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Removing Trump Won’t Solve America’s Crisis

America is in crisis. It is a crisis of greater magnitude than any the country has faced in its history, with the exception of the Civil War. It is a crisis long in the making—and likely to be with us long into the future. It is a crisis so thoroughly rooted in the American polity that it’s difficult to see how it can be resolved in any kind of smooth or even peaceful way. Looking to the future from this particular point in time, just about every possible course of action appears certain to deepen the crisis.

What is it? Some believe it stems specifically from the election of Donald Trump, a man supremely unfit for the presidency, and will abate when he can be removed from office. These people are right about one thing: Trump is supremely unfit for his White House job. But that isn’t the central crisis; it is merely a symptom of it, though it seems increasingly to be reaching crisis proportions of its own.

When a man as uncouth and reckless as Trump becomes president by running against the nation’s elites, it’s a strong signal that the elites are the problem. We’re talking here about the elites of both parties. Think of those who gave the country Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee—a woman who sought to avoid accountability as secretary of state by employing a private email server, contrary to propriety and good sense; who attached herself to a vast nonprofit “good works” institution that actually was a corrupt political machine designed to get the Clintons back into the White House while making them rich; who ran for president, and almost won, without addressing the fundamental problems of the nation and while denigrating large numbers of frustrated and beleaguered Americans as “deplorables.” The unseemliness in all this was out in plain sight for everyone to see, and yet Democratic elites blithely went about the task of awarding her the nomination, even to the point of employing underhanded techniques to thwart an upstart challenger who was connecting more effectively with Democratic voters.

At least Republican elites resisted the emergence of Trump for as long as they could. Some even attacked him vociferously. But, unlike in the Democratic Party, the Republican candidate who most effectively captured the underlying sentiment of GOP voters ended up with the nomination. The Republican elites had to give way. Why? Because Republican voters fundamentally favor vulgar, ill-mannered, tawdry politicians? No, because the elite-generated society of America had become so bad in their view that they turned to the man who most clamorously rebelled against it.

The crisis of the elites could be seen everywhere. Take immigration policy. Leave aside for purposes of discussion the debate on the merits of the issue—whether mass immigration is good for America or whether it reaches a point of economic diminishing returns and threatens to erode America’s underlying culture. Whatever the merits on either side of that debate, mass immigration, accepted and even fostered by the nation’s elites, has driven a powerful wedge through America. Couldn’t those elites see that this would happen? Did they care so little about the polity over which they held stewardship that their petty political prejudices were more important than the civic health of their nation?

So now we have some 11 million illegal immigrants in America, a rebuke to territorial sovereignty and to the rule of law upon which our nation was founded, with no reasonable solution—and generating an abundance of political tension. Beyond that, we have fostered an immigration policy that now has foreign-born people in America approaching 14 percent—a proportion unprecedented in American history except for the 1920s, the last time a backlash against mass immigration resulted in curtailment legislation.

And yet the elites never considered the importance to the country’s civic health of questions related to assimilation—what’s an appropriate inflow for smooth absorption. Some even equated those who raised such questions to racists and xenophobes. Meanwhile, we have “sanctuary cities” throughout Blue State America that are refusing to cooperate with federal officials seeking to enforce the immigration laws—the closest we have come as a nation to “nullification” since the actual nullification crisis of the 1830s, when South Carolina declared its right to ignore federal legislation it didn’t like. (Andrew Jackson scotched the movement by threatening to hang from the nearest tree anyone involved in violence stemming from the crisis.)

Then there is the spectacle of the country’s financial elites goosing liquidity massively after the Great Recession to benefit themselves while slamming ordinary Americans with a resulting decline in Main Street capitalism. The unprecedented low interest rates over many years, accompanied by massive bond buying called “quantitative easing,” proved a boon for Wall Street banks and corporate America while working families lost income from their money market funds and savings accounts. The result, says economic consultant David M. Smick, author of The Great Equalizer, was “the greatest transfer of middle-class and elderly wealth to elite financial interests in the history of mankind.” Notice that these post-recession transactions were mostly financial transactions, divorced from the traditional American passion for building things, innovating, and taking risks—the kinds of activities that spur entrepreneurial zest, generate new enterprises, and create jobs. Thus did this economic turn of events reflect the financialization of the U.S. economy—more and more rewards for moving money around and taking a cut and fewer and fewer rewards for building a business and creating jobs.

