The Trump Legacy is Tarnished Thanks to One Person: Donald Trump

Impeachment, the constitutional process of presidential accountability that has been cable news fodder and dinner party gossip for nearly three years, is finally here.  This week the Senate will begin hearing arguments for, and against, convicting and removing Donald Trump from office.

No matter what happens in the Senate trial, Donald Trump’s presidency will forever have an asterix beside it.  An asterix that tarnishes the one thing Donald Trump loves more than anything else: his legacy.

Impeachment will be a permanent, multi-generation lasting stain on Donald Trump’s legacy.  A stain that no dry cleaner, or an inept personal lawyer named Rudy, can erase.  

Donald Trump swore an oath in defense of the American experiment.  However, Mr. Trump has spent his entire presidency in pursuit of using the levers of government and power for his, and his family’s, personal gain.  

The president skirted the law, and basic decency, for decades as a businessman.  As a 73 year old wealthy white man born into privilege the president is now, for the first time, experiencing what it feels like to be held responsible for his actions.

The prospect of impeaching the president has divided the Democratic Party for the entirety of the Trump presidency.  A division that the president naively took advantage of when he withheld Ukrainian security aid in-return for Ukranian assistance in his reelection campaign. 

Trump is now staring at the consequences of that naïveté.  

Impeachment has rattled the president

For his part, Donald Trump has not handled his impeachment very well.  His tweetstorms, meltdowns, and tantrums have reached breakneck speed.  

The president, and many of his supporters, view this erratic behavior as one of his greatest strengths.  Ironically, it is because of this perceived strength that has brought him to this point in his presidency.  

As a result of his erratic behavior Mr. Trump explicitly sought foreign interference in the American election system.  He sought help because of his paranoia of his own weaknesses, and the strengths of his potential opponent, Joe Biden. 

Throughout impeachment hearings and debate, House Democrats showcased that Trump’s behavior has both undermined America’s institutions and have violated his oath of office.  Now, the Senate will take next step in debating the fate of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

The president’s defense echos his talking points

One of Donald Trump’s mindless talking points is to complain that he’s been impeached because Democrats want to overturn the 2016 election.  His legal defense team will echo the same talking point during the Senate trial. The defense team will argue that impeaching the president is a dangerous exercise in attempting to overturn democracy.

However, a fact missing from this weak defense strategy is that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by almost three million votes.  A fact that routinely contributes to his insecurity as president. 

Nevertheless, Donald Trump has been impeached because the voters who put him into the White House in 2016 have put Democrats in charge of the House.  

In 2016 the prospect of a Trump presidency carried too many unknowns to count.  It was because of those unknowns that Americans both voted for and against Donald Trump.  

Now, in 2020, those unknowns have been answered.  

Donald Trump does not revere public service like his predecessors.  He does not view the awesome responsibility of being president as a platform to lead, uplift, and improve the lives for all Americans.  Donald Trump views the office of President, and the federal government, as an instrument meant solely for his own well-being. And that is why his legacy is, and should be, tarnished.   

Nostalgia is Ruining Film

Nostalgia: the pesky emotion that makes us long for the past.  It’s also the thing that is ruining film.    

Thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, we’re bombarded with old shows and movies that we love.  We curl up on the couch to watch movies and shows from our past. We still laugh our asses off each time Ross yells “PIVOT” while streaming Friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a little blast from the past during my viewing pleasure.  

But nostalgia for old movies has given companies and studios the green light to leverage that nostalgia for a conveyor-belt like pace of spinoffs and reboots.  

Clearly, the biggest perpetrator of this trend is Disney.  Disney took our love of classic animated movies, such as The Lion King, and decided that we needed remakes and live-action versions of those films in our lives.  

But here’s the problem.  None of these re-make are actually good.  In some cases they’re tough to watch. 2019’s Aladdin was borderline insufferable.  And we are left with a burning heap of movies that are based on a lack of creativity.       

Nostalgia has become a scapegoat for a lack of creativity, and an ultimate desire to make money at the cost of something memorable.  Making movies and shows based solely on audience nostalgia is lazy, unimaginative, and offensive to the viewers.  

The opportunity cost of nostalgia is, ironically, creating more nostalgia.

George Lucas built an empire, a multi-generational fan base, and changed how cinema is made.  He did so not based on nostalgia for something that had already been made, but because he wanted to make something new.

Afterall, George Lucas convinced us to fall in love with a franchise who’s first move was technically it’s fourth.

Then Disney bought out George Lucas’ creativity at the tune of $4 billion.  

Don’t get me wrong, Disney has done an admirable job with the Star Wars franchise. The acting, special effects, and a somewhat compelling storyline of the most recent Star Wars Trilogy are not half-bad.  But I just can’t shake the sense that Episodes VII-IX were only made not to complete or expand on a story, but simply to satisfy fan nostalgia.  And, most importantly, to make Disney money.

