Biden’s son’s corruption is as bad as Trump’s. Trump wins when he convinces people corruption is rampant and your best bet in a totally corrupt world is to back the most openly, unapologetically corrupt politician from your tribe.
Populism is the demand for pure democracy. Its enemy is the republic, which removes the dangerous edges of democracy by protecting human rights from the majority’s will. Our founders gave us a republic. If they had wanted a direct democracy, the Constitution would be one page. Majorities don’t like republics. Majorities were sold a democratic system where they get whatever they want, right away. When they don’t get what they want, they get frustrated and turn to tyranny, which gets things done faster. Plato predicted this in “The Republic.” It’s the job of the elitist to explain this to people without mentioning Plato’s "The Republic."
In these angry times, elite maneuvering over impeachment will send the voters running into Trump’s flailing, tweeting, flag-hugging, populist arms. I know another year of Trump is a huge risk. But he must be unseated at the polls. Because that will be a more satisfying outcome for people who don’t trust elites.
Especially if we do it with a big enough majority so that we don’t have to explain the electoral college.