My apathy about impeachment is complicated, and the main complication is that I just don’t think what he did here was that bad. Wrong? Sure. Illegal. Perhaps? Treasonous? Maybe. But of the hundreds of abjectly terrible things he’s said and done since being President, since being alive, using his power to outsource an investigation into Hunter Biden’s sham board appointment is at the ‘eh, I guess’ end of the spectrum.
But that this is the hill that’s chosen to defend is both insulting and insultingly boring. Perhaps the fireworks will come. Perhaps the pressure Trump feels will exacerbate the already swift decline of his mind, and he’ll go full Stormfront and tweet about “them niggers at Waffle House.” That would be fun. But right now it’s just a pissing contest between news networks to see who can book who for the A-block.
I think this is hilarious and right. It’s important to remember that it wasn’t Trump’s violation of civil and human rights that brought on his impeachment. It wasn’t his endorsement of war crimes. It wasn’t his prolific lying. It was a violation of political process. A transgression of “norms” which his supporters elected him to transgress in the first place. The Democratic Party is playing a game of civility (fighting for manners and decorum), while the Republican Party is playing a game of cultural hegemony (fighting to dominate social values and normalize its own destructive world view). In this light, equivocation and moderation are especially unattractive. What we are facing now are, in the words of Audre Lorde, “the dangers of an incomplete vision.”
This impeachment is unsatisfying because, while it signals a refusal to be silent, it also signals a refusal to firmly dissent on the basis of substantive concerns about legitimate attempts to subvert our system of democratic government. Instead it relies on gotchas. Since I didn’t get a chance to honor Dr. King yesterday, I’ll do it now. The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb observed that, while we’ve recognized MLK as an activist, martyr, visionary, and orator, we have yet to consider him in the canon of great American writers. Here, from 1967, he speaks to our current crossroads:
It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”