More to the point, Donald Trump doesn’t think Democrats can work with him either. In his Super Bowl interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump complained bitterly about the “damage” done to his family and the country in the impeachment and trial. “I’d like to” work with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Trump told Hannity, but they’re so dishonest and obsessed with winning that he doesn’t think it’s possible.
That sounds like exactly what Pelosi and Schumer would say, too:
HANNITY: Two hundred and seventy days from now, I guess the ultimate jury –the American people — go to the polls. My question is, is this a campaign issue for you? Do you let it go? Do you see a path that you can work with Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats?
TRUMP: Well, I’d like to, but it’s pretty hard when you think about it, because it’s been such — I used the word witch hunt, I used the word hoax. I see the hatred, I see the love — They don’t care about fairness, they don’t care about lying. You look at the lies, you look at the reports that were done that were so false, the level of hypocrisy. So I’m not sure that they can do it, to be honest. I think they just want to win, and it doesn’t matter how they win.
The solution, Trump tells Hannity, is to hash this out in an election rather than a food fight on Capitol Hill:
TRUMP: In the meantime I really believe this administration, me and this administration, we’ve done more than any administration in the history of our country. We’ve rebuilt our military, we’ve cut taxes at the highest amount ever in the history of our country. I mean you see what’s going on. There’s a revolution going on in this country — I mean a positive revolution. So African-American, Hispanic American, Asian-American, we have the best numbers we’ve ever had. African-American — the poverty numbers are now reversed and they’re the best that they’ve ever had. So I don’t know how anybody could possibly beat me with that vote. So we’ll see how it does.
Under more normal circumstances, in a time when institutions had more credibility, an election would likely resolve most of the remaining tension, if not the bitterness. In such an environment, however, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders never would have been credible candidates for the presidency. An election in this environment might simply relocate the battlefield — and even then, only temporarily.
The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher spoke with focus-group specialist Frank Luntz, who sounds pessimistic that an election will change anything at this point:
By now, Frank Luntz figured that emotionally exhausted Americans would be hungry for unity, eager to embrace moderate messages and candidates who promised to find and claim common ground.
But Luntz, a longtime Republican consultant who conducts focus groups for news organizations, has been taking the temperatures of voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states, and he has found that “people are desperate to vote, but the center has collapsed.”
“They want the pitchfork message, not the unity message — on both sides,” he said.
“I wish I was wrong, but that fear of losing the country is deep and very emotional, on both sides,” Luntz added. “The Trump side believes the left is trying to overturn democracy, and they will fight like hell to prevent it. And the Democrats have a disdain for Donald Trump that I’ve never seen. This isn’t as bad as 1968, but it’s pretty damn bad.”
We have become a nation of brute-force majoritarians over the last 52 years, accelerated by the Robert Bork confirmation hearing and the Bill Clinton impeachment. This raises a very interesting question about voters in the next election and then the midterms beyond that. Americans have a history of voting for shared-power federal government, only rarely allowing one party to control the White House, Senate, and House at the same time — and never for very long.
After this impeachment, how long will that continue? Can we afford to have shared power any longer, or do we need to essentially form a quasi-parliamentary government every election in order to get anything at all done in Washington? Gridlock may have had its legitimate attraction to voters in the past, but two impeachments later, the poisonous atmosphere and retaliatory politics in the Beltway may have made it a luxury we simply can’t afford any longer. Unfortunately, that conclusion will only feed the bitterness and rancor of elections and politics as elections become an all-or-nothing gambit, with the advantage going to those who have the fewest scruples. One has to wonder whether F.A. Hayek would have recognized the parallels to his Road to Serfdom in this slow erosion of representative democracy.