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If Impeachment Could Lead to Violence, Then Trump Should Resign
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If Impeachment Could Lead to Violence, Then Trump Should Resign

Since when do conservatives argue that we should appease potential rioters?


I’ve been arguing for years that part of the problem with Donald Trump is that his pathologies and bad actions get excused because “he can’t change,” or “he was elected to be a disruptor,” or “Trump’s going to be Trump,” etc. The best analogy I can muster is that he’s like the crazy or heavy-drinking or racist relative who comes to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and rather than criticizing him, people get mad at you for “setting him off.” 

“You knew mentioning the NBA would get him going on one of his rants.”

Another accurate simile is that Trump is like an abusive father with an enabling wife. “You shouldn’t have made him angry,” she says to the kid with a black eye. “You know how he gets when he’s in one of his moods.”

Anyway, most of the Republicans saying he shouldn’t be impeached/removed aren’t saying he didn’t do anything wrong (though some seem to be). Instead, they focus on the fact that Joe Biden called for unity and since, they insist, impeaching Trump would be divisive it would be a bad idea. I’m sure some believe this sincerely. But it’s telling that so many of them have to use Joe Biden’s call for unity as their excuse. After all, Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, and others can’t claim to be in favor of unity themselves because they’ve defended Trump’s divisiveness at every turn. They have to live off the stated principles of the Democrats and then score points by saying, “They’re hypocrites. They say they want unity, but look what they’re doing.”

A related argument, lent weight by the president himself yesterday, is to suggest, hint, insinuate, or outright proclaim that impeachment could lead to violence. It could tear apart the country. Yada, yada, yada.

“This impeachment is causing tremendous anger and you’re doing it and it’s really a terrible thing that they’re doing,” he added, in his first public comments since the deadly assault on the Capitol.

“For Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country and it’s causing tremendous anger. I want no violence,” Mr. Trump concluded before heading across the South Lawn to Marine One.

Maybe it could spark violence—and even if that were the case, since when do conservatives argue that we should appease potential rioters? I’ve been writing about the pernicious “riot ideology” of the 1960s left for 20 years. Lo and behold, the right has now embraced it. Moreover, the mere fact that it is plausible that Trump’s second impeachment could spark violence is an argument for why he should be impeached. Forget that he’s threatening Congress with the possibility of violence; the fact that the threat is plausible is testament to the environment he deliberately created.

But here’s my point: If Trump actually believes this stuff, the incandescently obvious moral choice is for him to resign, to spare America even greater turmoil and strife. That would be a display of Trump putting the interests of America first. The only reason for him to stick around is vanity. It’s not like there’s anything more he can do policy-wise, save issue a bunch of easily rescinded executive orders or hand out more pardons.

That was precisely why Nixon resigned. Indeed, Nixon was so concerned with the country that he refused to contest the election he lost in 1960 at least in part because he thought it would be bad for the nation, and—unlike Trump—he had at least a plausible case to make that the election was stolen.

As has happened over and over again for the last four years, Trump gets the Drunk Uncle Exemption from doing the right thing. The people who want to hold him accountable or simply push him to do the right thing are always expected to turn the other cheek, turn a blind eye, or just bend over, because Trump is Trump. If Trump were 1/100th the statesman his fans have claimed he is throughout his presidency, he’d do what’s right for the country here. But for the people who think he’s a statesman, they’ve decided that letting Trump do whatever he wants is the very definition of the “right thing.” That’s why they’re angrier at Liz Cheney for trying to hold Trump accountable for his wicked actions than they are Trump for those self-same actions.

One last point: For four years, Trumpers have insisted that they support him because they support his policies. For some, that has been true. My friend Andy McCarthy was an eloquent, good-faith defender of the Trump administration on those grounds. But as Andy’s recent condemnations demonstrate, the people who made those arguments in good faith have abandoned him.

The Trumpian remnant left behind aren’t defending his policies, they’re defending the man in full. Or to be fair to some who mumble disapproval, some are merely more interested in scoring points against Democrats or fomenting more hysteria than they are in voicing their condemnation of the man.

During the first impeachment, many of us noted that if your only concern was the policy agenda of the Trump administration, things wouldn’t change much if he were removed. Mike Pence would be president, and the agenda would live on. (Indeed, if Mike Pence had been president since January 2020, maybe some of the people who died from COVID would still be alive.) The hardcore Trumpists weren’t interested in that, because the policy stuff was secondary to the cult of personality. 

If Trump were removed tomorrow, Mike Pence would be president for a week. Does anyone think that such a circumstance would do harm to Trump’s policies? Of course not. But he won’t be removed from office before the end of his presidency because, as a practical matter, he can’t be.

So instead they argue that their real opposition to a “snap impeachment” is that it would set a “terrible precedent.” To be intellectually honest, I have to admit that it’s possible. I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s definitely possible. But you know what I don’t hear from any of the people getting their panties in a bunch over the possibility this would set a bad precedent? Any concern whatsoever with the precedent it would set if Trump wasn’t impeached.

The president manufactured a deceitful campaign in order to hold onto power in spite of his electoral loss. He unleashed a mob on Congress and his own Vice President in order to intimidate them into committing a manifestly unconstitutional act—rejecting the certified and legitimate electors. When Trump was just contesting the election in the courts—rejected by some 60 judges—his defenders stuck with the claim that he had every right to press his legal options. When his day in court ended, they didn’t say “that’s that.” They moved on to what Fiona Hill rightly calls a “self-coup.” The president hectored the Vice President to steal the election for him, telling him he could be a “patriot or a pussy.” When that didn’t work, his mob stormed the Capitol with the thuggish avant-garde shouting “Hang Mike Pence.”

And these people want to tell me that they are so very, very concerned with the bad precedent it would set if Congress held Trump accountable? Please.

In private they might not like the precedent it would set to let Trump off the hook one more time. But forced to choose between these two precedents, they opt to let Trump’s actions stand and instead aim their ire at those who would dare to worry more about the precedent of Trump’s attempted Caesarism.

I might believe these fanatics if they were calling on Trump to resign to spare us these terrible and terrifying precedents. But no, taking the patriotic high road is always too much to ask of Donald Trump, or his most ardent supporters.   

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, enormous lizards roamed the Earth. More immediately prior to that, Jonah spent two decades at National Review, where he was a senior editor, among other things. He is also a bestselling author, longtime columnist for the Los Angeles Times, commentator for CNN, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. When he is not writing the G-File or hosting The Remnant podcast, he finds real joy in family time, attending to his dogs and cat, and blaming Steve Hayes for various things.