On the question of impeachment and what it could mean

Over the last four years, I’ve argued that this is a potential moment of realignment, where the Reagan regime we’ve been living under could be shattered and repudiated, and replaced by a new political regime. One of the reasons I’ve pressed so hard on the Trump/Carter comparison is to point out that the Reagan regime, like the New Deal regime in the 1970s, is more vulnerable than we realize. I continue to maintain that Trump’s inability to rule—most spectacularly put on display this past week—reflects the crumbling power of that regime. That doesn’t mean the regime can’t do damage on its way out—the last sentence of The Reactionary Mind makes a point of saying “how much it [the Reagan regime] will take with it on its way out, remains to be seen”—but that regime is far weaker than at any point since its inception.

Now we come to the question of impeachment.

The last impeachment of Trump focused on an issue that did not go to the heart of the Reagan regime but was much more about the perfidy of Trump himself. In this respect, it was not unlike the impeachment of Clinton, which was also about the man (and perhaps more loosely about the cultural changes in the country), and quite different from the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and almost-impeachment of Richard Nixon, which were focused on those men as symbols of a larger regime-type problem.

The possible promise of the impeachment of Trump now (I say possible promise deliberately, so please keep reading) is that it could, in theory, turn Trump into a much larger symbol of something more rotten. Wednesday’s mob was attacking the legislature and the results of a democratic election, in which the forces of a reactionary party suffered a blow. Not a lethal blow, but a blow. The mob’s attack was a white supremacist spasm against not a multiracial democracy but the possibility of a multiracial democracy.

And here we come to the issue of a realignment and the real stumbling block to a realignment and an impeachment that could be about something much more. If the Democrats were a party genuinely interested in realignment, they would be doing a few things. Not only would they want to win elections, but they’d want to shatter the Republican Party. More than that, they’d want to take over the state apparatus and turn it to far different ends: to genuinely empower black people (not just in terms of symbolic representation but in terms of housing, education, jobs, and criminal justice); to genuinely empower a broader working class, which includes high percentages of African Americans and people of color; and to transform all the anti-democratic vestiges of our sclerotic, ancient constitutional order (the role of the filibuster in the Senate, the non-representation of Puerto Rico, DC, and other colonies/territories, the role of the Supreme Court, and more).

If the Democrats were to pursue that political, social, economic, and cultural agenda, it would be fulfilling the promise of the Nevada primaries, where we saw a genuinely multiracial coalition striving toward a more perfect social democracy.

The impeachment and conviction of Trump by that Democratic Party could be a genuine moment of beginning. It wouldn’t shatter the Republican regime, but it would be the opening shot. It would put the GOP on notice, and it would put more hidebound forces in the Democratic Party on notice.

I have no idea whether the existing Democratic Party will in fact impeach Trump. (For the record, I think it has to; I don’t see how Wednesday’s violent storming of Congress can go unpunished, and if the impeachment should reach the Senate, the conviction has to include, as a punishment, the permanent barring of Trump from future office and, if possible, the declaration of his inability to pardon himself and his cronies. But I doubt the impeachment will get that far.)

But what I do know is that the Democratic Party as it is currently constituted is not prepared to use an impeachment to launch the kind of realignment I’m talking about. There are a lot of references today to Reconstruction, the Lost Cause, and all that, but whether or not today’s Republican Party is like the white supremacist cadre of former slaveholders and their allies, it’s very clear that today’s Democratic Party is nothing like the Republican Party that smashed the slaveocracy and then sought, through a multiracial coalition of Jacobins and proto-comrades, to reconstruct the South, to completely transform the society in which formerly enslaved and newly subjugated peoples could sit as equals in the temple of democracy.

Where does that leave us? Where we were before: in a moment of extended suspension, an interregnum between an old world and a new. I see real possibilities, in theory, for the kind of confrontation with the Reagan order, and could imagine an impeachment battle leading to the kind of confrontation within the Democratic Party that we need for a realignment. Whether it will come, I don’t know.

I don’t quite see the political forces necessary to turn these political battles of impeachment into a larger question of the social standing of citizens. But sometimes those necessary forces are summoned, to our surprise, through the very fact of struggle or limited political battle.

