Trump should go, but making him go could make things worse

One way or another, I come back to this: Removing Trump from office by a clear, bipartisan action (by Pence, or by a large number of Republican senators) might possibly avoid tearing the country apart. But a hotly contested effort to do so would be worse than what we have now, imposing long-term political damage and possibly inciting more violence rather than calming the waters. So, the question is not whether most Democrats or some Republicans are willing to do so or could justify it, but whether enough Republicans are on board to make this look more like a unanimous verdict of our political system. That would, in turn, make it harder for Trump to mobilize support to target the people who voted him out. But it is far from clear that the overwhelming popular mandate exists for such a dramatic step.

This gets to the real nub of the problem with either of these remedies: The case for removing Trump is largely one of prudence — of care for the system. But is it prudent, two weeks before the end of his term, to stage a potentially divisive fight to strip Trump of his powers? In particular, if Congress can muster a large, bipartisan vote for a resolution of censure, that is almost certain to attract the support of some Republicans who would otherwise balk at an impeachment vote. It might enable the partisan temperature to come down, rather than go up, while leaving behind a formal marker of disapproval.

I do not have an easy answer, and that suggests caution. Surely, at this juncture, Trump richly deserves impeachment and removal. Mike Pence, having been close to this president for years, is in a better position to assess whether he is truly in such a dangerous mental state now that the hazards of leaving him in place outweigh the risk of popular rage if he is defenestrated now. But one way or another, Trump’s actions since the election have indelibly stained his presidency. He cannot go away soon enough.