Marc Steiner: Welcome to Real News. I'm Marc Steiner It's good to have you with us. Well, the vote is in. It seems that the challenge is at least in the Chamber. The House voted Yes in two articles of political judgment, and we are not sure where all this will go. They are not sure where this will go, but here is part of that debate.
Nancy Pelosi: Article one is adopted.
Donald Trump: what they have done with this perversion. It is perversion. I am the first person to be charged and there is no crime.
Doug Henwood: The slapdash process has concluded in the first purely partisan presidential accusation since the beginning of the Civil War.
Nancy Pelosi: No one is above the law, and the president has had to report,
Marc Steiner: But not everyone agrees. Even those of us who see Trump as a danger to the future, the center on the left, nobody really likes Trump. Most importantly, especially the danger in Trump that feeds the power of the most rightist, racist and nationalist elements in our country among the people and among what we would call the ruling class. The focus of the debate is whether Trump's accusation makes any political or strategic sense. The left is broken. Now, Jacobin magazine presented a serious discussion about this in two articles. The Left Case for Impeachment by Max B. Sawicky, and What is the Point of Impeachment by Doug Henwood. Both join us today. Doug Henwood edits Left Business Observer, presents Behind the News and his latest book is My Turn. Max B. Sawicky is an economist and writer who lives losing the wild lands of Virginia, worked for the Government Accountability Office and the Economic Policy Institute. Gentlemen, welcome. It's good to have you both with us.
Doug Henwood: Thank you for inviting us.
Marc Steiner: Let me start with how both gentlemen opened their articles in the Jacobin pieces. Max Sawicky wrote: “The accusation is more than Donald Trump. It has the potential to undermine the right-wing forces that support it. Socialists should view political judgment as an opportunity to attack a movement that represents a long-term threat to the very existence of the left. Doug Henwood, on the other hand, opened his article with: Getting rid of Trump would be great, but Congress won't. We really have to vote it. A political trial, a therapeutic ritual for the hosts of MSNBC and an act of adjustment of accounts for the national security state is not helping. "That was a good start. But let's talk about what we just saw here. This narrow legalistic accusation that just went through the Chamber. The question is, is this going to hit in the heart of this increase in power on the right? I mean, what do you think this brings us to? I'll let you start with all this, Doug, and then we will go to the fullest.
Doug Henwood: Well, I don't see how it works at all. First, the accusation itself, as you said, is strictly legalistic. The New York Times on Thursday morning had a timeline of events that led us to where we arrived here. I was reading it and I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable person, and I didn't recognize half of the names they were talking about. This is, for the general public, it must be completely obscure what this is all about. They know that they are somehow protecting Joe Biden. But, and while all this happens, Congress gave Trump an increase in the military budget, possibly financing the border wall. They extended the Patriot Law, which is a fun thing to do for a guy you think is an authoritarian threat. They created, ratified the creation of a space force, which is the last thing we need.
He is likely to be given a Trump NAFTA 2.0, so he is getting all these political victories, many of which the people on the left should oppose. However, they spend all their time talking about this political judgment about something strange that happened in Ukraine, which very few people really understand. And, it is a distraction from the political war against Trump and all that it represents, its roots and power. In the types of private capital of the extreme right, the Koch network, the neo-Nazis, the entire right-wing offensive structure that Trump uses and that mainly supports him, will remain intact. I don't see what the accusation does to harm that. As it is an inevitable conclusion, the Senate will not take this seriously because Republicans are crazy and vicious, but they take power very, very seriously. I just don't see how Democrats can fight that kind of determination with legalistic maneuvers like these.
Marc Steiner: Max?
Max B. Sawicky: Well, the accusation is, not only is it legalistic as Doug said, but it is based on a national security framework, which is between doubtful and bankrupt. Then, none of those things are worth, or the hill on which you want to die. What it does is open the door to a much broader accusation. That is what I think the left should be doing, is to provide a context for this. There is a great variety of material that could be applied. I talked about what I think are the key points in my article. It is the destruction of democratic institutions. It is the cruel and racist assault against immigrants. It is the stimulus of a neo-fascist underground. We could go on all day with this. If it were for me, the Chamber could pass more articles. I mean, you could have an encyclopedia of articles of political judgment because there is a lot of material there.
And, instead of abandoning what is really the essential political argument that is happening at the moment, it is a shame that the left has absent, and has really left the field to the centrists to confront what could be said, the roots of a neo-fascist movement in the United States. We are talking about things that are good in themselves. It seems that we spend more time attacking Democrats than Republicans, if we look at the variety of publications on the left. I think that unfortunately, now much of the left is being taken off the scene. That is unfortunate because I think we have a lot to contribute to Trump's accusation, of which the House articles are really simple and rudimentary of the criticisms that should be applied.