If it comes to impeachment, that would be my hope.

21 Comments

  1. Ellen Tremper January 9, 2021 at 1:12 pm | #

    Perfect—from every POV!

  2. gracchibros January 9, 2021 at 1:44 pm | #

    Thanks very much for this Corey, I have been wondering where you have gone and should have known you would arrive, like General Reynolds in July of 1863, in the nick of time.

    Yes I agree with you observations and heard nearly the same call from Paul Jay, interviewing Prof. Larry Wilkerson at his new spot after leaving the RealNews Network. Here’s the link: https://theanalysis.news/interviews/did-trump-walk-into-a-trap-wilkerson-and-jay/

    Jay said this was the chance for the Dems to crush the Trump/Tea Party version of the Republicans, not make peace with it and Wilkerson agrees. I don’t agree with Jay’s opening comments that the rhetoric from Dem leadership in Congress was over the top…I don’t think calling a domestic (my qualifier) “day of infamy” is an exaggeration – certainly not of the symbolism rather than the casualty list – which very easily might have numbered scores….

    And my own take calling for, no other clear choice, Impeachment…https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/7/2006836/-Democracy-s-Day-of-Days-calls-for-Impeachment-Removal-of-Trump-no-less-no-excuses

    However enraged Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Maj. leader Schumer are, and they should be after the desecration of the leading symbol of our secular democracy, we all know the temperament of Joe Biden coming in.

    This an opportunity to go further than we imagined even after the Georgia results are factored in. But no cake-walk, that’s for sure.

  3. gracchibros January 9, 2021 at 2:16 pm | #

    Thanks very much for this Corey, I have been wondering where you have gone and should have known you would arrive, like General Reynolds in July of 1863, in the nick of time.

    Yes I agree with you observations and heard nearly the same call from Paul Jay, interviewing Prof. Larry Wilkerson at his new spot after leaving the RealNews Network. Here’s the link: https://theanalysis.news/interviews/did-trump-walk-into-a-trap-wilkerson-and-jay/

    Jay said this was the chance for the Dems to crush the Trump/Tea Party version of the Republicans, not make peace with it and Wilkerson agrees. I don’t agree with Jay’s opening comments that the rhetoric from Dem leadership in Congress was over the top…I don’t think calling a domestic (my qualifier) “day of infamy” is an exaggeration – certainly not of the symbolism rather than the casualty list – which very easily might have numbered scores….

    And my own take calling for, no other clear choice, Impeachment…https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/7/2006836/-Democracy-s-Day-of-Days-calls-for-Impeachment-Removal-of-Trump-no-less-no-excuses

    However enraged Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Maj. leader Schumer are, and they should be after the desecration of the leading symbol of our secular democracy, we all know the temperament of Joe Biden coming in.

    This an opportunity to go further than we imagined even after the Georgia results are factored in. But no cake-walk, that’s for sure.

  4. DAVID C EGAN January 9, 2021 at 2:18 pm | #

    welcome back Corey; your insights are valuable

  5. jonnybutter January 9, 2021 at 2:26 pm | #

    To put part of this another way, the Democrats will only impeach if they absolutely have to. They will only do *anything* affirmative if they absolutely can’t avoid it. They are indeed not ready – the leadership anyway – to move and realign. (As you say, it could happen anyway).

    A relentless part of tribal Democratic discourse is the idea that at some point Trump or somebody will finally go TOO FAR and a Republican will Stand Up, or relent, (or something) a la Capra/West Wing. MSNBC makes tends of millions of dollars per year on just on that one childish fantasy. The real question is what it will take for *Democrats* to find resolve and be a real political party. For the leadership at least, a president encouraging a mob – in what is partially a continuation of this summer’s police riot, btw – which then invades the capitol and tries to literally lynch Pelosi and others, is still not quite serious enough. It’s unbelievably dispiriting. Somewhere you called our current politics ‘surreal’, and here’s another example of that.

    We have rotten elites, and I don’t think big shot pols should count too much on outrage out in the country about the invasion. It would have been shocking if a politician had been killed or attacked in the capitol, but it goes too far to say that most people would shed much of a tear for most of them, certainly as people. 4k people a day are dying out there, people going hungry – crisis. “Gosh, I still can’t believe Scalia is GONE! I miss him sooo much”, said no one.

