Perhaps now would be an appropriate time to reflect on the hours that have been spent, the trees that have been felled and the countless gigawatts of computer power that have been expended on dissecting every minute detail of the Donald Trump-Robert Mueller-Russia story.
In light of Mueller releasing his final conclusion recommending no more indictments for administration officials or Trump himself, maybe now is the time to ask if all that effort was really worth it.
Today’s issue is whether the full Mueller report will be released, and Wisconsin’s congressional representatives have dutifully taken sides. Even reading about this is exhausting. No one really believes that there is anything in that report that will lead to any check on the Trump administration — certainly not the impeachment of Trump.
Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin, encapsulated the Republican perspective perfectly in his statement in an interview with CNN.
“There’s going to be far more time for the networks around America to report on the great news that are making Americans lives better,” Duffy said.
In a certain sense, Duffy is correct. The anticlimactic ending of the Mueller investigation has pulled back the “law-and-order” veil which has shrouded American politics for over two years. It has ended the Democrats’ political stupor, self-imposed as they waited for their deliverance from Mueller.
Everyone now has to accept that Trump didn’t win the 2016 election with skullduggery — at least, not entirely — or treason. His presidency is not an anomaly, but the relatively logical conclusion of political, social and economic currents stretching back decades, even centuries.
We can, and should, see things laid bare right now. Duffy, for his part, sees economic prosperity and national greatness —but that’s sort of what he gets paid to see. Make up your own mind about what’s really out there.
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For those of you who thought that Trump had committed a crime and was going to be impeached or even sent to prison, I submit one pattern in particular — the historical treatment of high-ranking elected officials caught committing crimes.
There are some stunners here, but let’s just hit the classics. The Watergate scandal under former President Richard Nixon revealed a network of political sabotage and violence that ranged from undermining opposing presidential candidates to alleged assassination of leaders of the Black Panther Party. He resigned before he could be impeached, and his successor pardoned him.
See also former President George W. Bush, whose administration planned and executed a war of aggression against Iraq, in flagrant violation of international law. Even though the war in Iraq resulted in a massive defeat for the U.S., not a single Bush administration official will ever see jail time.
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Even though Nixon’s corruption led to a huge loss of public confidence in the U.S. government, he never received any consequences.
The point is, even if Trump had committed a serious crime, he was never going to jail. He probably wouldn’t have even gotten impeached. To the political establishment, the upheaval that might be brought on by actually prosecuting political criminals is much scarier than potential loss of public confidence.
But again, that is only relevant if Trump actually committed a crime. Since, as far as we know, he did not, we then only have to reckon with the utter incompetence of the Democratic Party from top to bottom, the rise of reactionary politics in response to technocratic liberal capitalism, refugee crises created by U.S. intervention and imperial domination and so on and so forth. Not too much to worry about.
The Mueller report should be released. Of course it should. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t. But whether it shows criminality or malfeasance or nothing it all, we should be aware that its effect on our national political trajectory will be small — if it has any effect at all. We are at the whim of events far larger than the actions of one cartoonish chief executive. It is long past time that we realized this. Let’s stop pretending that Mueller will save us. The only people who can save us are ourselves.
Sam Palmer ([email protected]) is a recent graduate with a degree in biology.