Marc Steiner: Let me address some of these things that you two just mentioned. I mean, when you look at this, what about this participation of our national security system? I mean, clearly NATO, CIA, FBI, Hawks of Congress security. I mean, how progressive in the left response to that? Is this, I mean, is a strange bed partner. This is a temporary alliance. Popular front, as I think you said, Max, in your piece, is this a complete sale and a reverse of what needs to be done when you're fighting the system? I mean, because this is clearly being driven by them. They are very nervous about what Trump is doing to the established order, in his sense. I was watching, you see the FBI and [inaudible 00:07:29] testifying, and I think about our history and the history of this country and what those organizations have done, so we have these strange bed companions. How does the left respond? Max, let me let you start. I mean, because I mean you, you raise that problem.
Max B. Sawicky: I wouldn't sleep in that bed. You could dismiss the president for 50 different charges without ever using the words Russia or Ukraine. Having said that, where Trump is dead of rights is in Ukraine, in the sense that it seems quite evident that he was trying to use the power of the State to influence the behavior of a foreign government to help his narrow personal interest. in being re-elected. Now, that is undemocratic. We may not like the objective, Trump's objective in this, Joe Biden. We may not have any use for him, but the broader principle here is that a president should not be allowed to do that. That is a fundamental violation of democratic practice, and we should not bear that. Now, there is much more we could and should mention. But that, in itself, may be legalistic, but it is completely founded.
Russia is a capitalist country. There is no reason to lean in favor of Russia against Ukraine or vice versa. I mean, there seems to be a certain sentimental affection for what used to be the Soviet Union and, of course, the continuing disaffection of national security [inaudible 00:09:12]. But I think that complicates things too much. The basic point is that there is no reason to lean in favor of either, and that is obviously what Trump has been doing. Now, I don't think we should get stuck there. We could talk, as I said, about 50 other things worth accusing. The house has opened the door to that, the Democrats, and I think we should cross that door and talk about our problems.
Marc Steiner: Doug, how about you enter through that door?
Doug Henwood: First of all, I think it's very strange to see liberals and even people with DSA shirts cheering for the CIA's work, the informant worked for the CIA and prosecutors, FBI chiefs and things like that. I mean, these are very bad people who run very bad institutions, and I, it's very strange to see them become heroes. But other than that, most of the things Trump has done wrong have been completely legal. When we talk about food stamp cuts or gutting the EPA or its hostility towards immigrants. His refusal of refugees, for almost all of that, the most terrible things he has done are legal and the accusation is really not the right place to address such legal outrages. We have, we are less than two months from the beginning of the Iowa assemblies. Perhaps we are three months from the New Hampshire primary.
The election season, in other words, is underway. That's what the elections are for, having a real political struggle over real problems and spending the months leading up to that process, focusing on these dark battles in Ukraine and Russia. And, this Russian obsession with the liberal establishment is completely insane and this arises from that. This mania of political judgment comes from that in part. It is really, strangely, that it distracts me not to have a political battle, but to focus on the crimes of Donald Trump, knowing that nothing will happen, that he will remain in office and emerge, possibly strengthened. In my article, I cited Ralph Waldo Emerson's comment that says: "If you attack the King, you must kill him. This is not going to kill him. He has the possibility of making him stronger." And it's the last thing I want to do with a boy.
Marc Steiner: talk about making him stronger. Let's take a look at Donald Trump at his rally for a moment. I will come back with something with this.
Donald Trump: I said in my letter to Pelosi, by proceeding with his invalid dismissal, he is violating his oath of office. You are breaking your loyalty to the constitution. You are declaring an open war against American democracy. You dare to invoke the founding fathers in the search for this scheme of annulment of elections. However, his spiteful actions show unlimited contempt for the founding of the United States and its heinous behavior. You are the ones who interfere in the elections of the United States. You are the one subverting democracy in the United States. We did nothing wrong. Nothing at all.
Marc Steiner: What about the reality of that? Sorry I don't have time to see it. Looks like a failed Borshbelt comedian. But anyway, what? But it's not funny.
Doug Henwood: No, it is, but it's very good in this repellent [interference], but it's really very good at it.
Marc Steiner: He is very good at this.