And, though these policies were designed to boost economic growth, they have failed to do so, as America suffered through one of the longest periods of mediocre growth in its history.

All this contributed significantly to the hollowing out of the American working class—once the central foundation of the country’s economic muscle and political stability. Now these are the forgotten Americans, deplorable to Hillary Clinton and her elite followers, left without jobs and increasingly bereft of purpose and hope.

And if they complain they find themselves confronting the forces of political correctness, bent on shutting them up and marginalizing them in the political arena. For all the conservative and mainstream complaints against political correctness over the years, it was never clear just how much civic frustration and anger it was generating across the country until Donald Trump unfurled his attack on the phenomenon in his campaign. Again, it was ordinary Americans against the elites.

The elites also ran American foreign policy, as they have throughout U.S. history. Over the past 25 years they got their country bogged down in persistent wars with hardly any stated purpose and in many instances no end in sight—Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya. Many elites want further U.S. military action in Ukraine, against Iran, and to thwart China’s rise in Asia. Aside from the risk of growing geopolitical blowback against America, the price tag is immense, contributing to the country’s ongoing economic woes.

When Trump, marshaling this anti-elite resentment into a powerful political wave, won the presidential election last November, it was noted that he would be a minority president in the popular vote. But then so was Nixon; so was Clinton; so was Wilson; indeed, so was Lincoln. The Trump victory constituted a political revolution.

Now comes the counterrevolution. The elites figure that if they can just get rid of Trump, the country can return to what they consider normalcy—the status quo ante, before the Trumpian challenge to their status as rulers of America. That’s why there is so much talk about impeachment even in the absence of any evidence thus far of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” That’s why the firing of James Comey as FBI director raises the analogy of Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.” That’s why the demonization of Russia has reached a fevered pitch, in hopes that even minor infractions on the part of the president can be raised to levels of menace and threat.

Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, even suggests the elites of Washington should get rid of Trump through the use of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of the president if a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and if a two-thirds vote of Congress confirms that judgment in the face of a presidential challenge. This was written of course for such circumstances of presidential incapacity as ill health or injury, but Douthat’s commitment to the counterrevolution is such that he would advocate its use for mere presidential incompetence.

Consider the story of Trump’s revelation of classified information to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the United States. No one disputes the president’s right to declassify governmental information at will, but was it wise in this instance? Certainly, it was reckless if he exposed sources and methods of intelligence gathering. But did he?

The president and his top foreign policy advisers, who were present during the conversation, say he didn’t. The media and Trump’s political adversaries insist that he did, at least implicitly. We don’t know. But we do know that when this story reached the pages of The Washington Post, as a result of leaks from people around Trump who want to see him crushed, it led to a feeding frenzy that probably harmed American interests far more than whatever Trump may have said to those Russians. Instead of Trump’s indiscretion being confined to a single conversation with foreign officials, it now is broadcast throughout the world. Instead of, at worst, a hint of where the intelligence came from, everyone now knows it came from the Israelis. Instead of being able to at least pursue a more cooperative relationship with Russia on matters of mutual interest, Trump is once again forced back on his heels on Russian policy by government officials and their media allies—who, unlike Trump, were never elected to anything.

Thus is the Trump crisis now superimposed upon the much broader and deeper crisis of the elites, which spawned the Trump crisis in the first place. Yes, Trump is a disaster as president. He lacks nearly all the qualities and attributes a president should have, and three and a half more years of him raises the specter of more and more unnecessary tumult and deepening civic rancor. It could even prove to be untenable governmentally. But trying to get rid of him before his term expires, absent a clear constitutional justification and a clear assent from the collective electorate, will simply deepen the crisis, driving the wedge further into the raw American heartland and generating growing feelings that the American system has lost its legitimacy.

