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Road to Impeachment: The GOP Choice---Risk Their House Majority Or Dump Trump to Try to Save It

May 2, 2017

By Joe Rothstein

One of the scariest political commentaries I’ve read this year appeared the other day in the New York Times, written by columnist David Brooks. What was so scary? Brooks seems to have talked himself into the notion that the Trump White House is the new normal.

Brooks’ voice is influential with what passes for Republican moderation these days. For him to be lowering his guard gives license to countless other Republicans to do the same. That would be disastrous.

In his column, Brooks acknowledges that at first he saw Trump’s ascension to the White House as a “unique and unprecedented threat to the Republic." Trump, he said, was thought to be "a populist ethnic nationalist aiming to drag this country to a very ugly place. He was a crypto fascist, aiming to undermine every norm and institution of our democracy.”

But now, Brooks sees Trump at a minor threat level. Why? Because Trump “has mostly switched from being a subversive populist to a conventional corporatist, lightening regulations, embracing the Export-Import Bank and offering lower corporate taxes.”

Lower taxes and fewer regulations are supposed to ease our anxiety, when we have a president who is waging full scale war against the free press, the independent courts, our right to privacy and so many other institutions fundamental to American freedom? Many of those regulations being “lightened” are protections working people fought decades to put in place. Others compromise our access to health care, trash our air and water, put our national parks at risk and accelerate the transformation of a capitalist system into an oppressive oligarchy.

We should feel comforted that our president has an affinity for ruthless authoritarians like Putin, Erdogan, and the Philippines’ Duterte, but who’s at odds with long time allies in the EU, NATO and the leaders of Mexico and Canada?

David Brooks, this is no time to cancel the red alert of having a man-child in the world’s most powerful office. The emperor has no clothes, and anyone who suggests he does should hang his head in shame.

For a far more clear-eyed look at the danger of the current situation, and possible remedies, I refer you to the May 8 New Yorker magazine and its compelling article by writer Evan Osnos, “How Trump Could Get Fired.”

Osnos consolidates events of Trump’s early months in office—his bizarre behavior, the reaction of many congressional Republicans, Trump’s threats to constitutional government, the troubling connection with Putin’s Russia, the litany of business conflicts, the on-going investigations and legal actions surrounding him, and various scenarios that could lead to Trump’s ouster before the end of his four year term.

You don’t come away from this deeply sourced analysis with anything close to David Brooks’ Polyanna-like “it’s all going to turn out fine,” vision. No responsible government leader or commentator should consider this situation normal, or tolerable. We have a president who has no idea of what he’s doing, no curiosity about learning, and one who’s hostile toward being told uncomfortable truths.

Legally, there are ways to remove this menace from the White House. Osnos, in his analysis, assumes that it will require the Democrats to recapture control of the U.S. House in the 2018 elections in order to crank up the mechanism for impeachment. With control, says Osnos, the Democrats can launch investigations that will reveal Trump’s coziness with foreign adversaries and his use of the White House for personal profit.

There’s no denying that a Democratic Congress, with a voting majority and subpoena power, would place Trump in immediate peril. But what Osnos overlooks is that Republicans are facing a stark choice right now, well before the 2018 elections. Their choice: Whether to risk their House majority defending Trump, or whether to sacrifice Trump to preserve their majority.

One of the most reliable predictors of non-presidential year congressional voting is the answer to this poll question: “would you prefer to vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress?” The latest results for that question show about a seven point advantage for Democrats, and a widening gap in Democrats’ favor.

After the train wreck of Obamacare repeal—unlikely to happen in the Senate, even if it passes in the House—a tax debate that will produce crushing negatives for the GOP, and the potential for a government shutdown in the fall over questions of building a wall, de-funding Planned Parenthood, and other contentious issues, the generic ballot gap is likely to be much wider and Trump’s personal approval numbers even lower than their current historic lows.

Even now, the generic ballot gap is predictive of a 20 to 30 seat loss for Republicans in the 2018 House elections. By fall, Republican leadership may be facing a defeat infinitely worse. What could alter that trajectory? Clearly, a new start. The replacement of an unpopular, out-of-control president who few Republican leaders respect, with Mike Pence, who maintains national popularity and is much more closely aligned with congressional Republican interests.

For that to happen, Republican commentators like David Brooks need to be laying the groundwork now. Influential Republican voices such as Bush, Romney, McCain and others need to be sounding alarms that Republican voters will hear and respect. Silence and acceptance are not legitimate responses to the continuing threat of this incompetent, dangerous presidency.

That’s why David Brooks’ characterization of Trump as a more or less conventional corporate Republican is so scary. Heaven help the U.S. and the cause of democratic government if we consider an ignorant egomaniac with autocratic priorities as a relatively normal leader.

(Joe Rothstein is a regular columnist for and author of the acclaimed political thriller “The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her.” Mr. Rothstein can be contacted at

Joe Rothstein is editor of U.S. Politics Today. His career in politics spans 35 years, as a strategist and media producer in more than 200 campaigns for political office and for many political causes. He was a pioneer in professional political consulting and one of the founding members of the American Association of Political Consultants. During his career Mr. Rothstein has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA.