PBS examines the Others: We were surprised by something we saw on the front page of this morning's Washington Post.
The Post was reporting on certain voters' attitude toward the possible impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Right out there on page A1, the opening paragraph of the report said this:
PORTNOY ET AL (12/28/19): They don’t ordinarily agree with each other. They watch different channels, hear different versions of the news and view neighbors across a gaping, painful political divide. But in swing districts across the country, the idea of impeaching the president has brought some Americans together: They’re wary of deploying the Constitution’s ultimate weapon—one that takes the decision about who is president out of voters’ hands.Interesting! Does impeachment (and removal) "take the decision about who is president out of voters’ hands?"
Just as a matter of fact, it does! In the present circumstance, let's get clear on what that means.
In November 2016, 62.98 million people voted for Candidate Donald J. Trump. We weren't numbered among them, and a substantially larger number of people voted for Candidate Hillary Clinton (66.85 million).
By the rules of the game, those 62.98 million people got Trump elected to office—and they got him elected to serve for four years. Even where it may be fully justified, impeachment seeks to take that victory away from that very large number of people.
Even where it may be justified, this is an obvious downside to impeachment and removal. For this reason, we have a strong prejudice against impeachment, except where absolutely necessary. This is why we've occasionally stated the view that "our system runs on elections, not on impeachment."
This doesn't mean that Donald J. Trump shouldn't be impeached and removed. It merely identifies a major downside to the process—a downside we'd never seen mentioned in anti-Trump circles until this very day.
We'd seen this downside mentioned on Fox. It seemed that Nancy Pelosi might be citing this downside, if only obliquely, at various times during the past year.
But until this morning, we'd never seen this downside directly cited by anyone within our own tribe. In our view, this told us something—something perhaps a bit unattractive—about the way we in our self-impressed tribe tend to regard the Others, the lesser folk found Over There.
We often thought about this matter as we watched Ken Burns' PBS series, Country Music, over the past two weeks. Haltingly and cautiously, Burns was profiling the native culture of "red America"—the native culture of the deplorables, of the bad people found Over There.
In many ways, we thought Burns' caution undermined the potential value of the series. But there it was—the native music of the Trump voter, the people whose victory would be taken away, perhaps with reason, if he's removed from office before he serves his four years.
Until this very morning, we'd never seen the anti-Trump world acknowledge this obvious problem found within the impeachment process. But of course, it's only a problem if you're able to respect the lesser beings who are found Over There.
As a general matter, our liberal tribe doesn't aggressively do that. Nor are we typically able to see the ways our condescension toward Those People rhymes with the racism we performatively say we despise.
We're speaking here of the meta-politics of the current red/blue divide. We expect to explore this question next week, using parts of the Ken Burns series as points of departure.
As Burns describes in one of his series' many profiles, Dolly Parton emerged from the world of Those People starting, Burns said, at the age of 5. Is she a lesser too? Because once you let our tribe get started, pretty much everyone is!
Should Donald J. Trump be removed from office? On cable TV, our team is now pantingly eager to make that occur.
Are we able to see the downside to this constitutional process? When it comes to such tasks, our self-impressed team isn't always enormously sharp.
Also, this late arrival: We were struck by a letter the New York Times decided to publish this morning. The letter went exactly like this:
To the Editor:"Is it possible that Mr. Trump just lives in a different moral universe than the rest of us?"
Could it be the case that President Trump really does not understand that he did anything wrong in his conversation with the president of Ukraine? This may be just the way he’s always done business, by threatening, bullying and demanding something of value in exchange for doing what he is already obligated to do. Is it possible that Mr. Trump just lives in a different moral universe than the rest of us?
So this letter asked, seeming to blame this possible problem on bad habits the fellow may have formed over the years.
As a general matter, we think that letter writer is asking a very good question. We think it's not unlike these other very good questions:
"Is it possible that Mr. Trump is a sociopath?" "Is it possible that Mr. Trump is in some way 'mentally ill?' "
That letter writer is asking a very good question. But even as Bandy Lee and dozens of others urged the press to consider the state of Trump's mental health, the giants of our upper-end press corps have refused to do that.
As a general matter, that letter writer is asking a very good question. It should have been explored in the upper-end press corps starting a long time ago.
Today, the New York Times treats it as a novel question. Our view?
When we fixate on the dumbness of Others, we might want to recall the possible dumbness routinely displayed Over Here. In fairness, anthropologists have told us that this is the best our floundering species can do.