    • Chris Daniel Morlock January 9, 2021 at 4:15 pm | #

      I agree with much of this Jonny, but I would go a step further. It was no coincidence that this “event” obscured the news that the Dems hade taken the senate. The concept that now, at long last, the Dems are in a position similar to that of the first years of the Obama admin (albeit not nearly the margins) has a shattering reality set in for the Biden admin: they actually have to govern. This news also comes with the painful reality that without Trump in the picture in any meaningful way- what is their policy? No one really knows at this point.

      So Trumps stunt takes on all kinds of new dimension, including one where he needs relevance to stay “within peoples minds”. Is it any real shock that this stunt was telegraphed for months on social media and far right news, yet there was little to no security present to deal with this? People aptly point to columns of militarized riot officers stacked in neatly spaced lines on the capital steps for BLM protests just months ago…..

      Then comes the new language from the MSM and Biden: “Terrorism, insurrection, rioters, destruction of property”. The full throated endorsement of unilateral corporate censorship of a sitting president for “violation of use policy”. Total absence of many leftists who claimed these platforms were in fact public utilities and should be regulated as such. Then, to add a cherry on top of this rhetoric (one which mirrors that of the far Rights language on BLM protestors) they call the capital hill groups “fascists”.

      I have failed to come by any “coup” in history where the leader conceded the day at 3pm, calling for everyone to return home, then acknowledged the election a few hours later and promised to cede power at the appointed date. Considering he was then censored, the media hasn’t even really reported on these facts well yet in between their call for crackdowns. Anderson Cooper on CNN remarked during the riots that most of the people would go back to have dinner at the Olive Garden with nightcaps at the Marriot. Followed by calls for impeachment for “insurrection”.

  6. Patrick Sullivan January 9, 2021 at 2:33 pm | #

    It’s fascinating to read the detailed accounts of the rioters and see how they are true soldiers of the Reagan empire. The Air Force colonel. And National Review interviews the Q Shaman: “I will not allow my country to be ruled by lesser men”.

  7. jonnybutter January 9, 2021 at 2:38 pm | #

    gracchibros:I don’t think calling a domestic (my qualifier) “day of infamy” is an exaggeration – certainly not of the symbolism rather than the casualty list – which very easily might have numbered scores….,

    The problem with that phrase is not that it overestimates what happened. It’s that they want the chunk of rhetoric to take the place of action. It’s rhetorical inflation in leu of doing anything. They also think Pearl Harbor is a current touchstone, since it happened only…er, let’s see…75 years ago. Playing rhetorical ping pong with all the other congressional fossils in their 70s and 80s. It’s ludicrous.

    • gracchibros January 9, 2021 at 3:04 pm | #

      oops forgive me, that was Timothy Snyder’s article in the times…

    • jonnybutter January 9, 2021 at 3:28 pm | #

      ‘lieu’

  8. gracchibros January 9, 2021 at 3:00 pm | #

    hey jonnybutter, good to see your penname again. Fair enough… I just left a comment (the NY Times has not been publishing mine for about two weeks now…for a stretch they loved them…mood swings….like my comment on Timothy Garton Ash’s column on Trump and Facism…its all tactics and psychology…no mention that policies, like economic ones might head off or reduce at least the divisions between coastal and rural America….I can read a lot of what is happening as the Right’s reaction to modernity: cultural and economic change driven by large scale capitalism, linked to the Fundamentalist Right’s revolt …following the cultural reaction to the sixties which gave Nixon…Reagan their leverage…(along with racism in a sublter key than Wallace and S. Thurmond.

    Can a structurally schizophrenia Democratic Party offer coherent policy remedies? (I think that was Paul Jay’s phrase but he may have gotten it from someone else)…

    • jonnybutter January 9, 2021 at 3:29 pm | #

      Hi gracchibros, nice to see you too, Hope you are well.

