To Impeach or Not To Impeach? That Is Not the Question.

The problems with the GOP are far greater than any one figurehead.

Marilyn Katz May 26, 2017

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan greet each other at a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017. (Office of the Speaker)

The dai­ly rev­e­la­tions of the entan­gle­ment of Trump’s entourage have Repub­li­cans squirm­ing and Democ­rats sali­vat­ing at the smell of blood in the water. For­mer boogey­men like the CIA and the FBI have sud­den­ly become heroes to lib­er­als. After years of rel­a­tive qui­etude, Rus­sia has emerged once again as the evil empire, as if we were liv­ing in the height of the Cold War.

Progressives must remember—and point out publicly—that Trump is not the outlier but the spawn of the Republican Party.

Even pro­gres­sives have not been immune, with thought­ful In These Times writ­ers like Kate Aronoff and Jeff Alson spend­ing their con­sid­er­able brain pow­er on weigh­ing the dan­ger, in the case of Alson, and ben­e­fit, as Aronoff sees it, of impeachment.

While the spec­u­la­tion is enter­tain­ing — and great for the book­mak­ers in Vegas — for pro­gres­sives and oth­ers who take care about the future of the nation and the world, this almost sin­gu­lar focus on Trump and impeach­ment is both mis­tak­en and dan­ger­ous. Like a hor­rif­ic acci­dent on the high­way that com­mands everyone’s atten­tion, Trump now serves as a dan­ger­ous distraction.

Con­sid­er this. Some of Trump’s egre­gious impe­r­i­al actions, such as the trav­el ban tar­get­ing peo­ple from six Mus­lim-major­i­ty coun­tries, have been hin­dered by large-scale protest. Yet, qui­et­ly and with­out much atten­tion, the Repub­li­can Con­gress has already passed, and Trump has signed into law, pieces of leg­is­la­tion that threat­en pub­lic health and wel­fare what­ev­er Trump’s fate.

This Repub­li­can assault on our social fab­ric has already result­ed in the fol­low­ing new laws:

  • States can with­hold fund­ing from health providers just because they offer abor­tion, even if no fed­er­al funds are involved — mean­ing no fed­er­al funds for the 1.5 mil­lion patients who depend on Planned Par­ent­hood for their pap smears, breast exams, con­tra­cep­tion, or oth­er health care needs.
  • Coal com­pa­nies and oth­ers no longer are pro­hib­it­ed from dump­ing tox­ic chem­i­cals and debris into streams and rivers (H.J. 38 and 41).
  • Peo­ple with severe men­tal ill­ness are no longer pro­hib­it­ed from buy­ing guns with­out exten­sive back­ground checks (H.J. 40).
  • Through the weak­en­ing of fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions, pub­lic lands have been reopened to oil drilling, tree cut­ting and pri­vate use (H.J. 44).
  • Our per­son­al data can now be gath­ered from the inter­net and sold at will (S.J. 34).
  • Employ­er work­site injury report­ing laws have been loos­ened, gut­ting OSHA reg­u­la­tions and there­by endan­ger­ing work­ing men and women (H.J.83).

And that’s just what’s now become the law of the land.

Con­gress has put on its plate numer­ous bills aimed at erod­ing the right to choose, dimin­ish­ing envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, abol­ish­ing the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, attack­ing unions, and under­min­ing pub­lic education.

This year alone, 39 bills that restrict vot­ing rights have been intro­duced in 22 states, with at least three states hav­ing adopt­ed them into law, accord­ing to the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice. The future of a woman’s right to make her own repro­duc­tive choic­es is sim­i­lar­ly imper­iled. Already, state leg­is­la­tors have intro­duced 431 anti-abor­tion bills, with 88 bills on their way to pas­sage in 28 states that would ful­ly out­law abor­tion or lim­it it so much that it is impos­si­ble to obtain.

We can­not ignore Trump or the poli­cies he has and will con­tin­ue to put forth. Every one of Trump’s ret­ro­grade and dra­con­ian exec­u­tive actions or pro­posed poli­cies needs to be called out, resist­ed, and defeat­ed. But that must be the start­ing point, not the end of our thinking.

What­ev­er the Repub­li­cans (or the Democ­rats) may do about impeach­ment, pro­gres­sives must remem­ber — and point out pub­licly — that Trump is not the out­lier but the spawn of the Repub­li­can Par­ty and the poli­cies it has espoused these past 15 or 40 years.

We need not only to change the occu­pant of the White House but the occu­pants of Con­gress and the state hous­es. If we fail to do so, in 2020, whether it is Pence or Trump who heads up the GOP pres­i­den­tial tick­et, we will already have lost much of the progress made over the last cen­tu­ry, and we will face the dan­ger of ger­ry­man­dered dis­tricts yield­ing a pres­i­dent and Con­gress that look much the same as this one.

In Chica­go, where I live and work, this has meant vig­or­ous oppo­si­tion to Trump. We turned out 250,000 peo­ple on Jan­u­ary 21, flood­ed the air­ports when the trav­el ban emerged, and have been march­ing and protest­ing ever since. But it also means adding two more ele­ments to our work: resist­ing the Repub­li­can agen­da as well as the man, and turn­ing protest into power.

This month the Illi­nois leg­is­la­ture passed a law that pro­tects abor­tion in the event that the Supreme Court were to over­turn Roe v. Wade and, crit­i­cal­ly, restores the right to abor­tion fund­ing to both Med­ic­aid recip­i­ents and state employ­ees. The bill now sits on the Repub­li­can Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk — hope­ful­ly like the sword of Damocles.

Demon­stra­tions, march­es, and mas­sive call-ins to leg­is­la­tors’ offices were respon­si­ble for that vic­to­ry. Ensur­ing that vic­to­ry sticks will require turn­ing polit­i­cal inter­est into action and trans­form­ing that par­tic­i­pa­tion into vot­er reg­is­tra­tion and then votes. This must all be done with the under­stand­ing that Trump is the symp­tom and not the cause of our problems.

It is tempt­ing make com­mon cause with those who would use Trump’s dal­liance (real or imag­ined) with the Rus­sians and his lies as suf­fi­cient cause for his ouster. And it may be that his ties and lies do him in. But pro­gres­sives, eyes wide open, must remem­ber that it is not an exter­nal ene­my from whom we have the most to fear but, rather, an oli­garchy that is all-too-eager and pre­pared to sac­ri­fice a pres­i­dent to secure their agenda.

It is up to pro­gres­sives inside and out­side the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty to rec­og­nize and pro­claim loud­ly that the solu­tion lies not with Trump’s ouster, but with the cre­ation of a peo­ples’ agen­da pow­ered by a well-informed, orga­nized pop­u­lace ready to do what­ev­er it takes. 

Mar­i­lyn Katz is a writer, con­sul­tant, pub­lic pol­i­cy com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gist and long-time polit­i­cal activist. She is pres­i­dent of MK Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a part­ner in Democ­ra­cy Part­ners and a founder and co-chair of the new­ly formed Chica­go Women Take Action.
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