In eight weeks’ time Americans go to the polls for the midterm elections. America’s had some corrupt presidents and quite a few incompetents, but there’s never been anything like the chaos in the White House today.
Former President Obama has delivered an aggressive attack on Trump and appealed to the voters to ‘restore a healthy democracy,’ saying Trump is an unprecedented threat to the country’s future “appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security would be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us, or sound like us or pray like we do.” I have never heard a former president deliver such a scathing attack on his successor.
Given the lies about me in the press I don’t always believe what I read about other politicians either, but one of America’s greatest journalists, Bob Woodward, has just published a stunning account of what senior officials in the White House said to him privately.
Woodward came to fame when, working with his colleague Carl Bernstein, he exposed that President Nixon’s campaign staff had bugged the Democratic campaign headquarters in the 1972 election, forcing Nixon to resign. Woodward has produced books on virtually every subsequent US president and never once has he been forced to apologise for getting anything wrong.
Woodward reveals that top officials working for the president described him as ‘an idiot, the mayor of crazy town, a clueless hopeless man-child and a professional liar.’ He says that Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, said “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try and convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I have ever had.”
Former chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, called Trump ‘a professional liar’ threatening to resign following Trump’s appalling claim that the white supremacists who violently attacked protestors in Charlottesville last year were as bad as each other. Trump came under pressure to condemn the neo-Nazis and told aides that that was “the biggest f****ng mistake I’ve made.” His previous chief of staff, Reince Priebus, describes the presidential bedroom as “the devil’s workshop” where Trump tweets outrageous nonsense.
The most remarkable revelation in Woodward’s book ‘Fear’ is that members of Trump’s cabinet have been hiding official papers from him so that he can’t sign them as this is the only way “to stop the president making dangerous policy decisions.” However, the most significant revelation is that senior members of Trump’s administration are talking about the need to remove him as president by invoking the 25th amendment to the Constitution which allows the removal of a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Even more controversial has been an article printed in the New York Times which reveals that either the vice-president or a member of his cabinet describe Trump as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective,” and confirms that members of his cabinet were considering using the 25th amendment but have decided not to. The reason is it would require two thirds of the US Senate to vote for his removal, and even if the Democrats were to capture a majority of the seats at the midterm elections they would need about fifteen Republican senators to vote for his removal and this might alienate bedrock Republican voters.
Several former senior aides to Trump are in jail or being investigated. The accusations involve money laundering, tax fraud and complicity in stealing the election.
This is not just about Trump, it’s about the US political system which is fundamentally flawed. The Constitution was drafted nearly two and a half centuries ago, just after they had won the battle against Britain for their independence and at a time when virtually all Americans were living in small villages and farming. The Constitution is not about who gets the most votes, but a bizarre electoral college in which the number of votes each state has depends on the number of members of the House of Representatives plus the two senators that each state has. That means that a state with a very small population, with just one member of the House of Representatives and two senators, has three votes in the presidential election but California or New York with tens of millions have barely ten times the number of the small states. Repeatedly in US elections the candidate who won the most votes from the people loses in the electoral college, as was the case when Trump beat Hillary Clinton although she had several million more votes than he did.
When the Constitution was drawn up, it was determined that no president should have the sort of powers which the old King of England possessed and this means that the nine judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court by presidents and Congress, can overrule almost anything the president does. In the 1930s, the Supreme Court was dominated by judges appointed by Republican presidents and they struck down many of the laws pushed through Congress by President Roosevelt to provide benefits and more public spending for the poorest and the unemployed.
Even more shocking is the fact that they are able to overturn the result of an election as they did back in 2000 when George W Bush was declared the winner over Al Gore by a five to four vote in the Supreme Court. The 2000 election was a dead tie with the decision coming down to how Florida had voted. Florida was under the control of the Republicans and they had rules that kept a large number of black voters and poor voters off the register but as we waited for a recount of the vote to find out who had won, it was the five Republican judges on the Supreme Court who ruled that couldn’t happen, thus giving us the ghastly legacy of Bush and his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In every midterm election since 1934 the party of the president in office has always lost seats in Congress. There was just one exception in 1962 when the midterm elections came just days after Kennedy had forced the Russians to remove their nuclear missiles from Cuba, and he gained seats in the Senate. So, whilst it’s quite likely that the Democrats will make some gains, it’s very unlikely that they’ll have enough seats to remove Trump without the support of Republican senators.
Whilst it’s easy for lefties like me to trash Donald Trump’s administration, he does retain pretty solid support, particularly in the poorer white, working class areas which used to vote Democrat but became angry as presidents Clinton and Obama did nothing to stop manufacturing jobs being wiped out. The polls show that no other president has had such a high level of approval from their own party at this stage in their presidency, except for George W Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. The Guardian journalist Gary Younge spent a lot of time covering Trump’s election and has been back pointing out that many voters think Trump is doing well by cutting taxes, removing economic regulations and trying to get a far-right judge on the Supreme Court. Gary quotes one woman saying: “He wouldn’t be someone I’d want to socialise with. I don’t appreciate his bad manners and his bullying. But I do appreciate his business and negotiating skills.” Another voter, Cathy Dee Grazia, told the BBC: “I don’t care if he paid off a porn star or a Playboy bunny, that doesn’t impact his policy making.”
I wouldn’t run the risk of placing bets on the outcome of the midterm elections. US politics are more unpredictable than at any time in my life. Trump may lose seats but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gained some and I don’t believe for one minute it would be possible to win the vote in the Senate to remove him from office, so we’re likely to be stuck with Trump until the 2020 presidential election.
Hillary Clinton lost the last election because so many traditionally Democratic areas voted against her. They saw her as part of the establishment, they knew that during husband’s presidency he removed the rules that prevented bankers taking risky gambles with Americans’ money which opened the way to the banking crash of 2008.
If the Democrats had chosen the socialist Bernie Sanders as their candidate, Bernie would have won because those traditional Democrat voters would have stayed with Bernie because they saw he represented them. If we are to have a world free of Donald Trump, the Democrats have got to come up with a socialist candidate campaigning for policies that will lift ordinary Americans out of the economic pain they have been suffering since the banking crisis. Bernie might run again but there is also the left-wing senator Elizabeth Warren who could be the first woman president in US history. Let’s get rid of Trump in 2020.