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My father used to tell me the the only way to deal with a bully was to hurt him bad enough that he would leave you alone. I mostly didn’t follow that advice at the time, but it assumes new relevance now, with a president who seems determined to transgress all lines of elementary decency.

beating trump

Now he is reliably reported to have asked why we keep letting in people from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador, or anywhere in Africa. That this unhinged racist xenophobe is unfit for office is apparent. That he will quite likely serve out his term is almost as clear.

As I have argued before, he will be a consequential president. It will take much effort and many years to undo the consequences of his tenure, even if that tenure only lasts four years.

The thing is, his base is holding. About 40 percent of the public still approve of his performance.

The thing is, his base is holding. About 40 percent of the public still approve of his performance. That includes a narrow majority of white men, a significant minority of white women, and almost nobody else. About 56 percent disapprove. That leaves only 4 percent who haven’t made up their minds. But for the base, he’s just saying stuff that lots of white working class men will say in a bar—after a couple of beers. He is, as I have previously argued, Archie Bunker’s revenge.

Republican politicians won’t take him down, first, because the base is still behind him, and they are the ones who vote in primaries. Secondly—and ironically—he is actually pursuing policies that Republicans have long wanted: pro-corporate tax cuts, eviscerating regulations, gutting Obamacare, the list goes on. So even though Trump himself has repeatedly undercut legislative efforts with intemperate tweets, the fact remains that the conservative agenda is moving. That his own base will be the losers is irrelevant: the base loves him not for his policies but for his rhetorical bashing of people they hate. So there will be no 25th Amendment action, and there will be no impeachment while Republicans control Congress.

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It is tempting to hope that the Mueller probe will come up with high crimes and misdemeanors sufficient to shame congressional Republicans into action, but their assiduous efforts to undermine and discredit Mueller instead suggest that, no matter what he finds, Trump is safe.

Moreover, even if he were impeached or removed from office before his term ended, he would remain a powerful and disruptive force, claiming that it was the Deep State that got him. He would be like Perón in Argentina after the military overthrew him in 1955: he could retain the loyalty of his base and make the country ungovernable without him.

There is only one way of dealing definitively with Trump. It starts right now: we have to beat the Republicans badly in the 2018 midterms, we have to take control of Congress. That will open the way to serious oversight and investigations of the Administration, and possibly to formal impeachment proceedings. But Democrats should learn from the Republicans’ impeachment of Clinton: don’t impeach if you lack the votes to convict.

So he will probably last out his term, wreaking daily damage to the country and the world. If we don’t have a nuclear war with North Korea (which could set Trump up as President-for-life of the miserable remains of our country), then we will have to beat him decisively in 2020, beat him so badly that neither he nor his base can any longer pretend that he deserves to be President.

His successor will have the unenviable task of leading the country’s recovery from the worst spasm of xenophobia and racism that we have known.

john peeler

John Peeler