  9. gracchibros January 9, 2021 at 9:08 pm | #

    Quite a chess match shaping up between Congressional Dems, who, correctly, I believe, want to go on the record, win in the Senate or not, stating that Trumps actions were beyond the bounds, constitutionally and by any code of American democratic tradition or conduct. I agree that must be done, win or loose the actual impeachment vote. I believe that both Pelosi and Schumer are sincerely enraged by what happened at the political and personal level, Pelosi seeing boots on her desk and her podium carried away as loot…Schumer with his “day of infamy” comment.

    Today, mid-Saturday, a saw a CNN clip of Biden hemming and dodging the question of whether he thinks impeachment is good…obviously, unless Republican morale collapses altogether (and I understand Senator Toomey of PA now supports Impeachment), an impeachment effort could well cost him time and momentum…especially if it carries over into the new congress. This is not a mere tactical matter as important funding, programs policies need to be launched right away. However, the moral defense of what’s left of our Republic’s dignity, means, in my sense of things, the Dems must go on record…they will have the moral momentum to rally their forces and the public middle, if they choose, and if they dare, to go on the offensive after such egregious conduct by Trump and his successor want to bees… conduct beyond the pale…even if many of us on the left felt we’ve been heading that way since the declaration of legislative and legal war against Obama. That to me was the signal of a new civil war and we can argue about the scope and terrain of that…but it is: political, cultural, moral and at some of the deepest levels, which will soon be revealed, on the grounds of political economy…the differences…which go back to the late 19th century, the Great Depression, response to the Great Recession and the theoretical ground of MMT and the Green New Deal, which of course reaches into the thinking of the Dem Centrists.

    • Chris Daniel Morlock January 9, 2021 at 9:24 pm | #

      These arguments are largely centrist nonsense and the usual appeal to norms and such. Trump is out, he made a fool of himself and the liberal mining of this stunt is almost totally egregious at this point. Dems have government and the focus now should be on their policy and governance policy (which is non-existent at this point) and instead we are discussing a fictitious Nazi purge? Five minutes ago half the Left was claiming much of social media as a public platform in dire need of regulations and nationalization and now it’s cheering on unilateral corporate decisions as to what is and is not free speech?

      You see the Overton window moving at light speed?

      • gracchibros January 9, 2021 at 9:47 pm | #

        Well smack me across the head with a Mackerel in the Moonlight, I didn’t know I had such Centrist inclinations.

        No chance in human nature and necessary defense of the symbols of democracy possible, Chris Morlock? I’ve been as critical of Pelosi and Schumer as any left leaning Bernie supporter…but just letting this pass without at minimum passing impeachment article(s) in the House is sweeping too much under the rug. If you are correct about the cynicism of Pelosi and Schumer, going under the guise of practicality – getting to the substance of what we need in the New Congress…well then, it sounds like Chris Hedges to me.

        Where’s the line on which the departing party can do anything they want near the end of the clock of their terms?

        Do you really think passing over this is going to change Republican tactics from the Obama era? I don’t. They won too much else structurally, nationally in the election…the insurrection, as fragmented and touristy thrills touched as it seemed…might have turned out much bloodier had Pelosi turned down the wrong hallway and run into one of the armed people…the clips I saw of some foaming at the mouth over her…tells me it was more serious…and green flagged at some very high security levels within Trump and the republican side of congress…that let it unfold…despite the manifold open media traffic in the preceding week – if not more.

        I don’t want to “get over it.”

        • Chris Daniel Morlock January 9, 2021 at 10:30 pm | #

          Concern for Nancy Pelosi’s well being aside, she lives in my city and constantly tells me I can’t have healthcare while showing me her $24,000 refrigerator.

          Telling me I sound like Chris Hedges is music to my ears, a great compliment.

          The operative word here is “departing” and Trump basically condemned the violence and ceded the election and promised to peacefully transition on the 20th. That is right before the entire corporate world effectively censored him off the internet. I can share a little secret joy at these far right provocateurs burying themselves and being removed from some level of public discourse, but I know this type of attitude tends to horseshoe almost immediately. But somehow we need to impeach with less than 2 weeks left? This after the last fiasco impeachment from the Russiagaters?

          The talk of “Terrorism” evokes the entire military industrial / intelligence apparatus of the Islamic cold war we just supposedly got out of (at least for now) so call me skeptical at best, horribly worried at worst.

