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Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.
Well, Impeachment Finally Happened
But Can It Go Integrative with a "No Sense of Decency" Moment?
But thus far it appears that the whole impeachment saga has done little to change the public perspective on Trump.
Well, impeachment finally happened. Donald Trump was impeached on December 18, 2019, becoming just the third president in the nearly 250 year history of the United States to be impeached. But the question I now ask is: Can impeachment go integrative? . In other words, can impeachment stimulate the necessary infiltration into the middle-of-the-roader voters in the battleground states to defeat Trump in 2020? In my last Integral World essay I conveyed my thoughts that a centrist Democratic candidate is necessary to reach enough of these voters, and I pulled no punches in stating my belief that Joe Biden is the Democratic candidate most likely to beat Trump in 2020 . But I am now interested in seeing if there is a possible weakening of Trump through the repercussions of the House impeachment, regardless of who the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate is.
There are certainly many people who have had the view that impeachment will likely help Trump in 2020, inclusive of the Libertarian video/blogger Styxhexenhammer . But thus far it appears that the whole impeachment saga has done little to change the public perspective on Trump, as the Trump base and the progressives are not budging in their viewpoints, and it is not clear yet how the middle-of-the-roaders will end up casting their votes in 2020. However, there are at least some preliminary signs that these middle-of-the-roaders are not particularly enthused about Trump's failure to cooperate with the impeachment process . But what I found to be particularly interesting is the incipient crack in the surface of the evangelical movement, displayed by the December 19, 2019 Christianity Today article by Mark Galli, entitled "Trump Should Be Removed From Office" :
“The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president's political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution, more importantly, it is profoundly immoral. The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alonewith its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slandersis a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused. . . .
The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president's moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president's positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character. . . .If we don't reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come?. . . .
To use an old cliche', it's time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.”
As one would expect, there was an immediate backlash to this Christianity Today article, as over 200 Christian organizations refuted the author's criticism of Trump, Christianity Today lost a number of subscribers, it became evident that Christianity Today represented a very small percentage of evangelicals, and Trump, after attacking Christianity Today, is now promoting a movement he calls Evangelicals for Trump . However, there has also been a demonstration of support for Galli's Christianity Today article, as there have been three times as many new subscribes to the magazine compared to subscribers who ended their subscriptions, and there have been a number of testimonies written in praise of the article . And what I wonder about is if there is any potential here for this to become some kind of a Have You No Sense of Decency moment.
A Have You No Sense of Decency moment refers to how in 1954 Senator Joseph Welch dealt the Joseph McCarthy communist witch hunt a fatal blow during the senate hearings, resulting in public opinion finally going against McCarthy, when McCarthy tried to publicly destroy the reputation of a young man who was one of Welsh's legal employees. Welsh famously had the following encounter with McCarthy during the public hearing :
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted: “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
Now in spite of all Trump's numerous attacks on virtually anyone of any prominence who disagrees with him , this has not resulted in a No Sense of Decency moment for Trump, although in fact there have been many “indecent” statements by Trump that one would think should have qualified him for a No Sense of Decency moment, starting from when he was a presidential candidate and continuing well into his presidency. Here are a few examples :
“July 18, 2016: Donald Trump insulted the military service of Senator John McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who endured torture and solitary confinement as a POW in Hanoi. Trump said in a speech at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, 'He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured.' Trump's comments drew boos from his audience in Iowa, as swell as widespread condemnation from Republicans and Democrats alike. Donald Trump himself was exempted from military service after receiving four student deferments between 1964 and 1968, and a medical deferment for a 'bone spur in his foot' after graduating from college.”
“July 30, 2016: Donald Trump belittled Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim American soldier who had been killed while serving in the Army, for their speech at the Democratic National Convention. In his speech at the DNC, Khizr Khan had addressed Trump's stringent anti-Muslim immigration policies, saying, 'Have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the liberty and equal protection of law.' In response to the speech, Trump suggested that Khan had 'no right' to criticize him.
“November 29, 2017: Donald Trump retweeted three anti-Muslim videos from Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the ultranationalist hate group Britain First. Fransen, who has a long history of posting Islamophobic content on social media, was found guilty in 2016 for aggravated harassment of a Muslim woman. In response to one of the videos, 'Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches,' the Dutch embassy in Washington tweeted, '@real DonaldTrump Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent acts was born and raised in the Netherleands.' U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May joined worldwide condemnation of Trump's retweets, saying, 'It is wrong for the president to have done this' and explaining Britain First spreads 'hate-filled narratives to peddle lies and stoke tensions.'
