Thursday was a volatile day for Democrats. Joe Biden lost his cool at a rally when an audience member absurdly accused him of arranging his son Hunter’s activities in the Ukraine. And Nancy Pelosi struck back at a Sinclair Broadcast Group (extreme right wing partisan) “reporter” who tried to characterize her as hating Trump. It’s easy to get angry at Trump and anyone enabling or defending him. And it’s easy to feel exhausted by the constant stream of scandal and malfeasance coming from Trump and his regime. But we should ask our leaders in Congress the following question: “Where is the outrage?”
I’ve certainly seen our political leaders talk about Trump is grave tones, and many seem disturbed and concerned. But Trump’s transgressions are so lethal to our Democracy that the public-facing criticism from Democrats in Congress seems far too academic and clinical. Republican Jim Jordan is a disingenuous hypocrite, but he’s effective in communicating to his conservative base because he always speaks in the tone of rage. Clinton’s email scandal! The impeachment witch hunt!
We need our progressive leaders not only to be outraged at Trump’s corruption, but also outraged at the Republican party’s response. When liars like Jordan and Nunes spew their latest conspiracy delusion in a House hearing, the Democrats can’t treat it like business-as-usual. They need to characterize their opponents in much stronger terms. They need to point out the hypocrisy and lies and delusions for what they are. They need to play old clips of Republicans justifying the Benghazi hearings and voice their outrage that the same Republicans don’t seem to care that their vile president wants to be an Emperor. They need to call into question the patriotism of a party that will ignore corruption and the rule of law while appeasing Putin and easing sanctions on Russia. They need to say very plainly that tolerating corruption in the White House is unAmerican. Which is exactly what the Republicans would do, even if it weren’t applicable. But in the case of Trump, it’s not only applicable but plainly obvious. Trump has taken dozens of actions that the Republicans would have impeached a Democratic president for.
For example, Trump conspired with Michael Cohen to break campaign finance law by paying off a porn star to keep her affair with Trump quiet. He obstructed justice multiple times, according to the Mueller probe. He declared a non-existent emergency to thwart the will of Congress and build his border wall. As president, he asked China to investigate the Bidens. He betrayed our Kurdish allies to appease a Turkish tyrant. And so on.
Outrage is often defined by anger, but it doesn’t have to be. Anger usually comes with a loss of control or composure. But when outrage is expressed with energetic disgust and passion it can be supremely effective. Our leaders can’t afford to make impeachment a purely intellectual exercise. As Professor Pamela Karlan said in her testimony to the House two days ago about Trump’s Ukraine conduct, “wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office?” The impeachment process has to appeal not only to the head but to the gut. “You Republicans know in your heart that this president is a disgraceful stain on our nation. You know he’s crooked and unfit for office, and you say so behind closed doors. But you’re willing to jeopardize our Democracy for the craven pursuit of power by publicly supporting him. You know in your gut he’s dirty, that he lies and cheats, but you keep supporting him anyway. It’s shameful and unpatriotic.”
When gutter-dwelling hypocrites like Rep Matt Gaetz wail at a House impeachment witness for the “outrage” of referencing Barron Trump’s name in a hearing, our leaders should turn directly to Gaetz and say, “You call the witness mean for mentioning a child’s name, yet you support a president who admits to being a ‘pussy grabber,’ who calls people ‘crooked’ and ‘low-IQ,’ who harasses private citizens from the Oval Office, who calls other nations ‘shit-holes’ and mocks women for ‘bleeding’ and calls them ‘pigs,’ who throws around the term ‘treason’ like a third-world dictator, who cages immigrant children and betrays allies who died by the thousands fighting for us against ISIS–moral bankruptcy is not a good look Mister Gaetz.”
Politics is more emotional than intellectual. If opponents of Trump increasingly engage on an emotional level–disgust and passion rather than anger–they will be far more effective in persuading voters that they must vote Trump out in 2020.
Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”