Doug Henwood: This unleashes him and the Democrats, I was reading the New York Times this morning, and it is clear to me that the liberals of that class do not understand the source of their appeal or their power, and this accusation, perpetuates and deepens lack of understanding. He will be able to gather his … People talk about his base, which is very imprecise, but he will gather a lot of popular support from this. The polls did not really move during the course of this political trial. It is neither less nor more popular than before. I was impressed by all the great words I managed to unite without pause in that little excerpt you appeared. But you know, he is just a scary figure. I can't deny that. But we really need to understand the source of its appeal and, that is the only effective way to fight it. This is not really the way to fight him. Not by constitutional means or even to see Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues dressed in black. I think it's just an act of pure theater. This is performance, not politics
Marc Steiner: Max. I mean pick that up. I mean because it is clear that the neoliberal establishment, our country wants to restore its order.
Max B. Sawicky: Of course.
Marc Steiner: What do we want? What leaves people who are progressive, what is the debate we should have?
Max B. Sawicky: If we stay out of this, nobody will know what we want. That's why we should be in it. Now, when it comes to breaking the law, you don't have to break the law to be charged. You could think of all kinds of scandalous, I mean, there is a threshold, I guess, above which, if Trump did some legal things that were terrible enough, everyone would want to accuse him. The point is that you do not have to violate the law to be dismissed, and the House is not tied to that standard, and even if they were, there would be many other things that you could use. The main thing is that the final result here is the actual elimination, it really is not the objective of the exercise. There was no doubt that the Senate will not vote to dismiss him. This Senate, under the leadership of McConnell. The objective of the entire exercise is the pre-voting process.
Who says what, who votes and how they vote. You are using the process policy to restrict your actions as much as possible while still in office, and to minimize your chances of being reelected. That's what all this is about. It is not the fact that the Senate will not vote to dismiss him. Everyone knows that. The point is to use this, go through this door, as I said, and carry out all our criticism, not only of Trump, but of the Republican Party to which he is obliged. Even centrist democrats who, in one way or another, propitiate their ideological background. As things stand, if we are out of this game, whatever interests us will be invisible. Basically we are absent from resistance to, what I see is the main enemy at this time.
For me, the most urgent task for the left is to minimize this man's chances of being re-elected. Let me say that as a claim, I am wearing a shirt. I do not speak on behalf of DSA or any faction of DSA or any organization. So, I'm just talking for myself. I do not intend to represent anyone else in particular.
Marc Steiner: It's a nice shirt.
Max B. Sawicky: Thank you.
Marc Steiner: You're welcome.
Max B. Sawicky: My wife bought it for me.
Marc Steiner: a good wife. But, let's go to that point. I mean, as far as we know, as you just said, that he will not be convicted in the Senate. That's clear. How will this choice affect? I mean, what does this mean, this political trial means getting rid of Trump and getting rid of Trump in the sense that if you know that, I mean, well, let me stop there. I want, I will show you this piece. This is typical of the debate that takes place, I think sometimes, among those who support Trump and are unwavering, and those who are trying to fight him.
Speaker 7: There is no white supremacy. Wake up the shit. It's a damn
Speaker 9: Did you read about the children who died of the flu in [inaudible] [crosstalk].
Speaker 7: Where am I standing?
Speaker 9: Where are you standing?
Speaker 7: You need to wake up and take care of your children, as an American. [crosstalk 00:17:14]
Marc Steiner: There we are.
Doug Henwood: Wow.
Max B. Sawicky: Speech today.
Marc Steiner: Go ahead Doug, since you captivated first. Jump in.
Doug Henwood: Well, that's really a scary little clip you had there. But anyway, Max talks about being there and influencing the process in some way. Nancy Pelosi is driving this bus. I don't see that people like us can do much to change that. The whole process was launched, you could say, with the squad. I think Rashida Tlaib said we're going to accuse the guy with … I'm not sure what the language restrictions on the Royal News Network are. I'm used to doing radio with the FCC on my shoulder, but then, the process is quickly kidnapped why, seven national security people and Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden's injured ego. I don't see how much we have much at stake in this game. Where we have a chance is, we have a good candidate, any of us like Bernie Sanders. Another candidate, many of us like almost as much, Elizabeth Warren, although opinions differ on that.
Actually, there is a strong leftist presence in this democratic primary. That is the place where we can raise this kind of problem, the substantive things that make Trump so horrible, how to fight him. In this process led by Nancy Pelosi, who I must say, she is extremely skilled at what she does. I mean, she really is a formidable figure. But she is in control and there is not much we can do to alter the course of this vehicle at this time. Now, it is delaying the sending of the articles to the Senate. It makes me wonder, is there anything to say beyond performance? If it is a performance, will the nature of our political discourse change? Don't I see that it is or will be or will be entertaining? It has really failed as entertainment.