There is no way out for America at this point. Steady as she goes could prove highly problematic. A push to remove him could prove worse. Perhaps a solution will present itself. But, even if it does, it will rectify, with great societal disquiet and animosity, merely the Trump crisis. The crisis of the elites will continue, all the more intractable and ominous.

Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C., journalist and publishing executive, is editor of The American Conservative. His next book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century [1], is due out from Simon & Schuster in September.

172 Comments (Open | Close)

172 Comments To "Removing Trump Won’t Solve America’s Crisis"

#1 Comment By John Oliver On May 21, 2017 @ 6:10 pm

Why is Trump a problem. Don Imus says you cannot fix stupid. And what I read here are people assailing the elites that caused this problem, and they sound just like the elites they so quickly blame.

I do not know one Trump supporter, and I am certainly one, that does not love Trump and what he is doing. The arthur writer of this dribble should go and have afternoon whiskey with Bill, the whatever, and the rest of the far left loonies.

#2 Comment By Matthew Rendall On May 21, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

‘Unnecessary tumult and deepening civic rancor’? How about thermonuclear war? When Trump has the unbridled authority to launch thousands of nuclear weapons,’mere presidential incompetence’ is ample reason to remove him. As George F. Kennan remarked many years ago, ‘History does not forgive us our national mistakes because they are explicable in terms of our domestic politics’.

#3 Comment By Bob Mullen On May 22, 2017 @ 2:38 am

Removing Trump will clear the air of many distractions. It won’t solve any problems because Hillary (even Biden) and most of the Republicans operated under nearly the same premises as Trump and would have done 95% of the same things. All will arm the Saudi’s; all will turn the economy over to Goldman-Sachs. Germany had to start and lose two wars to earn 70 years of peace. How many do we have to lose?

#4 Comment By c matt On May 22, 2017 @ 11:22 am

Let’s hear some real ideas about how to make ordinary people feel more empowered in politics. Oddly enough, that sounds like a line from the Dem playbook…

That IS a line form the Dem playbook. Of course, the key part of that line is feel more empowered. Dems certainly want people to feel more empowered, they just don’t want people to actually be more empowered. And I have to admit, they are masters at it.

#5 Comment By Libertarian Since ’73 On May 22, 2017 @ 5:33 pm

My vote was not cast for President Trump, but as he was elected he is currently the POTUS and does deserve to be accorded as such.

Cunning Linguist makes the best case of the many I’ve read here. What has President Trump done so far that shows he is out of touch with anything other than someone else’s opinion?

It would behoove many of you to take a look at presidential history prior to attempting to make claims about how good other presidents have been. Generally one is given the grace of working into a job also – especially someone coming in as an outsider. I’d like to have a few of you try to work for me and see if you could make it past the trial period…..

It would be very interesting what most of you consider to be the “proper qualifications” for being POTUS. Once that base has actually been established, then let’s apply it to all the POTUS’ equally and see how things shake out.

Thanks for listening, enjoying reading the few realistic posts that appeared here and amused by many of the others 🙂

#6 Comment By james On May 23, 2017 @ 7:21 am

Who are these elites I wonder? Is not Donald Trump an elite? The fight against government and the poor has its roots in the conservative corporate complex, and the rise of right wing media that has no challenger. Kinda simple, LBJ understood this, seems no one else does. It is documented in many places, two are below. “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” Jane Mayer
‘Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal’ Kim Phillips-Fein

#7 Comment By SR On May 23, 2017 @ 10:27 am

You are right. Removing Trump will not solve our problems. In fact I would warn against impeachment procedures for one simple reason. Since Pence is likely to take over the President’s Office if Trump is impeached, between Pence and Ryan, the social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be on the chopping block. Our only defense {at least so far} is Trump remaining in office.

#8 Comment By John Gruskos On May 23, 2017 @ 12:05 pm

“since 1978, the GDP of the US economy has doubled. The proportion of that increase which has gone to the bottom 90% of the population is ZERO.”

You identified a serious problem.

