Censure Politics

I do not have much use for the four Congresswomen who are the bones of contention in the recent censure motion of the President that was passed by the House of Representatives largely by a party line vote. I was going to give the benefit of the doubt to AOC. She was young and articulate and might bring in some fresh ideas but her rejection of Amazon coming to New York City showed her to be an ideologue in the bad sense: slogans without content. She is just against big corporations. The governor, the mayor, the local congresswoman, and local labor leaders were all in favor of the project because it would bring fifty thousand jobs to Queens and a lot of them were for warehousemen and construction workers and so would help the working class, even though there would also be high paying jobs for techies and for executives. The tax breaks, all legal (I checked into that), wouldn't kick in until the jobs were in place, which means Amazon would pay less in taxes than it otherwise would; it would not be getting cash up front. I also didn't like Ilhan Omar. She is entitled to be against Israel but rather than attacking Jewish money she should have proposed what she sees as a legitimate solution to the Israeli-Palestinean conflict.

I also notice how angry is the Squad, as the four are known. That is not a political emotion I admire. King was always calm and gracious, however much it cost him inside. I like the happy warriors, like FDR and Hubert Humphrey, and the thoughtful ones, like Bobby Kennedy. That is why the Squad seem to be ungrateful for what America is even though that term is a bad choice of words because the four need not be grateful to be in Congress--that was up to the voters in their district--but they could be a bit more humble about the responsibilities that have been entrusted to them. Yes, they seem crude to me rather than enlightened, firebrands rather than goads to the conscience of the nation.

But Trump has a sense of the jugular. He knows he wants to run against the four of them rather than the Democratic candidate. And so he attacks them in part to deflect attention from the fact that he did not carry out the raids on illegal immigrants that he had been promising. He had maneuvered Nancy Pelosi into a position she didn't want, which was to confront him, because otherwise she would look timorous, even as she had been trying to avoid calls for impeachment hearings because that would play into his hands by making voters think that the Democrats were usurpers. So she backed a censure motion, which in all justice was fair because we should not let a President get away with such overtly racist remarks. As someone put it, we are not listening to dog whistles anymore. 

I agree that it is not politic to call everyone who supports Trump a racist. Yes, I wish we could be fighting on another field, such as health care or infrastructure or foreign policy. Yet even MSNBC commentators yesterday trusted to Trump’s description of the most recent confrontation with Iran in the Straits of Hormuz. They seem to fall back into the idea that at a moment of crisis a President has to be trusted. You mean like Chaney saying that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction? The present President has no  credibility as a truth teller and so there is no reason to trust anything he says in a crisis. Why is that not an issue? Similarly, why is it not an issue that even his own staff try to manage around him because of his ignorance and malice? Why is it not an issue that he is polluting the atmosphere and American waterways through his deregulation policies?

Yet Trump pushes his racism front and center and so that too has to become a major issue because it is so unseemly. It will, however, not be easy to win those who supported Trump over to the Democratic side this time around. Even if people who are not racists are some of those supporting Trump, they are supporting someone who is an out and out racist and isn't that bad enough and shouldn’t that be pointed out to them? Or will everyone be allowed to scrape off their shoes when they enter the house and so no odor lingers? I am afraid we may have to fight this one out on the issue of race unless Kamela abandons that line and Joe becomes more articulate. I worry.

I wonder why the Democratic candidates have not come to Pelosi's assistance by themselves saying the President is a racist and should be condemned for that. If they play Republican politics, which means hang back so someone else can lead the charge and get wounded, then all is lost. Thomas Friedman said much the same thing two days ago in the New York Times when he said that the debates a few weeks ago had left him dispirited because the left of the party doesn't think it revolutionary enough just to restore the basics of any American administration, conservative or liberal, rather than perpetuate the rule of a demagogue who has no sense of democratic values. 

Moreover, if we are going to fight this campaign on racial issues, then it is necessary for the Democratic candidates to update their fighting vocabularies. Corey Booker, in answer to a question, said yesterday that he indeed felt disrespected by Joe Biden because he knows what it feels like to have others be dismissive of what he has to say. “Disrespected” should be eliminated from the vocabulary of Black politicians. It refers to a time when clinging to respectability was all that Black people could do in the face of the onslaught against them. It was a minimum demand, something to be awarded any human being. But in the present climate, where it is invoked by a sitting U. S. Senator running for President, it is just special pleading, a reference to past lack of power as a reason people can’t disagree with you. It is a term certainly inappropriate to use against Joe Biden. Trump has sharp ears for this kind of thing. He will disrespect Booker till the cows come home should Booker become the candidate and then turn the knife by asking Booker in sarcastic terms whether he has been sufficiently disrespectful. Senator Booker, find other ways to express yourself. The candidate who controls the words has an edge.

On Tuesday, Representative Al Green of Texas put in articles of impeachment. Speaker Pelosi said that he was a serious person. I take that to mean that there was a political purpose in what he had done, which is different from what the four women “Squad” had done, which was just grandstand. Green was testing the waters on impeachment sentiment and so letting Pelosi know that the Democratic caucus was moving that way and so she needed to pay attention and do something. He got 95 votes. Fair point, though increasing that number rests on what gets squeezed out of Mueller next week, and I don’t know if it will be anything substantive enough to regard as an impeachable offense.  

Look at what Green actually submitted. Trump’s comments last week, Green said, “have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color. Donald J. Trump by causing such harm to the society of the United States is unfit to be president and warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office.” Now this is a new ground for impeachment, even if it is just a trial balloon. Previously, impeachment had been for what is clearly a crime even if in the case of Clinton it was not a crime that threatened the structure of American democracy, while in the Andrew Johnson and Richard Nixon cases the crimes had. In this case, Green is simply saying that what Trump said was offensive and demeaning. But Trump was elected as a racist and misogynist candidate. The people had spoken. Racism is his policy and so is not subject to impeachment anymore than a Socialist or Fascist candidate is subject to impeachment for preaching those values should he be elected. The Presidency is not an office where the incumbent is subject to a popularity poll by Congress, only to an impeachment for doing something that betrays the nation’s institutions, not its values. So, as Trump hopes, the coming election may well become a referendum on his racism and I hope the American people turn against him for that reason as well as because he hasn’t accomplished much on other issues that impact the society. 

Voters need to remind themselves of just how much power is invested in a President once he assumes office and so people should have reconsidered voting for him or staying home just because they were lukewarm about Hillary. So far, Trump’s own inadequacies of intellect and attention have made him unable to control the levers of power available to him, and the structures of government and the professional people in high office have also limited him. But, as Joe Biden predicts, that might not last another four year term when he might figure out how to get his way or puts in power people who, like Barr, want to see him get his way. So even if race is not the field of battle on which the Democrats want to fight, they may be stuck with it and they had better do a damn good job waging their campaign.