“January 11, 2018: According to an account of an immigration meeting with members of Congress, Donald Trump allegedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and nations in Africa as 'shithole countries.' In regard to the 60,000 Haitian immigrants sheltered in America following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Trump purportedly said, 'Why do we want people from Haiti here?' Trump followed this saying that the U.S. should admit more people from places like Norway, and that he would accept more Asian immigrants because he believed them to be beneficial to the economy.”
“July 15, 2018: At a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Pution in Helsinki, Donald Trump sided with Putin over American intelligence. When asked about Russian collusion in the 2016 election, Trump said, 'They said they think it's Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
“July 14, 2019: President Trump said Sunday that four minority, liberal congresswomen who have been critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should 'go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. . . . Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!' prompting other Democratsincluding Pelosito leap to their defense. Pelosi denounced Trump's tweets as 'xenophobic comments meant to divide out nation,' while the four congresswomen promised to continue fighting Trump's agenda and accused him of trying to appeal to white nationalists.”
Although it may very well be nothing more than wishful thinking, an article entitled "Trump's 'No Sense of Decency' Moment is Coming" concluded as follows:
“There are limits, even for Trump. . . . Though he has expanded the range for outrageous and immoral behavior, he is not invincible. He is not a king (yet). He will reveal himself as a naked emperor. Watch for it. It's going to happen. Maybe it already has .
And I can't help but wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, this crack in the surface of the evangelicals from the above Christianity Today article, relatively small as it may be, could be the beginning of some kind of No Sense of Decency moment for Trump. I believe that the article is also consistent with the featured article by Jeet Heer in the 2020 New Year's issue of The Nation, entitled "Impeachment Needs to Move to the Streets" . Heer conveyed the following about the effectiveness of mass protests and the pragmatic “non-passionate” nature of Trump's impeachment:
“Mass protests tend to work best when they galvanize around visceral issues that spark outragemisogyny, climate change, immigration roundups, police brutality. The existing centrist impeachment undercuts such outrage by focusing on Trump's violation of national security norms, an issue that inflames few passions among ordinary people. A crucial problem is determining how impeachment can be framed in a way that excites activism rather than simply passive approval.”
This accounting of Trump's impeachment is consistent with Libertarian Styxhexenhammer's reckoning that “ordinary people” are tired of hearing about impeachment, and consequently impeachment could backfire and help Trump in 2020 .
Heer calls for a “people's impeachment” and makes her case in no uncertain terms, as she quotes from Meagan Hatcher-Mays, the director of democracy policy for the Indivisible Project:
“There are a lot of things Donald Trump has done that have brought people to this resistance fight, from keeping kids in cages to credible accusations of sexual assault. He's a racist. He employs white nationalists in his White House. All these things are horrific and form the basis for why a lot of people joined this fight in the first place [12, 13].
But Heer also has a pragmatic use of a people's impeachment in mind, and one that has direct bearing on the current efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to have witnesses called in the Senate impeachment trial:
“If popular protests pry three or four Republican senators loose, that could profoundly shape how the impeachment plays out in their chamber. The Senate gets to set its own rules for an impeachment trial, voted on by a simple majority. It wouldn't take more than a handful of GOP defections for the Democrats to control the way the trial is conducted and what evidence get presented.”
And I believe that this possible “pragmatic” consequence of a people's impeachment may be what is most important here. For in order to beat Trump in 2020, once again it is necessary for a sufficient number of middle-of-the-roaders in battleground states to not vote for Trump . Styxhexenhammer gives a strong argument based upon the current robust economy for why he believes Trump will get relected in 2020 , and his argument is going to be tough to beat. But perhaps conducting something closer to a fair trial in the Senate, where credible televised witnesses casting doubt on Trump, including some witnesses who have been, or even are currently, in the Trump administration, may be what is needed to induce enough middle-of-the-roader voters in battleground states to not vote for Trump, and consequently increase the odds that Trump can be beaten in 2020.
Styxhexenhammer also offers an insightful analysis of the dangers of Bernie Sanders becoming the Democratic presidential candidate in regard to the possibility of beating Trump, as he discusses the similarities of Bernie Sanders to labor lealder Jeremy Corbyn in regard to how poorly Corbyn did against the Trump-like prime minister Boris Johnson in the recent U.K. election , . I am in agreement with Styxhexenhammer on this, although I choose to think differently from him about Joe Biden's potential to beat Trump , as I have discussed previously , and I must say that I am quite relieved that Biden engaged in a strong gaffe-free debate performance in December and I am keeping my fingers crossed that Biden continues to do this in the subsequent debates .
