We’re not quite there yet — but keeping President Trump in office is the best way to cement Trumpism’s hold on the Republican Party.
Republicans themselves know it, and that simple fact is a huge problem for them: By and large they don’t like him, and they know he’s a long-term problem for the party — but in the short term they know they can’t get re-elected without his voters. For Democrats, it’s the dream scenario — as long as he completes his term.
President Trump should be impeached because he is unfit for the presidency. He represents a clear and present danger to our national security. We didn’t need Robert Mueller’s report for that. But if Newt Gingrich taught us anything, impeaching the president is likely to be bad politics.
Nothing will unite an increasingly fraying Republican Party more than trying to remove the president anywhere but at the ballot box. Democrats risk the kind of overreach that doomed the Republicans 20 years ago. And in any case Democrats are not likely to succeed in getting votes in the Senate to convict the president. And in politics, a loss is a loss — there are no moral victories.
I fully understand the historical imperative of holding the president accountable for his behavior. I also share the sentiment of so many Americans who want to punish him for what he’s done to the country. But I believe there is something bigger at stake.
Allowing Mr. Trump to lead the Republican Party, filled with sycophants and weak-willed leaders, into the next election is the greater prize. Democrats have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realign American politics along progressive lines, very much like Ronald Reagan did for Republicans in the 1980s.
Trumpism equals Republicanism as long as Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket. And a real shift to progressivism in America will be delivered by a devastating rebuke of the president and his party, a rebuke that will return control of the Senate and state houses across the nation. Politics is always a gamble — and this is the best bet we’ve had in a long time.
Joe Lockhart was the White House press secretary from 1998 to 2000.
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