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What happens when you realize that you’ve been played?


The Brits and we Americans have many things in common: a shared language and democratic institutions. And we now have something else: both countries were hoodwinked by ridiculous, incompetent leaders, and both peoples are now seeing just how badly they were tricked.

In Britain’s case, of course, this refers to the disastrous Prime Ministry of Boris Johnson. Although he’s been in office just a few months, his reign has been the most catastrophic in modern history, and he is likely to be the shortest-ruling PM ever. He rose to notoriety with inflammatory rhetoric that was, frankly, unlinked to facts: he took advantage of the fear and rage of some Brits with foreigners. England has long considered herself separate from Europe, “This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself…This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,” as Shakespeare’s Richard II said. Largely Caucasian, Great Britain, like most of Europe, has seen a massive influx of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia—and it’s rubbing some Englishmen the wrong way. Their resentment got Johnson elected.

If that recipe sounds familiar, it’s because it happened here, too, with Trump getting elected because too many white people in the Midwest, South and Inter-mountain region fear and hate people of color. Trump and Johnson are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of western politics—and it’s made even weirder by the fact that they both have bizarre, ugly orange comb-overs on the tops of their heads.

Johnson seems likely to be toppled from power any day or week now, with Labor poised to take its place. The British people have seen through his utter unfitness for office: he drove the drumbeat for Brexit with no plan, no conception of how to actually accomplish it; he simply took a wrecking ball to existing British foreign policy. Donald J. Trump has done exactly the same thing. With his “America First” nonsense, he’s alienated virtually all of our traditional allies, and he has certainly hurt the cause of democracy and ruined (let us hope temporarily) America’s reputation as a shining city on a hill.

(While I’m on the subject, another right wing leader, albeit one who doesn’t have orange hair, also is about to be toppled from power, and for many of the same reasons: Bibi Netayahu’s era of stoking hatred of the Palestinian people seems to be ticking into oblivion.)

Here in the States, Trump is on thin ice. This Ukraine business might be the tipping point. Yes, I know we’ve been here many, many times. I’ve postulated other tipping points in the past. But somehow this feels different. It’s easy to understand: Trump bribes a foreign leader to help him take down one of his political opponents, Biden.

Setting aside all of Trump’s other crimes and misdemeanors, how do we explain to the American people that UkraineGate is worth impeachment? After all, it’s apparently not strictly illegal. Knowledgeable people say it was unprecedented, but Trump was elected to be a disrupter. So, again, how do Democrats justify bringing impeachment charges against him for UkraineGate?

Unfortunately, not easily. Since it’s not illegal, it’s not a crime. This gets us into “misdemeanor” territory. And here is where Democrats must focus their efforts. They have to explain the concept of harmful wrongdoing to the American people. A misdemeanor is “the act of misbehaving” (Webster’s Dictionary); its root is the Latin “minare,” to drive cattle, but by the time that term migrated into Old European languages it came to mean bad behavior, especially in a leader, that degrades (demeans) both the actor and what he represents.

This is a mouthful, to be sure, but skillful politicians like FDR have been able to explain complicated concepts through simple analogies (Roosevelt’s “length of garden hose” is a perfect example). Americans “get” the concept of misbehavior, especially the misbehavior of children. (Think about the Trump baby balloon.) Every parent can cite instances of kids behaving badly; and bad behavior must be punished. It’s easy to cite Trump’s bad behavior—not just UkraineGate but everything else. So cite it: list it:  remind people how troubling it is. And then say he has to be punished.

Americans will be sympathetic to that argument. They might still wonder if impeachment, rather than defeating Trump in 2020, is the right or wrong course; but they will support the notion of punishment; I firmly believe that. I furthermore firmly believe that they can be persuaded that impeachment NOW is better than defeating him LATER by this simple argument: He’s out of control and will get worse if he remains in power. We need to depose him NOW. That was the whole point of FDR’s “garden hose” analogy: the fire is burning the house NOW. We don’t have time to call the firemen. If we’re going to save the house, we have to act NOW.

Well, something like that is the argument I’d use. As I write this, Pelosi is supposed to be speaking later on the topic of impeachment. I don’t know what she’ll say, but I hope she reads my blog.

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