  10. Barry Carr January 9, 2021 at 11:28 pm | #

    Some good arguments there. But how to exploit the (temporary I suspect) vulnerability of the
    he Right and push for a progressive realignment id the question.

  11. Jonnybutter January 10, 2021 at 6:44 am | #

    the Reagan regime, like the New Deal regime in the 1970s, is more vulnerable than we realize

    Yes. Unfortunately, the Dems are too cowardly to knock down even an already rotten structure, which has been doddering for years. They want the building material to actually decompose so it all falls down by itself. Would they rush in then? Not right away – it might be a ‘briar patch’!!

    This is no moment of triumph for the Democrats. Ethically they are scarcely better than the GOP. That’s not to say there’s no difference between the two parties. But any voter can make the observation that if the Dems won’t defend themselves, they won’t defend regular people – which is simplistic, and also 100% accurate. The stupidest, simplest person can figure that out. But it’s way too simple for the wise men and women of the Democratic Party. They’re in another movie.

    What will it take to move this stubborn fucking donkey? We still don’t know.

    • gracchibros January 10, 2021 at 12:24 pm | #

      Events, driven or not by the dominant systems of the day, catastrophic events, are what seem to move dominant ruling ideas from their existing ruts. I’m thinking of the way Piketty has handled these ideas, in his two great works, “Capitalism in the 21st Century” and now “Capital and Ideology”…perhaps the most dramatic example is the Great Depression which took much, not all of the political leadership from laissez-faire to managed capitalism, a mild form of Social Democracy, and one can argue that the core Republican philosophy since Goldwater has been a repeal of what’s “left” of that. Trump has taken it to a form of Right Populism that would have made William F. Buckley Jr. wretch…

      The early blood baths of the Civil Rights movement gained it traction; the riots from 1965 on fueled the Republican Right’s reaction. Wallace, Nixon, Reagan and Trump had exactly the same electoral strategy.

      2008-2009 was nearly catastrophic in impact but was too esoteric in causes to have an ideological impact…Neoliberalism, despite the Covid Pandemic, the poverty in red rural America, the obvious necessity of national health insurance-single payer as the answer to the fumbling, fragmented system we currently have…nope, not yet. If you listen to what Larry Summers has been saying: no special program for rural America, no regional New Deal programs, no $2,000…foams at the mouth over MMT…

      And lurking beneath all these trends and strands, the message that I read in the following popular series over the past 10 years or so: The Walking Dead, Black Sails, Spartacus, Game of Thrones…and so on: things unravelling, institutional break down, as Fintan O’Toole has written so eloquently of Game of Thrones, it takes us back to Hobbes and the fight for living space, the racial theories of the Nazis…(the egalitarian themes of Spartacus and Black Sails didn’t s eem to get much traction, too bloody and sensational for our finer cultural elites)

      I finish with something that Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist at the NY Times wrote about Game of Thrones. What worried me the most about that show was that like Tolkien, it took the modern breakdown back to a pre-democratic, pre-capitalist age…pre-scientific age of “MAGIC” – the belief in what is unseen and unexplainable…unscientific that is… Douthat spun that to say it all pointed to the human need for belief in the great unseen…however you might define that…he says its the need for religion. Am I making clear the connection between Trump’s imagination and imaginary plots and crimes…connected to the unswerving support of the Religious Right, fundamentalists and evangelicals and conservative Catholics…six Catholic justices on the SC (two liberal left)…and that takes me back to Chris Heges, whom I read and listern too but don’t go all the way with…

      My sad conclusion is it is at least in part a revolt against Westernization, Rationalization, Science, Globalization, the Enlightenment, with the religious right in the most obvious revolt, the back to the land vegan organic farming left sharing some of the feel of that…and we’re dealing here then with very explosive material as the fanatical Right has just shown…it’s been building towards that…

      And the last paragraphs from my essay: “Major Miscalculations: Globalization, economic pain, social dislocation and the rise of Trump.”

      “William Greider perhaps put it best in the final chapter of One World Ready or Not:

      “…modern economists have become the ‘thought police’ in advanced societies, as futurist
      Hazel Henderson observed.” And their rigidity, especially in forbidding New Deal type
      interventions into labor markets, have helped make the looming disaster of Donald Trump
      possible. We haven’t changed our mind over the past year: America looks ungovernable right
      now and it will be surprising if Trump can survive four years.

