For many months, I’ve thought that talk about impeaching President Trump has been a pipe dream of even those who don’t smoke pipes. However, the recent election in Virginia has changed my mind.
That Ralph Northam, the uninspiring winner of Virginia’s gubernatorial race, did even better than did Hillary Clinton in Virginia’s 2016 presidential ballot is of interest. But taken alone, it’s of little importance.
Of much greater importance is what happened in the Virginia Legislature where a minor political earthquake sent tremors that are being felt even on the West Coast.
Until now, the Republicans have enjoyed a margin of nearly 30 seats in the legislature. By flipping between 14 to 16 seats on Tuesday, the Democrats now have a chance to outgun their Republican rivals. The result is stunning, a mini- revolution. Why did it happen? There may be many reasons, including Charlottesville, the recent slaughter in Sutherland, Texas, and Republican refusal to take climate change seriously. But dismay over the divisiveness, the disarray, and the dishonesty of the Trump presidency must be near the top of the list.
Ed Gillespie, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, embraced most of the president’s policies, from immigration restrictions to sanctuary cities. And he got walloped.
The lesson learned by Republicans from Maine to California? That the president will be a burden, not an asset, to their own election prospects next year. And then there’s Russia. The president has assured us repeatedly that no one in his campaign had any contact with the Russians before the election. No one. Is there a reader of this paper who really believes this?
Eric Trump, Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Mike Flynn Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos — they all apparently colluded, and this may be just the tip of the iceberg.
Which means that the report yet to be issued by Robert Mueller will become of critical importance to the tenure of the president. Steve Bannon said after leaving the White House said that the firing of former FBI director James Comey was the “biggest mistake in modern political history.” Firing Comey led straight to Mueller’s appointment, and that train has now left the station. When released, Mueller’s report will almost certainly lead either to calls for the president’s resignation, or legislation to start impeachment proceedings. Ditto if the president decides to fire Mueller.
Until last week, demands for the president’s impeachment had no traction. However, now that Republicans have reason to be increasingly worried about the fallout from Mueller’s report, I predict: That Republicans will view a Pence presidency as much more congenial than an erratic Trump-led White House, That Republicans of integrity like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and John McCain will lend legitimacy to calls for the president’s impeachment.
And therefore the political campaign against the president will not be led by the party of Barrack Obama and Chuck Schumer, but rather by members of Mr. Trump’s own party, with the vice president keeping a very diplomatic silence as he quietly memorizes the presidential oath of office.
Dr. Gary Ostrower is a professor of history at Alfred University.