Despite Trump’s efforts, the US is not the banana republic he wishes it to be. Yetby Sam Tanenhaus / November 10, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
The case against Donald Trump is growing. As October ended, Robert Mueller, the independent counsel looking into collusion with the Kremlin, brought indictments against two Trump campaign officials. The big fish was Paul Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign just before the national convention, when Republican insurgents tried to deny Trump the nomination.
Manafort’s obligations to Russian creditors may have compromised him, Trump and his party. They could explain why at the time of the convention, the party’s Ukraine policy was “gutted,” according to reports. A second campaign official, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Russians. Other names are likely to follow. Michael Flynn, who lasted a mere 24 days as Trump’s National Security Adviser, could be next.
In other circumstances, impeachment hearings would be under way. But the Republicans control all three branches of government, and Trump controls them. Never mind his approval ratings, the lowest in seven decades, his hold on his base is solid, and many of these voters despise the party establishment. Every time a mainstream Republican criticises Trump, he is punished swiftly.
Exhibit A is the Arizona Republican senator, Jeff Flake. He opposed Trump’s election, and explained why in his book Conscience of a Conservative. In the Senate, he condemned Trump’s “reckless, outrageous, undignified behaviour.” It won praise from Democrats—and ended Flake’s career. Up for re-election in 2018, he was trailing one primary opponent, Kelli Ward, a pro-Trump state legislator called a “nut” by other Republicans, not least for her habit of letting lobbyists write laws she sponsors, many of them attempts to repeal federal gun laws. Flake fell so far behind in the polls that he gave up. “It’s still very much Trump’s party,” Flake told me. “The number one issue for Republican primary voters isn’t the economy, taxes or regulation, or even immigration. It’s ‘are you supporting Trump?’”