If those of us who are old enough to remember the old Watergate audiences of 47 years ago, were really dramatic and created many personalities and adventures. Not now. I mean that all these faceless bureaucrats and professionals who come before Congress to testify are not people who are very memorable, who are very influential or very moving.
Marc Steiner: Max, you raise the issue of drama in your article, and relate it to what Doug was saying, along with the reality that that accusation will not go through the Senate if a trial is ever held. Talk about how this fits politically, from your perspective, the political process and the battle against Trump. How does it work, what difference will it make? Maybe in a positive way?
Max B. Sawicky: Performance is part of politics. I mean, when you're standing in the street like I was yesterday with a sign, that's the performance. I didn't do it, I wasn't voting in any legislature. I was standing in the street. I am not trying to give advice to Nancy Pelosi. She will not be interested in that.
Marc Steiner: She won't follow your advice anyway.
Max B. Sawicky: The seven National Security Democrats, who were nailed, basically sealed the deal for a successful vote in the House. That does not mean that their concerns or what they use to cover themselves, on the right flank has to be ours. We have our own platforms, and we have a couple of major campaigns with a lot of potential, as Doug said. Those are our vehicles and we must use them. And again, put the context around the accusation. The accusation raises the profile of everything that is wrong in the administration. Instead of being absent from that, I think we should be part of this with our own menu of priorities, since I think we can see the two most progressive candidates in the primaries or we are also doing it. They are not, they are excited about the political trial. They don't let everything they speak dominate and neither should we. But we should not be separated from that either, from what I think is significant, at least the part of the left in which I am interested, and I feel I should be a part. That is your basic position at this time.
Marc Steiner: I mean, to finish this a bit, find out where we are going here. I mean, maybe this perspective is not everyone's perspective, but I mean Trump, he appeals to this extreme right, racist, nationalist. Whether they are established in this country, they and these establishment conservatives are using it in many ways to effectively change the nature of our country. I mean, just today we saw that the Bar Association will no longer examine federal judges. Another desire of the Federalist Society, which is appointing the majority of the new federal judges in our country at this time. When you look at that and look at the accusation and look at what we face, I would like you both to look for a moment in a game of oppression. Look at these crystal balls. Where will this lead us? Is this ever going to reach the Senate? How will it affect the 2020 elections? Where does this fit in the fight for a different America?
Max B. Sawicky: Well, I may not get to the Senate, but that would not necessarily be a terrible thing. If there is no significant procedure in the Senate where you have some witnesses, and some testimonies, and some real discussion instead of just a very quick vote on the dismissal, then it makes no sense to send the political judgment resolutions to the Senate. They should pass more resolutions, and I'm sure Doug and I could come up with a good list of five or six more things they could think of, and add that to the accusation. The Senate part of this ceases to make sense unless it is extended enough that all these issues can come to light. If they are not going to be brought to light in any way, then there is no reason why Pelosi should, basically should grant everything and walk away and let them pass a vote against the removal.
Marc Steiner: Doug? [crosstalk 00:23:50]
Doug Henwood: Well, I would say [inaudible]. I don't see how this is bringing something to light that hasn't been fully illuminated before, but we're fully aware of almost everything horrible that Donald Trump has ever done, from our point of view. A horrible thing, from the point of view of his followers, a great thing. But it is not that this guy is not covered in great detail. We know exactly what you are doing. We know what he represents. We know what kind of forces it represents or emerges. The fact that this guy is president is a symptom of a society that I think is in a serious state of decline, and is only making more progress in that decline. Bt, we will not expose these points through this political trial. We will make them go through an election campaign. We are going to make people, through the old trio, shake, educate and organize.
That is the way we are going to fight Trump, and this kind of high-level maneuvering that we are seeing with this senseless political judgment resolution now, without the possibility of a quick test or a meaningful test or anything that will solve anything That is the opposite of agitating, educating and organizing. It is anesthetizing. It is a distraction. We need to mobilize for a campaign oriented to very serious problems that could try to present a positive vision to people about how to get out of this swamp of hate, that is, this has been taken completely over this swamp of hate and decay that has led us complete over. The only way to do this is through some kind of attractive and positive agenda that makes the future seem possible and habitable. I simply do not see that these articles of political judgment contribute at all to that process.
Marc Steiner: Well, as we see how this develops over the next month, in the next year, we hope to have more conversations here, as well, with you and other people in Jacobin. Doug Henwood and Max Sawicky, thank you so much for being with us today. I deeply appreciate the article you wrote and the discussion we had today.
Max B. Sawicky: Thank you.
Doug Henwood: Thank you.
Marc Steiner: Thank you both. I'm Marc Steiner here for Real News Network. Please let us know what you think. Beware.