But, if we continually make movies that are not completely independent from their parents, we risk not creating the next great empire.  

The next great thing that we can all love.

Kamala Harris’ Heartbreaking Presidential Camapaign

Kamala Harris should be a front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president. Instead, the 55-year-old California senator has ended her presidential campaign. Now, we are left with the remains of a once-promising turned heartbreaking presidential campaign.

On paper it all made sense. Harris is a popular senator from the country’s biggest state with a large, energized, and dedicated support base. Of all the Democrats running for president, Harris was as much the opposite to Donald Trump that existed in the primary race.

After all, Kamala Harris is representative of the group that Donald Trump has reserved his most grotesque and appalling attacks for: minority women.

She could have legitimately staked claim to being the most electable candidate. Her background as a prosecutor left her uniquely suited to lay out a case for a one-term Trump presidency.  

The potential historic nature of her candidacy as a minority woman leading the Democrats into a general election battle could have unified all factions of the party. She could have also assembled a multi-racial coalition of voters not seen since Barack Obama’s candidacy. 

Her entrance into the race elicited comparisons, and nostalgia, to Barack Obama’s candidacy. But nostalgia can only carry one so far.  

The Harris campaign was done-in by the one thing that is hard to fix: the candidate.  

Issues with Harris’ Campaign Helped Derail her Candidacy

Multiple stories of persistent campaign tensions were published throughout her campaign. Reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times we’re damning assessments into how Harris was running her campaign.  

The tragedy of Kamala Harris’ campaign for president is that her promise as a nominee couldn’t outduel her self-inflicted wounds. 

Kamala Harris did not run a good campaign for President. While she energized and inspired many Democrats, her own mistakes as well as persistent campaign issues were too much to overcome. 

Harris stumbled trying to explain a variety of her positions. On healthcare, for example, she co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” bill, but backed away from the plan during her campaign. She rose to second place in polls after her attack on Joe Biden’s record on busing, only to falter while explaining her past busing position.

Additionally, her record as a prosecutor and California Attorney General came under intense, and at times unfair, scrutiny from the progressive left. 

Harris had to introduce herself to voters who didn’t already know who she was. Introducing herself to voters was made difficult by failure to articulate her political identity and an inconsistent reasoning for running for president.

Kamala isn’t going anywhere. She is going to remain a significant player in the Democratic Party, and American politics, for a long time. She should be at the top of everyone’s list for vice presidential running mate for the eventual nominee.  

In the meantime, with Kamala out of the race, the Democratic Party must reckon with the fact that despite efforts to embrace diversity as a means to strengthen the party, the remaining front-runners for the nomination are all white.

Header Image: Quinn Dombrowski from Berkeley, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0].

Pete Buttigieg’s Authenticity Problem

 Pete Buttigieg’s authenticity problem is real.  

Two weeks ago small city mayor Pete Buttigieg heaped praise on to former Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy. It did not go well.

In an interview, Buttigieg said, while explaining his proposal to drastically reshape the Supreme Court, that “The idea here is you get more justices who think for themselves. Justices like Justice Kennedy.”  

What followed was a cascade of backlash across the liberal spectrum. Bernie Sanders went so far as to tweet “I’d like more justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

Buttigieg’s assertion that Kennedy wasn’t tethered to any ideology is laughable. Although Kennedy was regarded as the court’s swing vote, he was still a committed conservative on the court who ruled more often against liberal causes than for them.

Supreme Court reform has been a pet project dog for the mayor during his candidacy. He made a splash when he proposed expanding the size of the court by adding six new justices, bringing the total number of justices to 15. Under the policy, the court would have five conservatives, five liberals, and five apolitical justices who would be chosen by the first ten.

His proposal to re-shape the Supreme Court is bold and controversial. The proposal helps satisfy a desire among Democrats to elevate the importance of the Supreme Court during the primaries, and general election.  

The policy, when it was first rolled out in June, helped to show voters and pundits that his mild demeanor, pragmatism, and Midwest folkiness didn’t hide progressivism.  

But Pete Buttigieg’s authenticity problem is that his comment about Kennedy wasn’t progressive. It was naive. 

The Kennedy comment underscores a central problem that Buttigieg has: Authenticity.  

Concerns about authenticity have historically only applied to female candidates. Buttigieg himself has questioned Elizabeth Warren’s authenticity, specifically whether she is offering false promises in the form of grand-scale policy proposals.

Medicare for all is one such Warren plan that Buttiegieg has criticized. He tried to torpedo Warren on the debate stage on how she’ll pay for her healthcare plan. The critique from Mayor Pete pissed off enough Warren supporters/activists with a twitter account to fill every NFL stadium. Warren has since released her plan on paying for an overhaul of the healthcare system. 

