The most important accomplishment of impeaching Trump was its impact on Joe Biden

Impeaching The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote was incredibly important, and not only because it was the right thing to do. Yes, he committed crimes and abused the power of his office, and yes he deserved to be impeached and removed from that office—the record of every Republican Senator other than Mitt Romney will be forever stained by their votes to acquit. History will remember their cowardice.

Beyond the morality, impeachment has had a clear, long-lasting political benefit, one that will pay dividends for Vice President Joe Biden this November. Thanks to impeachment, everyone knows that the charges Trump leveled against Joe and Hunter Biden on Ukraine—the ones he tried to blackmail that country’s president into investigating, or least announcing an intention to investigate—are utter malarkey.

Trump always feared running against Biden, and he acted corruptly in a failed bid to get enough dirt to derail the former VP’s quest to win the Democratic nomination. The impeachment process shone a bright light on Trump’s actions, and on his lies about Biden, ensuring that the smear campaign ultimately backfired.

Since the end of the impeachment trial, Trump and his minions have continued to bleat on with their completely invented and thoroughly debunked stories about the Bidens. I won’t dignify them by repeating the specifics here. Recently, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who heads the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, have been “investigating”—i.e., trying to keep the story in the media—this bullshit.

Never mind that by falsely smearing Biden over Ukraine, Johnson and his fellow Republican senators are all but doing the work of Vladimir Putin for him, as this Associated Press article explained

But the stark warning that Russia is working to denigrate the Democratic presidential candidate adds to questions about the probe by Johnson’s Senate committee and whether it is mimicking, even indirectly, Russian efforts and amplifying its propaganda.

The investigation is unfolding as the country, months removed from an impeachment case that had centered on Ukraine, is dealing with a pandemic and confronting the issue of racial injustice. Yet allegations about Biden and Ukraine remain a popular topic in conservative circles, pushed by Russian media and addressed regularly by President Donald Trump and other Republicans as a potential path toward energizing his supporters.

[...] “Particularly as a public official and somebody who’s responsible for keeping the country safe, you should always be suspicious of narratives that are trying to sort of damage or target the electoral process in your country,” said former CIA officer Cindy Otis, a foreign disinformation expert and vice president of analysis at Alethea Group. “You should always be suspicious of narratives that foreign countries are pumping out.”

As Daily Kos’ Kerry Eleveld pointed out, Johnson even admitted that his so-called probe would “would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden.” It amazing; these Republicans always manage to say the quiet part out loud, which I guess is helpful. Nevertheless, to paraphrase what Otter said to his nemesis (and professional Republican, according to the character futures provided) Gregg Marmalard in Animal House, “Gee, you’re dumb.”

Then the Orange Julius Caesar himself got into the act. On August 16 he retweeted material that our own intelligence agencies had previously identified as Russian disinformation—part of its effort to directly influence the presidential election by “denigrating” Biden. As CNN put it: “By retweeting material that the US government has already labeled as propaganda -- and doing so with the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicking off on Monday -- Trump demonstrated once again that he is willing to capitalize on foreign election meddling for his own political gain.” Here’s Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner:

The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda. https://t.co/9y6L6uMKbM

— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 17, 2020

Then came the four-day marathon of lies known as the Republican National Convention. Former Florida (where else?) Attorney General Pam Bondi went before a national audience and, once again, did Putin’s bidding by lying about the Bidens and Ukraine. The truth? When Joe Biden sought the removal of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shukin he did so, as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post noted, “because the prosecutor was corrupt.” Sargent added some more important facts: “This was U.S. policy, backed by international institutions. GOP senators had no problem with it in real time. As The Post’s fact-checking team puts it, Bondi’s story is ‘fiction,’ and in reality, Joe Biden ‘was thwarting corruption, not abetting it.’” Bondi told some other lies about Hunter Biden, which the WaPo fact-checking team also debunked

When these latter day Marmalards now issue their breathtaking press releases or repeat Russian disinformation about the Bidens and Ukraine, the media—thus far at least—has been taking them for what they are: Utter horseshit. I won’t say the media has learned their lesson, but unlike 2016, when “but her emails” was literally the most reported story of the campaign, this year everyone who isn’t directly sucking at the Trump teat is treating these debunked charges with the (lack of) seriousness they deserve. 

