When I say that I want the investigations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia strengthened, I hear the infuriating criticism that I’m just a sore loser, that I’m not over the 2016 election, that I’m just upset that Hillary Clinton lost. Sure, I wanted Hillary Clinton to win. I really wanted Hillary Clinton to win, and I really don’t like Donald Trump. But this line of reasoning fails spectacularly to appreciate why I want Donald Trump’s campaign investigated.
Here’s a list of reasons why the “sore loser” argument is wrong.
No. 1: Republicans Got No Mandate from 2016
Democrats looked at Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign as the ideal opponent. His inflammatory remarks looked toxic enough to lead to a Republican rout and an easy walk to the Presidency and maybe more.
I miss those times.
That said, the claim of an “electoral mandate” made by Trump and Republicans after the election could not be further from the truth. Donald Trump won basically on a technicality. Among the ways his election was historic, his was the greatest divergence between the popular vote and the electoral college vote there has ever been in any election in U.S. history, his baseless and eerily authoritarian claims of mass vote fraud (in counts of millions) notwithstanding. (In fact, the only case known is a woman who voted twice for Donald Trump to counter supposed double-voting for Clinton!)
Look at the congressional elections: Democrats picked up seats in both the House and the Senate. Neither flipped blue because (a) the House is badly gerrymandered after the 2010 census, with Republican state legislatures redrawing the maps, and only one-third of the Senate is ever up for re-election in any cycle, requiring strong moves to change seats (though the Senate results were nevertheless disappointing for Democrats; they could have been better); besides, that chamber reflects popular will poorly since every state, both large and small, gets exactly two senators (which makes partisanship in the Senate more disturbing, but I digress). And as much as people like to claim that the polls were wrong during the election and should never be trusted again, Nate Silver has a whole series of articles on why that was wrong (spoiler: a Trump victory was possible according to polls, and results were not dramatically out of line with them; he just got lucky).
Trump might adorably hang a misleading map on the wall in the White House to make himself feel good, but that does not change the fact that 2016 hardly counts as a resounding Republican victory.
Meanwhile, Trump’s approval ratings continue to be terrible. Scandals mount (other than Russia-related ones). Republicans display both malevolence and incompetence in Congress and beyond, and don’t demonstrate any greater interest in helping the white working class than they had before; instead, they’d rather take their health care away. The Democratic base is furious, and no longer complacent, flooding Republican town halls. In recent special elections, Republicans have done worse than usual, evidence that a move left is more than just talk.
Voters haven’t decided since Trump was elected that maybe Trump isn’t as bad as they thought. In fact, it looks like they may turn more against him than before. Baring authoritarian voting restrictions in the future that fundamentally change the game, things look good for Democrats in the future.
No. 2: Democrats Did Not Need 2016
Why was 2016 a pivotal election? An open supreme court seat, and Donald Trump. Otherwise, it was a year that Democrats did not need to win, if you’re looking at a timeline. (While I believe any year is a year I want Democrats to win, some are more important than others.)
These videos by Vox and John Oliver give good reasons why:
The Democratic Party nationally is not in a great position at the state level (in addition to the federal level), and local government, despite not being as exciting or glamorous as national government, is nevertheless highly consequential. There are many issues progressives push for that could be accomplished equally well at the state level and could then lead to reform at the national level, including prison and criminal justice reform, universal health care, access to higher education, improved welfare programs, and so on.
2020 is far more important that 2016. I recognized this even during the 2016 election. It’s a census year, which means that population numbers will be officially updated and maps, particularly state legislature and House congressional districts, will be redrawn. This will have huge consequences.
There is a Supreme Court case to be heard that could make big changes to how maps are drawn and make gerrymandering much less consequential, and while challenges to gerrymandering have been made in the past, this one is marked by proposing a measure for how bad gerrymandering is tailored to the desires of the key swing justice, Anthony Kennedy. This could change how important 2020 is. I for one think every state should turn over redistricting to nonpartisan (or bipartisan) boards, as California and Florida have done, by citizen initiatives.
Let’s assume, though, that nothing changes when redistricting is done. 2020 could easily be a wave election spurred by Trump’s unpopularity, bringing Democrats to power across the board, and the map-drawing tricks Republicans pulled could then be used to Democrats’ advantage, securing them a favorable map. Couple that with a Democrat defeating Trump–who I bet will be either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden–and you’ve got the makings for the 2020s being a strong progressive decade, undoing all the damage Trump and the Republicans did during the 2010s.