Pete’s bold court policy took a page out of Elizabeth Warren’s playbook of “big structural change.” The problem, however, for Mayor Pete is that you can’t push for big changes in one policy area and then pushback on other big changes like Medicare for All.  

If Buttigieg as any chance of winning the nomination, and then uniting the party behind him, then he can’t continue to shy away from being bold. 

Header Image: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Nancy Pelosi and Impeachment are Donald Trump’s Nightmares

Nancy Pelosi is finally all in.  Pelosi’s announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump was as monumental as it was anti-climatic.  It always seemed as if we all knew that impeachment was an unwritten chapter that was poised to come to fruition during Donald Trump’s presidency.

Pelosi has long resisted throwing her weight behind impeachment, going so far as to say that Trump “wasn’t worth it”.  But, revelations of a July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky where Trump urged Mr. Zelensky to look into Joe and Hunter Biden was the final straw.  What followed was a never-ending cascade of Democratic House members announcing their support of an impeachment inquiry. 

On the House floor Congressman John Lewis delivered a stirring speech announcing his support of an impeachment inquiry.  The words “the time has come for an impeachment inquiry” carried the weight befitting of one of America’s most significant living figures.  Hours after Mr. Lewis left the floor, Nancy Pelosi addressed the nation and announced her own support of a formal inquiry.

The speaker had no other choice than to support an inquiry

The swelling of support was too much for the speaker to continue to look the other way.  Anything less than a full-throated endorsement would have resulted in a serious threat to her effectiveness as Speak of the House.  Not to mention her hesitancy would have undermined the efforts of her caucus to hold the world’s most powerful man to account.

For a time the number of reasons for impeaching the president could equal the number of reasons not too.  Evidence of obstruction of justice matched concerns of an inquiry aiding the president’s re-election bid, and whether or not the actions of the president rose to the frustratingly mythical threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” laid out in Article II of the Constitution.

While calls for impeachment have been continual for two and a half years, amplified by Democrats re-taking control of the House and the Mueller report published in April.  These calls have in many ways diminished the unique gravity of such an endurance. Divisiveness and partisanship have tainted the somber ness, gravity, and seriousness of a presidential impeachment.    

Donald J. Trump is now only the fourth president to face such an exercise in accountability and self-governance.  The allegations, and supporting memo of the call and whistleblower complaint, is without the taint of partisanship that followed the Mueller investigation.  His staunchest of defenders have found themselves unable to coherently defend Trump’s actions. 

Pelosi has continually proven herself to be one of the great political tacticians of the 21st century.  That should scare Trump to death. Trump’s feelings toward her are a cocktail of fear, anger, and awe. Pelosi will now have to tactfully lead the House, and the country, through the somber impeachment process. 

Header Image: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC BY-SA]

Brexit and Sexism Cost Theresa May Her Job

For three long years, Theresa May withstood persistent public humiliation like no other British prime minister in recent memory.   As prime minister, she never lost her composure as the press, politicians, and the public chastised her for nearly everything she did and said.  

When May announced her resignation, after failing three times to get her Brexit deal to leave the European Union passed through parliament, she did so with tears in her eyes while standing in front 10 Downing Street.  The steely persona that she exhibited in public during her three-year torment had finally broken. Brexit and sexism had gotten the best of Theresa May 

Brexit has now cost two British prime ministers their jobs.  May assumed office in June 2016 following David Cameron’s resignation.  Cameron resigned following Britain’s shocking vote to leave the European Union, of which Cameron had led the campaign to remain in the EU.   After Cameron lost he thought it would be best for national stability to cut and run like a toddler who just broke a lamp. When the going got tough the man left and the woman stepped-up.   

May grasped the reins of power with one over-arching goal: to deliver Brexit to the United Kingdom.  She failed to achieve that goal in spectacular fashion.      

Ironically, May handed over power to the man who played a primary role in her consistent public humiliation, Boris Johnson.  May, after all, gave Johnson a seat at the table as her foreign secretary, only to watch him stab her in the back when he resigned in 2018.  Now, with May gone, Johnson inherits the dreadful responsibility to guide the UK out of the EU.

The process of leaving the EU has been nothing but a train wreck for the UK.  Brexit has impacted the country socially, economically, and politically. Impacts so staggering and uniquely self-inflicted that it would cause some to dream of ripping up the Magna Carta, and allowing Queen Elizabeth II to take the wheel all while she wears a tiara.  

Theresa May was supposed to be the PM who steadied the ship, but in hindsight, she was doomed from the start.  She was surrounded by empty, male, vessels. Yet, all those empty vessels converged and created a grenade to her leadership that she was unable to recover from. 

Her tenure was filled with inaction by her mostly male opponents.  While she proposed plans, her opponents didn’t. When she detailed what Brexit should look like, her opponents didn’t.  When she asked what they wanted, her opponents wouldn’t say.