For that, we can thank the impeachment of Donald Trump, which exposed the lies against the Bidens for what they are. The impeachment process inoculated the media and the American public by preparing them for what Trump is now trying to pull on this matter. So thank you Nancy Pelosi, thank you Adam Schiff, thank you Val Demings, thank you Jerry Nadler, and thanks to the rest of the Democratic impeachment team. I’m sure Joe Biden is thanking you as well.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Senate Intelligence Committee report confirms all charges about Trump’s connections to Russia

The Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election was slipped out to the public with less fanfare than a new menu item at Captain D’s. And like the actual Mueller report, released weeks after Attorney General William Barr produced his whitewashed summary, Republicans are just hoping everyone will read their topline statements and ignore what the investigation really found.

Somehow, after Republicans have declared over and over that there was “no collusion,” they’ve been sitting on a report that shows that Donald Trump’s campaign manager was in constant contact with a Russian operative, that both WikiLeaks and Roger Stone knew they were part of a direct pipeline from Vladimir Putin, and that the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort was in fact a meeting with Russian spies designed to get information that could be used against Hillary Clinton. And that Ivanka Trump coordinated the daily drip of words from Moscow.

The Senate report, in fact, proves everything that had been said since before the election—Trump’s campaign directly collaborated with Russia, on multiple occasions and in various ways, to alter the outcome of a U.S. election. It also shows that multiple members of Trump’s campaign lied to investigators about these connections, and that Republican senators have been aware of these facts even as they have scorned the Mueller investigation and defended Trump and his campaign. So what are Republican senators doing about it now? Lying, of course.

The Senate report shows that Manafort was directly involved in passing along information to a Russian intelligence agent and accepting information from that agent. That’s collusion by the head of Trump’s campaign. The investigation could have stopped right there and moved on to providing information to the House for impeachment.

It didn’t stop there. It went on to explore how Ivanka Trump coordinated the use of stolen documents provided by Russia to make Trump’s attacks on Clinton more effective. How Stone helped Moscow coordinate WikiLeaks information to run cover for Trump. And how Manafort’s close coordination with Kremlin sources “represented a grave counterintelligence threat,” The report isn’t just damning, it’s damning to helling. It could not be more conclusive and more authoritative in showing that there was genuine coordination between the Trump campaign and Putin’s plans. Trump took everything Putin would give him, and begged for more.

Evidence in the report shows that Manafort’s chief contact, Konstantin Kilimnik, was connected not just with providing information to the campaign after the fact, but to the whole plot to break into DNC servers in the first place. The Trump campaign wasn’t the lucky beneficiary of a Russian plot that was already in effect. The whole thing—the break-in at the DNC, the distribution of emails through WikiLeaks, the false claims about Ukraine—was a joint Trump/Putin production from the start. They didn’t just collude, they were partners.

Why they were partners from the start is also underlined in the report, as the fifth volume contains information directly related to the leverage Putin had over Trump. That includes not just witnesses corroborating the existence of the “pee tape,” but a possible affair between Trump and a former Miss Moscow as well as a visit to a Moscow strip club. All of this, along with Manafort’s existing connections to Moscow, meant that Trump and other members of the campaign “presented attractive targets for foreign influence, creating notable counterintelligence vulnerabilities,” according to the report.

Almost as an aside, the report shows that Donald Trump and his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen negotiated repeatedly to cover up evidence in exchange for a pardon—and then everyone involved lied about it to Robert Mueller. Though that part was already known.

So what are Republican senators going to do about a report—their own report—that lays bare Putin’s tawdry leverage over Trump, the openness of Trump’s campaign to foreign influence, and the lies that campaigns staffers told to investigators every step of the way? As Lawfare points out, Republicans have a very simple solution: lying. Over and over, Republican senators have issued statements repeating the idea that the report shows “no collusion,” in direct contradiction of the actual contents.

Republicans in the Senate deserve credit for allowing the investigation to run its course rather than doing a Devin Nunes and popping out a Trump-praising nonsense piece while claiming that everything is good. But they deserve zero credit for running away from their own report or for making claims that the report doesn’t show what it clearly shows.

And while Republicans are scanning Mike Pompeo’s stack of documents looking for possible avenues of attack against Joe Biden, Biden could do a lot worse than simply making advertisements out of segments of the report created by the Republican-led Senate.

Trump didn’t just break the GOP, he broke conservatism

Remember when you could all describe, in one succinct sentence, what the Republican Party was all about? “Family values, lower taxes, and a strong national defense.” Democrats spent decades trying to come up with their own pithy slogan and failed. We are just too diverse a coalition to condense into a single sentence. And turns out, we don’t need to, because the head of the conservative movement, Donald Trump, has exposed just how empty that statement of values always was. 