As a final note, I would not be surprised if an economic downturn comes between 2016 and 2020. It’s been almost ten years since the last recession. The “fixes” applied for the 2008 financial crisis were, in my opinion, just band-aids; the fundamental flaws that led to the crisis, including a reckless, amoral financial sector with too much political power, remain. My hunch is that, no matter who won the 2016 presidential election, there will be an economic contraction. I’d rather Republicans get the full blame for the mess than Democrats (and they deserve it, in my opinion).
No. 3: Trump is Still Democrats’ Preferred Opponent
Trump is unpopular. He is highly controversial. I don’t think the coalition that brought him to power will hold together. Republicans will be lead by a 70-year-old toddler who does not know how to govern and who won got in office basically by a technicality.
While 2016 was not a stamp of approval for Republicans, I (and any Democrat in their right mind) acknowledge that Republicans won, whoever headed the ticket. So if Donald Trump were not president, who would be? Mike Pence? He’s a hardline conservative. So is Paul Ryan, third in line, and the Russia dirt almost surely won’t spread to him. It’s not like removing Trump from office will lead to the Democrats getting power all of a sudden. Not a single Democrat appears in the line of succession. (What this means is that Republicans should be looking to settle this issue now, while they secure the line of succession; if Democrats win in 2018, you can bet your boots they would do what Republicans didn’t and launch full-blown congressional investigations, and if both Trump and Pence were impeached, they’d get the Presidency.) In fact, those individuals are likely more competent than Trump and thus more likely to keep the Presidency if they were running in 2020 (or head off a Democratic wave in 2018) than Trump himself.
Thus I feel Trump is good for Democrats electoral prospects at all levels of government during both 2018 and 2020. Furthermore, I feel like the Democratic nominee for President in 2020 will likely be either Bernie Sanders (my preferred choice) or Joe Biden (whom I also like), and either one of them (but especially Bernie) would be in a position to poach the likely-to-be-disappointed voters in the Trump “coalition” that brought him to power (especially Bernie Sanders) and thus win the whole thing. A Sanders presidency just might make a Trump presidency worth it.
And dropping political calculus for a second, there’s a lot I don’t like about Donald Trump, but at least he’s not a hardline conservative like his VP or congressional Republicans. He’s probably ideologically closer to me than they are on economic issues.
As a final point, I’ve never voted for Hillary Clinton for anything ever. In 2008, while I initially wanted Clinton to win, it didn’t take long for me to switch my allegiance over to Obama (I was not old enough to vote at the time, though). In the Democratic primary, I voted for Bernie Sanders. In the general election, I voted tactically for Evan McMullin read why here. I suppose I should not count that last one because my support was not genuine, but whatever.
So here’s the punch line: if I were motivated purely by political calculus, I’d want Donald Trump to stay President. I have no reason to boo-hoo Clinton’s loss. I have every right to be genuinely upset at what the President says and does, as most Democrats are, and I will say as much because I have the right to do so online or in the streets. In the long run, I think the Trump Presidency will irreparably damage the Republican brand and give Democrats an upper hand in the decade of 2020. President Bernie Sanders is not an unrealistic possibility so long as Trump remains President and does not destroy democracy or the planet in the process.
No matter how the Russia investigations go, they will not bring Hillary Clinton to power. I’ve made peace with that even before Trump was inaugurated. So why do I care to see Trump investigated, maybe impeached?
I love America and I want America to remain a land of democracy and rule of law. I do not want foreign powers influencing our elections (let alone authoritarian kleptocrats like Putin and his cronies), and those who benefit to get away with it. The law applies to everyone, including and especially to the President of the United States.
I do not believe that Donald Trump respects democracy, democratic institutions, or the rule of law. The drafters of the United States Constitution worried that people like Donald Trump could become President, and they gave the legislative and judiciary branches the duty to reign people like Trump in. Every member of Congress swore an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. There is a lot of smoke around Trump’s campaign; Republicans believed Clinton should be jailed for far, far less. Thus, when I see congressional Republicans not fulfilling their duty as a check on the executive branch, bending over backwards to look the other way, I cannot help but consider them traitors to the republic.
I don’t want traitors running my country, no matter what they believe.