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Movement for Impeachment Must Be Grounded in Opposition to Trumpism and the GOP

Posted on May 18, 2017

By Sonali Kolhatkar

  President Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 28 before signing an executive order on oil-drilling policy. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

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Like many Americans, I have been fantasizing since Jan. 20, 2017, about Donald Trump’s presidency coming to a quick and dirty halt, ideally of his own doing. At best, Trump has been a global embarrassment, at worst, a purveyor of deadly ideas and policies. Never before has a president been so unpopular at just 100 days into his tenure. Now the “i-word” has even started to appear on the lips of Republican members of Congress, an odd reaction has emerged from some sectors of the progressive left. It goes something like this: Don’t back impeachment—unless you’re ready for President Mike Pence.

To be sure, when one examines Vice President Pence’s political past as Indiana governor, one finds that he symbolizes a horrific combination of misogyny and racism, as well as anti-immigrant, anti-working class and anti-environmental ideologies. But the tens of million voters who picked Trump did not necessarily care about Trump’s less flamboyant sidekick. Videos have emerged since last year in which angry racists air their abusive attitudes toward people of color. These videos feature people who cite only Trump, never Pence. Trump is the bogeyman that white supremacists invoke to justify their racism. It is Trump who has unleashed the most terrifying attacks on immigrants, Muslims and others, with Pence standing by his side.

Donald Trump is “the devil you know” in the scenario in which progressives oppose impeachment for fear of Pence. But we are dealing with two “devils” in the White House, as well as with a “devilish” party that has closed ranks around the Trump-Pence team for nearly a year now. So, opposing impeachment amounts to a win for Trump and the entire Republican Party. Trump’s belligerence has united Americans of many stripes since his election, some of whom have marched and protested for the first time ever, and hopefully have adopted a commitment to social justice as part of their lives.


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The Trump presidency has prompted many Americans to realize that they are the ones they have been waiting for; they have the power to hold their elected officials responsible. Town hall meetings with elected officials are now well-attended affairs, as they should be. Petitions opposing the Trump-Republican agenda have quickly reached their goal numbers. People are calling their representatives, showing up at marches in large numbers to speak out, defending immigrants as best they can, welcoming refugees at airports, and, in general, are more aware of injustices perpetrated by their government.

When Trump is impeached, Pence can and will be the next target of this empowered group of Americans. Progressives need to fight tooth and nail against every assault on our democracy. If that means first Trump and then Pence, so be it.

The opposition to Trump’s impeachment reminds me of the opposition during primary season to Bernie Sanders among some sectors of the left whose members worried that Sanders’ stated loyalty to socialism would become a liability for him during the general election. The logic was that Hillary Clinton had dealt with all the public scrutiny any politician could ever expect and had survived, and because of that she would also be able to survive the coming onslaught of Republican attacks.

She didn’t. And all progressives lost because some among us did not have the courage to stick to our ideals and instead opted for the “pragmatic solution” of backing “Clinton over Sanders.” In our current scenario, sticking with Trump because Pence might be worse is a similarly pragmatic approach—and just as morally bankrupt.

There are a few ideals we should hold dear as we back impeachment, however. Just before Trump’s inauguration, I warned that if the new, emergent progressive movement “is focused simply on disgust over Trump, then it is as doomed as Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was.” As activists fighting for social justice in the age of Trump, we need to be clear that Trump is carrying out the GOP’s wish list of cruel policies—from the attacks on women’s reproductive rights, the racial profiling of Muslims and immigrants, to the attacks on voting rights, the empowerment of police to continue to abuse poor people of color with impunity, the rewards to the military-industrial complex and more. He is pushing forward on the GOP’s agenda with bluster and with no regard for consequences.

Our opposition to him ought to be rooted in our broad opposition to the Republican Party’s increasing reliance on white supremacy and military supremacy as a framework for its political power. If the impeachment of Donald Trump leads to a President Mike Pence, it is simply the next challenge for progressives to face and overcome. A President Pence should be effectively tainted by the Trump name and wholly dismissed and opposed with the same enthusiasm as Trump has been. That is why the movement to back Trump’s impeachment is grounded in a general opposition to all his policies.

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