Of course, I very well realize that things could certainly backfire with a televised witness trial in the Senate, but I think there is more to gain than to lose here. And then you have the crack in the surface of the evangelicals with the Christianity Today article, and maybe, just maybe, this crack could grow wider with a televised witness trial in the Senate that exposes more of Trump's violations of the constitution, coupled with a people's impeachment that takes to the streets and focuses upon the violation of basic human values that Trump has committed. I don't know, perhaps I am just engaged in wishful thinking myself here. But the new year is approaching, and I want to try to stay optimistic as the presidential election drama enfolds, so these are my political thoughts/wishes for the new year.
1) In a number of my previous Integral World essays (see www.integralworld.net) I have described my “Integrative” perspective, which includes “diverse contrary views for the purpose of finding common ground on one particular issue.” In regard to this present article, I am using “integrative” in the sense of incorporating diverse contrary views on a whole range of political issues to find common ground on the necessity of defeating Trump in 2020, spurred on by the House impeachment.
2) See Elliot Benjamin (2019), "An “Integrative” Democratic Candidate is Needed to Beat Trump", www.integralworld.net, December 3, 2019.
3) See Styxhexenhammer, "The Democrats Are Falling into Civil War", www.youtube.com, December 5, 2019.
4) See Kerry Eleveld (2019), "Solid Majorities Think Trump Abused His Power and Should Have Complied with Impeachment Inquiry", www.alternet.org, December 26, 2019.
5) See Mark Galli (2019), "Trump should be removed from office", Christianity Today, www.christianitytoday.com, December 19, 2019.
6) See Elizabeth Dias & Jeremy W. Peters (2019). "Evangelical leaders close ranks with Trump after scathing editorial", www.nytimes.com, December 20, 2019; and Sarah Posner (2019). "That Christianity Today editorial won't change anything", www.nytimes.com, December 22, 2019.
7) See Aldous J. Pennyfarthing (2019). “Christianity Today” gets big subscription boost after calling for Trump's ouster, www.dailykos.com, December 22, 2019; and Timothy Dalrymple (2019), "The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT's President", www.christianitytoday.com, December 22, 2019; see also the 12/22/19 Fargo Forum, North Dakota editorial entitled "Forum Editorial: How Can Christians Be Trump Supporters?", www.inforum.com, December 22, 2019.
8) See David Holahan (2019), "Have We No Sense of Decency?", ctmirror.org, October 15, 2019.
9) See Jasmine C. Lee & Kevin Quealy (2019), "The 598 People, Places, and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter", www.nytimes.com, January 28, 2016.
10) For the first five examples see Ben Parker, Stephanie Steinbrecher, & Kelsey Ronan (2018), "Lest We Forget the Horrors: A Catalog of Trump's Worst Cruelties, Collusions, Corruptions, and Crimes", www.mcsweeneys.net (although note that items 85 and 86 are repeated, and item 538 should refer to item 137, not 136, for more on the relationship between Trump and Nunes). Note that this list of 546 (more accurately 545) Trump cruelties, collusions, corruptions, and crimes only goes up to October, 2018; my last example, dated July 14, 2019, which describes Trump's telling four progressive Democratic congresswomen to “go back from where they came from” was taken from the article by Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis (2019), "Trump Tells Four Liberal Congresswomen to “Go Back” to Their Countries, Prompting Pelosi to Defend Them", www.washingtonpost.com, July 14, 2017.
11) See Voltage Spike (2019), "Trump's “No Sense of Decency” Moment Is Coming", www.dailykos.com, December 24, 2019.
12) See Jeet Heer (2019). "Impeachment Needs to Move to the Streets: Mass Protests Can Turn a Beltway Scandal Into an Effective Anti-Trump Weapon", www.thenation.com, December 16, 2019.
13) See the Indivisible organization website at www.indivisible.org. Indivisible is an extensively progressive and proactive Resisting Trump grassroots political organization that I have referred to in a number of my Integral World political essays (see www.integralworld.net).
14) See Styxhexenhammer, ""It's The Economy, Stupid"- Even CNN Admits Trump Likely to be Reelected", www.youtube.com, December 7, 2019.
15) See Cnaan Liphshiz (2019), "Boris Johnson defeats Jeremy Corbyn by Large Margin in British Elections", www.jta.org, December 12, 2019.
16) See Styxhexenhammer, "What the UK Election Foreshadows for the US 2020 Election", www.youtube.com, December 13, 2019.
17) See Styxhexenhammer, "Trump Wins if Sanders is Nominated (The Myth of Sanders Supremacy)", www.youtube.com, December 24, 2019.
18) See John Podhoretz (2019), "December Democratic debate: Joe Biden earns his front-runner statusfinally", nypost.com, December 20, 2019.