Recently, I had just finished an interview about my new book when the person I was talking to turned off the recorder and asked the question everybody wants answered: “How’s this Trump thing going to end?”
More and more people are starting to show faith that Robert Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion with Russia is going to bear fruit, and that the harvest will inevitably force our mad king of a president from office. Considering the mounting evidence, this feels like a possibility, but there’s concern that any attempt to remove Trump lawfully will result in widespread violence, if not all-out revolt.
“Not to mention,” the interviewer said, “impeachment would mean Congress would actually have to do its job.”
There was that, I conceded.
When the Founders crafted the Declaration of Independence, and eventually the Constitution, they did so as a reaction to a government that refused to represent them. The American Revolution was an overthrow of empirical rule and the establishment of a new country founded, theoretically, on the rights of human beings and in the spirit of liberty.
This endeavor, to which the Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors, has its roots in the Enlightenment, an era in which tradition was questioned and ultimately rejected in the name of progress.
Central to this revolution was the concept of liberty, a philosophical notion that human beings were, to borrow a phrase, endowed with inherent and inalienable rights, and that any government, especially one of the people, by the people, for the people, can only function with the consent of its governed.
Flawed as it is—it’s as flawed as a document espousing freedom while only serving property owning white men can be—the Constitution of the United States of America makes sure to provide safeguards against a government that eschews that consent. Not only does it stipulate a means by which a president can be removed, but the impeachment process is actually mentioned before the office of the president is even defined.
The impeachment of a president is a contingency plan for what the Founders saw as the worst-case scenario: a criminally inept president who doesn’t hold the best interests of the governed. But the Founders, in preparing this worst-case scenario, did so with the faith that the other branches of government would continue fulfilling their duties to the governed, that the system would continue humming along, and participants would never abuse the contract or betray that consent.
Walking through the world, conversation after conversation, people are looking to each other and asking the same question: “How’s this Trump thing going to end?”
Collusion aside, we watch every single day as Donald Trump, a man who lost the popular vote by over 3 million, a man whose approval ratings are historically low, a rolling disaster of a president, finds new ways to disgrace the office. He’s incapable of mustering even a shred of humanity for victims of natural disasters, can’t be bothered to denounce literal Nazis, and is incapable of handling state secrets or even paying attention to briefings that aren’t peppered with mentions of his own name.
In every situation, with every single issue, he seemingly has just one guiding principle: to work against the wishes of the voting population who largely scorned him and refuse to adorn him with the adoration his brittle ego requires.
Congress, the body charged to oppose such a leader, no longer serves its constituency. Citizens United opened the floodgates, allowing billionaires to own candidates, and before that they already bought and sold them behind closed doors. Meanwhile, constituencies are hatcheted into gerrymandered districts that aren’t meant to be served, but monopolized.
Again, Americans find themselves with a government with no interest in representing them. The contract, it seems, is null and void, and it’s been null and void for a very long time.
This machine, as it is, runs on apathy. It consumes low turnouts at the polls like premium gasoline. One of the parties works tirelessly to slash voter rolls and disenfranchise all groups who might oppose them. Both parties, and the media that covers their clashes as if they were new episode of America’s favorite primetime soap opera, perpetuate the concept that democracy is a pastime, something to watch from the comfort of our living rooms.
The great secret of America is hidden lest it be realized: Democracy is powered by people. Its reality, and our reality, is malleable.
All it would take for the Trump presidency to mercifully end, for Congress to fulfill its duty, would be an event, say a mass gathering outside the White House that refused to leave until action was taken. If it was big enough, if it was persistent enough, the media would be forced to cover it and would eventually force members of Congress to respond to popular will.
This is, of course, an act of assembly, a petition to redress grievances, an expression of free speech.
All rights granted by the contract that is the Constitution.
But when, one might ask, should the governed realize their consent is being abused?
And what does that mean, exactly?
Revolution is a dangerous word. I’m hesitant to even type it. In a world where words have been drained of meaning and power, where subjective reality is being challenged by the second, it still holds a gravity and sway that few other words maintain.
This country, however, was founded on revolution being necessary when the consent of the governed has been violated. When the people are no longer heard and no longer represented.
Another secret: for as long as government has existed, for as long as peoples have consented to be governed, it has only been an agreed-upon principle, a made-up thing, an illusion that could be broken at any moment.
There are obviously methods by which the people can still redress their grievances.
There are the freedoms of the press, of speech, of assembly.
But there are still questions that need answers. Questions that are whispered in private conversations. Questions we’d rather not face, but know we’ll have to eventually.
How’s this Trump thing going to end?
And, perhaps more importantly, when is enough enough?