“Moscow Donny”

Now you sound like a fool.

Wealth is flowing from the middle class to the top 0.1% because of mass immigration – and our expensive, counter-productive foreign policy isn’t helping.

Mass immigration drives down wages wages, drives up housing costs, and increases the burden on state and local governments, where taxes are unavoidably regressive. The rich get cheap labor and high rent, while the middle class is stuck paying the costs via higher state and local taxes. It is a blatant case of privatize the profits, socialize the costs – and Warren and Sanders don’t object.

The ridiculous “Russian influence” narrative was invented by the establishment to pressure Trump into abandoning the non-interventionist America First foreign policy he was elected on, in favor of the disastrous Clinton/Bush/Obama foreign policy of regime change. (If you’re not Putin’s puppet, prove it! Bomb Syria!) With a handful of honorable exceptions such as Gabbard and Kucinich, the Democrats are complicit in this squalid charade.

#9 Comment By Tomtom50 On May 23, 2017 @ 12:30 pm

Good post! However you are more accurate describing the right than the left.

For example, Hillary was nominated by the elite? Yes, she had overwhelming elite support, but she locked in her nomination on Super Tuesday when she swept the South. Fundamentally Bernie failed to make the sale to Southern Democratic voters, who are hardly what we think of when we refer to the Democratic elite.

Immigration policy? Everything you write seems applicable only to pro-immigration Republicans who do ignore their base on this issue. But Democrats? Democrats have an overwhelmingly favorable view of the immigrants and immigration. ( [2]) Hillary was not out of touch with Democrats or the nation at large on immigration. Republicans other than Trump were out of touch with Republican voters.

The alienation of the Republican base has reached crisis levels, and Donald Trump was nominated. The alienation of the Democratic base is a problem but not a crisis, and as I write the is a normal progressive vs. establishment struggle taking place as the Democrats strive to do better in 2018.

Finally you raise the specter of a soft coup evidenced by the avalanche of leaks and the heavy coverage in the Washington Post and the New York Times. I wonder how different that is from Watergate, where the deputy Director of the FBI (Seep Throat aka Mark Felt) brought Nixon down. What happened with Nixon is being attempted with Trump, but what do we call it? The critical role of a free press in a democracy, which makes it impossible for an Administration to get away with brazen lying? Or a soft coup?

I think you choose a poor example with the intelligence disclosure to the Russians. Whether or not you believe McMaster on the particulars, there is a formal process for releasing intelligence to adversaries, which Trump flouted. That is alarming to any true patriot, and you do not have to be a Democrat to notice that Trump tends to run his mouth and carelessly boast. Credibility is damaged by Trump’s own actions ( [3]) and as he trashes his own Administration’s credibility concerned citizens have no choice but to weigh information from other sources. [4] gives an interesting center-left perspective on this.

#10 Comment By David Lloyd-Jones On May 23, 2017 @ 2:41 pm

No crisis, just a lot of easily identified lousy policies:

The Republicans’ and Dubya’s unfunded, dishonest, and wildly inaccurately aimed wars.

Nixon’s and Reagan’s successful stifling of LBJ’s attempts to bring America into the now past twentieth century.

Senator McConnell’s stifling of President Obama’s only partially successful repair of the economy.

This talk of a phoney crisis, like the election of flamboyant Republican barker Donald Trump, is simply a loud attempt to divert attention from the massive success of conservative policies.

#11 Comment By Richard On May 24, 2017 @ 12:15 am

Fake news from the political elite and the corrupt press. The problem is with the political establishment, not the current President.

#12 Comment By jay On May 24, 2017 @ 6:28 am

Lol I struggle to see how Trump is unique from other GOP politicians, except that he is transparent in his xenophobia and blatant in his greed.

This is the same movie that GOP presidents have played for their poorer constituency who aggressively support them: “I will keep you safe from the hordes of brown men with walls and guns.

I will give you jobs better than your fathers,

And I will cut your taxes and you will save all the monies!!”

From Reagan to Bush.

