The acquittal of President Trump was seen as a foregone conclusion; it has so far been left to the realms of imagination, however, what comes next. It is clear that senior Democrats are not yet done with the 45th president; from Nancy Pelosi’s rage at how little impact censure would have, to CNN running a litany of other possible “high crimes” on its front page, America’s left is not finished with Donald Trump. But does the continued messaging show that those who prefer partisan punishment over the much-touted message of unity are creating a rod for their own collective back?
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), warned:
“We’ve opened Pandora’s Box to future presidents. And if you use this model, I don’t know how Kamala Harris doesn’t get impeached if the Republicans take over the House.”
Speaking to Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Graham was perhaps being flippant while at the same time making a point about the partisan nature of this latest impeachment effort. The senator said that “Donald Trump is the most vibrant member of the Republican Party,” and that “the Trump movement is alive and well.” Could it be this thinly veiled threat that is inspiring Democrats to continue their pursuit of the former president?
A Manufactured Villain?
In George Orwell’s prescient novel, 1984, the party of Big Brother controlled the population of Airstrip One with fear. Not just fear of the interchangeable Eastasia and Eurasia, but of an enemy within: Emmanuel Goldstein.
Goldstein and his Brotherhood are hell-bent on destroying the “security” and the way of life that keeps Oceanians “safe.” He is the object of the Two-Minute Hate and of propaganda papers, and he must be stopped at all costs, regardless of the liberties restricted along the way.
Donald Trump is fast becoming a phantom for Democrats to hunt. He is used to spark the fear that he and his “Brotherhood” will sweep back in and destroy all that has been built. But this version of Trump is as much a myth as Emmanuel Goldstein … and that is perhaps the point. In the novel, the character O’Brien responds to Winston Smith’s question about whether this supposed monster actually exists, saying:
“That, Winston, you will never know. If we choose to set you free when we have finished with you, and if you live to be ninety years old, still you will never learn whether the answer to that question is Yes or No. As long as you live it will be an unsolved riddle in your mind.”
And now it seems that certain Republicans are willing to play the same mind games.
Fear or Fate?
In much the same way that many on the political left have demonized the former president, members of the GOP may be hoping to use paranoia and fear to wrong-step Democrats before the 2022 midterms.
Barack Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau was quick to respond to Graham’s analysis, tweeting:
“Graham is correct about the stakes of the 2022 midterms:
If Republicans take Congress, they could not only impeach Biden and/or Harris (though unlikely they’d have the votes to convict), they could potentially succeed in overturning the results of the 2024 election.”
Already, politicians are sweating the losses that come all too often for the majority party in midterm elections. Republicans are perhaps hoping that Democrat efforts at 2022 re-elections are squandered in trying to fight a resurgence of Donald Trump, rather than focusing on local campaigning.
According to USA Today, “The DNC is set to announce the creation Tuesday of a ‘Trump Legacy Project,’ a joint effort from the party’s research and rapid response teams to provide information about Trump’s presidency to candidates, political consultants, and journalists involved in the 2022 cycle of congressional and gubernatorial elections.”
Politicians of all stripes do better when they have an enemy, real or imagined. They can fundraise, issue fiery rhetoric, and most importantly, rally their base. But what happens if a party spends two years fighting a mirage? Perhaps Republicans have taken the words of the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu to heart, who wrote in The Art of War, “Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”
Read more from Mark Angelides.