Can the American People Save Themselves?

Much of America, and the world, was aghast at the U.S. Senate’s failure to hear witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment “trial” (if you can call it that), and his subsequent likely acquittal. America’s partisanship and rancor has reached a new high and Congress’s adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution has reached a new low. The letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution has been obliterated in the process and a horrendous standard has now been established. The question is, can the American people now save themselves?

There is, of course, no question that Trump is guilty. That had already been established before the House sent the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. However, the Democrats in the House made a serious strategic blunder by not insisting that the White House and Republicans produce their own witnesses, and at least appear to lend the process an air of bipartisanship. Failing to do so only strengthened the Republicans’ resolve to circle the wagons around Trump and in the process sealed the end result of the impeachment process.

We must wait until November to learn whether American voters will hold the Democrats responsible for their strategic blunder, or hold the Republicans responsible for failing to take the impeachment process seriously. The outcome of the Senate votes will not change the minds of many Trump supporters, or those who oppose him. The question is whether the minds of many Independents will have been swayed by this farce one way or the other. That remains to be seen, of course, but there is a good chance that Trump will actually be re-elected in spite of it all. And if he is, the Democrats will only have themselves to blame.

The reason is that they are playing the same game as the Republicans when they should be providing a clear, definitive, alternative choice to the American people. The original 27 Democratic presidential candidates – originally truly diverse in every way – have now whittled down to a handful of white candidates, two of whom are billionaires. There is a very good chance that Bernie Sanders will ultimately become the nominee. If he does, the Democrats will have succeeded in producing their own white, male, and extremist candidate for president. Sanders’ extremism is quite distinct from that of Trump, of course, but there isn’t a lot that he represents that can be called moderate – which is what the country needs. Both parties will then be guilty of promoting extremism at a time when America is more severely divided on a multitude of levels not seen since the Civil War.

Just a generation ago, America was a very different place. Lawmakers found a way to reach bipartisan agreement. The rule of law was clearly understood and meant something. Americans were rightly proud of their country and they cared about its standing in the world. Today, too many Americans really don’t care about good governance, rule of law, or even the difference between right and wrong. American society has descended into a cauldron of divisiveness, hate, and partisanship. America’s standing in the world has been shredded. And that appears to be just fine by a surprisingly large number of American citizens.

So, the question really boils down to, can the American people save the Congress and their country from themselves? The Congress is a mirror of the people and the impeachment episode is evidence that it is as broken as the people and the country. America needs a leader who can rise above the morass, galvanize the support of the majority of the people, and transform this nation from what it has become to what it can be again.

Sadly, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans appear to be capable of nominating a leader who can do that, who is free from the plethora of poisons that define Washington, and who can resonate with the majority of the American people. Even worse, the majority of the American people do not appear to either know the difference, or care. So, once again, America will again get the leader it deserves.