#13 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 24, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

“Nixon’s and Reagan’s successful stifling of LBJ’s attempts to bring America into the now past twentieth century.

You’ll have to give some details here. Pres Nixon was by far and a way one of the most progressive Pres the country has had. Even fact, in the minds of many Republicans, old school republicans he was not conservative at all. The modern governmental bureaucracy is what they point to as evidence that he was no con conservative.

“Senator McConnell’s stifling of President Obama’s only partially successful repair of the economy.”

Uhhh, excuse me. The bailouts were the set by the Wall Street and the Federeal Rserve, Both executives went along with the agenda of bailouts. The democratic admin, did not do anything to repair the economy that was not set before him. And worse he failed to ensure any changes that held WS accountable and failed to any return on the investment of the bailouts.

The economy is not repaired, not even close. We just ignore the dames.

#14 Comment By Japhy On May 25, 2017 @ 2:01 pm

A thoughtful piece of writing that suggests that the writer is less than objective. Trump is the latest iteration of Republican presidents as each has pushed for the same goals. Enrich the upper .1%, shrink the middle class, move their businesses offshore to be more profitable, and keep the non-elite at bay by focusing on emotional issues (abortion, gun control, and gay marriage). How different is Trump from Gingrich, McConnell, or Ryan? Not much, maybe just a little more frank in his speech.

#15 Comment By Jean On May 25, 2017 @ 8:54 pm

We have elected an idiot with his finger on the button. It’s truly scary this is not our worst problem.

#16 Comment By old and skeptical On June 9, 2017 @ 11:34 am

In general I agree with Mr. Merry. However, what I would like to see from a writer of Mr. Merry’s talents is a review of the “qualifications” of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Granted, these four had more charm and polish, but JFK and Clinton certainly had no better “character” than Trump, and neither had much of a political background. GW Bush and Obama were in my view incompetent, the only difference being that one served a neoconservative agenda and the other a progressive agenda (hence Obama got better press). It seems to me that Trump’s real sin is that he is challenging the status quo, which is exactly what he was elected to do. And no, I did not vote for Trump.

#17 Comment By AIDAN DOWNEY On June 9, 2017 @ 3:20 pm

Approximately 10 years ago Mark Steyn commented: “In much of Western Europe, on all the issues that matter, competitive politics decayed to a rotation of arrogant co-regents of an insular elite, with predictable consequences: if the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain issues, the the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones.”

#18 Comment By Jane On June 9, 2017 @ 11:08 pm

Clinton does indeed represent the political elite, and her “basket of deplorables” comment was stupid — But the second half of it, in which she makes clear that the economic concerns and disgruntlement of Trump’s supporters do matter, and should be heeded, is always conveniently left off. Perhaps the author should review that second part:

“But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

#19 Comment By Pamela Dodd On June 10, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

“Beyond that, we have fostered an immigration policy that now has foreign-born people in America approaching 14 percent—a proportion unprecedented in American history …”

Hardly unprecedented, Historically, none of our ancestors, besides Native Americans, were originally from here. The land that became America was settled for decades by European immigrants. So originally close to 100% were foreign-born. How convenient, and arrogant, of many of us to forget this.

#20 Comment By Matt On June 11, 2017 @ 4:32 am

“Trump is supremely unfit for his White House job.” So who else wanted to drain the elite swamp? No one. That’s why Trump is supremely fit for his White House job.

#21 Comment By Pelham On June 12, 2017 @ 2:03 pm

In addition to Hillary Clinton’s list of foibles, we might usefully add that while secretary of state she signed over control of a substantial portion of US uranium supplies to Russia while her husband raked in quite a large sum in Russian speaking fees.

These aren’t the worst of their sins by a long shot, but they are relevant in the current context.

#22 Comment By Jack On June 13, 2017 @ 7:57 am

The writer is giving to much credit to republicans elites. They suffer from the same disease that demonstrates suffer from. You peoper still supporting Trump apparently don’t yet know you were conned. Trump acts a reacts based on what is good for Trump. He could care less about the people and cleaning up the swamp. Just look at his appointments tells all.