Then, when May finally presented her plan on leaving the EU, the parliament failed to pass it.  She remained publicly stoic as her plan and reputation were raked through the coals within the halls of Westminster.

 May had a plan, while the men didn’t. The Conservative Party is still divided on how to achieve Brexit,  and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has routinely failed to put together a coherent position on Brexit. Corbyn even went so far as to, under his breath, call May a “stupid woman.”

Lurking underneath the resistance to May’s plan was the idea that a man could get a better deal out of Europe.  Given those difficulties, and the unbearable stench of sexism, it’s no wonder May thrice failed to pass her Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Beyond the sexism and lack of leadership from her opponents, Theresa May’s tenure may be defined as a time where Britain’s political institutions are in chaos, and confidence in Parliament is so low that it’s reached the Earth’s core.  One of the core messages of Brexit was for Britain to become completely self-sufficient in the decision-making process of anything from trade to immigration.

The other core message for Brexit was for Britain to strengthen its identity.  But now, because of politicians and forces on all sides, Britain’s identity is in crisis not because of Europe, but because of Britain.

May has left the office with a country whose national identity is grasping for attention and definition.  Her successor Boris Johnson might not simply oversee Brexit, but oversee a period where Scotland and Northern Ireland leave the UK.  

Once and for all the sun may truly set on the British empire.  Not least because men wouldn’t take a female leader seriously.

Header Image: UK Government [OGL 3]

Justin Amash Doesn’t Care

Justin Amash, the six-term congressman from Michigan, became the darling of the political media when he became the first Republican member of Congress to call for an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.  Amash’s damning analysis of the Mueller report, delivered via Twitter, earned him the infamous “loser” label from the incumbent president. 

Intra-party squabbles have long been catnip for the press and politicos by helping to fill cable news segments and empty columns in newspapers. These squabbles are almost always overly reported, blown out of proportion, and all-in-all melodramatic fights over bruised egos.  

However, the Trump-Amash fracas feels different.  It feels different because Amash has further than any congressional republican in criticizing Trump.  One reason is for this is Amash’s record for being a steadfast conservative.   The other reason it feels different was because of his detailed description of this support for an inquiry. 

Amash tweeted a searing articulation of the case for impeaching the president.  In his support for an inquiry, Amash tweeted that Trump has a “false narrative” around the Mueller report.  A very diplomatic way of saying he thinks the president is lying.  Anyone with merely a bare-bones knowledge of Justin Amash should be showing no sense of surprise by the posture of the Michigander.  

Justin Amash has long been an intriguing figure largely because he revels in being an oddball in the modern Republican party.  The man also explains every vote he makes.  Every, single, vote.  While some members of Congress chose to avoid defending their voting record like it’s the plague, Amash embraces his with a full bearhug.  Amash even opposed the confirmation of the conservative fratboy god that is Brett Kavanaugh. 

In 2015 he played a pivotal role, along with other fiscally conservative GOP house members, in founding the Freedom Caucus.   The group that helped force John Boehner for not being conservative enough has now become the loudest group of cheerleaders that Trump has in Congress, with almost unfettered access to the White House. 

Amash’s criticism of Trump has not gone over well, to say the least, with the rest of the caucus and has earned him a badge of condemnation.   The Freedom Caucus has now condemned one of its founding fathers for the unforgivable act of criticizing a republican leader almost four years ago the Freedom caucus forced a republican leader by the name of John Boehner from power.  Ironic, yes.  Does Amash care? Not one bit.       

Facing conservatives, however, is the unfortunate reality that Amash is one of the most ardent conservatives in American politics.  They can’t attack Amash with the usual “never Trumper” talking points they’ve used to go after other Trump critics such as Jeff Flake or Mitt Romney.  This is what makes Amash’s support of an impeachment inquiry all the more powerful.

He has given House Democrats the ability to portray any inquiry as a bi-partisan matter, he’s potentially given cover to other House republicans that support an inquiry but are nervous of the presidential Twitter feed, and put additional pressure on Nancy Pelosi to give into an inquiry.   

With the constant drama surrounding the will they or won’t they impeach, the Amash-Trump conflict has once again exposed how deeply the GOP has indeed become the party of Trump.  Trump has embedded himself so deeply within the modern GOP that he is now in many ways it’s corner-stone.  He’s both a polarizing figure that the 21st-century Republican party has built itself around for both the short and long-term.   

Amash’s position may, at the end of the day, may turn out to be an empty vessel if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t move towards impeachment.  But the mere fact that a sitting member of Congress from the party of the sitting president has articulated a case for impeaching Donald Trump far better than many democrats is in its own respect remarkable.  And Amash’s ability to make this case, without being afraid of Trump’s wrath of, or his party turning his back on him, is evermore noteworthy.

Header Image: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America [CC BY-SA 2.0]