      We will close with two personal recollections from 2015-2016.

      One came from a Rush
      Limbaugh broadcast, where the famous conservative broadcaster was lamenting the leftliberal war on “producers”, via the efforts to stop global warming. Limbaugh said that no
      benign Creator could ever allow the alleged coming catastrophes of global warming to
      actually happen, since they were the fruits of His own creations’ inventive, industrious genius,
      of people bettering their lives. No complexities, contradictions or limits here, to be sure.

      The second occurred on a beautiful late summer evening’s walk under a spectacularly
      colored sky with high cirrus clouds and jet vapor trails blended together. We had passed
      fellow citizens in Western Maryland looking up at what we thought was the same view, and
      commented to them about it. In return, they said there was more going on than nature’s
      artistry: those jet contrails were spewing toxic fumes and infectious biological agents, a joint
      enterprise in perfidy by the airlines and the federal government to harm the good citizens.
      Looking up the plot online when arriving home, sure enough, that was the outline of things to
      come.

      After that revelation, much of what has happened in the realm of political economy seemed to
      fall into place. Or into a bottomless pit. History has given us more than a few previews on the
      possibilities, but not yet, hopefully, the inevitabilities.

      PS Disclosure: this writer was a Bernie Sanders sup

      From: http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue79/Neil79.pdf

  12. Benjamin David Steele January 11, 2021 at 5:37 pm | #

    In the short term, we are stuck with the present situation of a GOP going ever further right while the DNC elite punch left. But that won’t last much longer. There are two likely possibilities of where we could be heading.. In both cases, we’ would be entering a progressive era.

    One possibility is that, following Trump’s populist rhetoric, Republicans become a genuine reform party that either forces Democrats to become more progressivve or forces progressives to take over the Republican Party. Another possibility is that, like the last progressive era, the parties become depolarized with both having a left and right-wing.

    That is assuming Republicans don’t simply get replaced with a new main party or the entire political system gets rearranged. We are entering a crisis period. Many things could alter the landscape and force more dramatic changes: world war, civil war, economic collapse, environmental catastrophes, refugee crises, balkanization, etc.

    To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party
    by Heather Cox Richardson

    When Republicans Were Progressive
    by David Durenberger and ‎Lori Sturdevant

    The Cycles of Constitutional Time
    by Jack M. Balkin

    • gracchibros January 11, 2021 at 7:27 pm | #

      that was quite a Progressive election: 1912…the mood didn’t last or accomplish much; Wilson and the entry into WWI were about 75% ugly in ramifications…the decent 25% was that government private sector cooperation could accomplish a lot…when mobilized for war…your know what happened 1918 to 1921…Red Scare…Republican Ascendancy…laissez faire and on our way to the great speculative collapse 1929…rural America – Ag in terrible trouble…America First…

      the intellectual problem I see, meaning policy proposal and acceptance, is that there is no social gospel force inside the evangelical fundamentalist conservative catholic bloc which has supporter Trump all the way…no Christian left…where I am in the Trumpian red rural part of MD – by geographic extent, Trump won the vast majority of our counties…there is simply no voice or institution where center left can get their side into a full public debate: there are no public debates, even in elections…and the conservative wing of the Dem Party here tried to muzzle me from speaking on Mod. Monetary Theory…and barely let me speak on the Green New Deal…the local NAACP is into religion and personal conversation, even at their MLK day in January last year: there wasn’t a speaker or word about where King was in terms of economic justice in the months before his death…and their anchor city, the NAACP is Cumberland…sharing the fate of so many small cities in rural red America; it’s never recovered from the desertion of major corporations in the 1970’s and 1980’s…citizens speak of before the departure and after as a great rupture between decent, happy even times and social catastrophe…but the progressive forces out here spurned the GND, a CCC despite all the addiction and joblessness…and personal salvation through one of the many churches is the dominate social force…the local colleges take no risk in sponsoring debates or serious public examination of for example, the downward spiral under Trump. Couldn’t find a local college or name on the 300 historians who signed the Trump out letter I just read today…

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