It was quite the feat, actually, to take the one man with inarguably the worst record on “family values,” and then rally around him with zero sense of irony or shame. Trump had multiples and then cheated on them with pornstars while ignoring his children. He didn’t (and doesn’t) go to church, give to charity, or show any semblance of humility. In fact, the did the opposite of charity—he used a charity to grift. 

In fact, has any one man ever embodied the seven deadly sins more perfectly than Trump? Pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth. He is a wretched human being, morally bankrupt and ethically corrupt. And through it all, evangelical Christians have stuck with him, proving that they never ever cared about any actual morality. 

On national defense, Republicans have acknowledged that Trump is a puppet of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. The current House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a solid Trump ally, who was recorded saying back in 2017, “There’s …there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: [California Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump … [laughter] … swear to God.” Then-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, another Republican, thought that was funny, ““This is an off-the-record … [laughter] … NO LEAKS … [laughter] … alright?!”

Hilarious. 

We went through a whole impeachment process in which Trump’s attempts to enlist foreign governments to help his reelection campaign were fully exposed, and Republicans did nothing but shrug. 

But nothing tops revelations that Russia paid Taliban fighters in Afghanistan a bounty for every dead American they killed, and Trump couldn’t be bothered to give a damn. Instead, Putin’s loyal lapdog keeps checking in with Moscow every month, to discuss who knows what. You’d think Republicans would care about America’s top historical geopolitical opponent encouraging the murder of our troops, but nah. 

They did get to the “lower taxes” bit, however. Nothing like destroying our nation’s finances in order to justify the cutting of our social nets to really get Republicans excited. … Then again, “bailing out billionaires” isn’t particularly the most populist and popular policy plank on which to hang all your electoral hopes. 

So we know that all of this has utterly crushed the GOP, and we’re headed toward another anti-Republican wave election this fall. But now we’re seeing evidence that this goes deeper than simple anti-GOP sentiment. By exposing its flimsy pretenses, Trump is breaking conservatism itself. Check out Gallup’s polling on self-identified ideology over the course of this year:  

American’s ideology Jan/Frb mar/Apr May/Jun Conservative Moderate Liberal
40 37 34
34 36 36
22 23 26

That’s a stunning collapse in such a short period of time, while the long-demonized term “liberal” is making a strong comeback. (Many Democrats prefer the safer-sounding “moderate,” as you can see if you follow the link above. Black, young, Latino Americans all prefer “moderate” to “liberal,” when we know they are politically liberal.)

More Gallup:

The decline in self-identified conservatism in 2020 has been seen about evenly among men and women, and among all political party groups.

However, it was more pronounced among adults in upper-income households as well as among middle-aged adults (aged 35 to 54) than their counterparts.

The conservative falloff has also been stronger among White and Hispanic Americans than Black Americans. Relatively few Black Americans (25%) identified as conservative in January/February, and thus there may have been less opportunity for the rate to decline.

Among those who earn more than $100,000, the number of self-identified conservatives dropped 11 points, from 40% to 29%. And since we’ve tracked suburban voters so closely for the last several cycles, they are also leaving the conservative fold, from 36% to 28%. In fact, and this is crazy—there are fewer conservatives now in the suburbs than in cities (33%)!

Still, don’t count out rural areas, getting hit harder and harder by COVID-19. They’ve gone from 50% conservative to 43%. That’s why states like Alaska, Iowa, Montana, and Ohio are suddenly back in play at both the presidential and Senate levels. 

Republicans exist only insofar as conservatives exist, as they and Trump fight to make their tent even smaller and unwelcome to anyone who isn’t ideologically pure. Seeing at close range the kind of rampant hypocrisy, corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence inherent in conservatism, Americans are ditching the label and, with it, their votes for Republicans. 

And they still have a lot further to fall. 

Trump engaged in yet another ‘internal investigation’ to silence whistleblowers in the White House

Donald Trump’s silence over the Russian scheme to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan hasn’t been getting much press, displaced from the headlines by Trump’s own schemes for killing wholesale volumes of American civilians in America. But never let it be said that Trump can’t multitask. Trump can hate everyone who tries to inject any semblance of reality into the nation’s planning for the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump can hate everyone who spilled the beans on how he kept chatting up Vladimir Putin months after he was aware that Putin had put contracts on Americans. 

As Politico reports, Trump is engaged in an internal investigation to locate and punish the people who let slip both the knowledge of Russia’s efforts to buy American deaths in Afghanistan, and the people who keep making it clear that Trump knew about the scheme for over a year. But this is just the latest in Trump’s long line of efforts to determine who stole the strawberries. And just as likely to succeed.

Whistleblowers of any sort have long been on Trump’s naughty list. His own twisted sense of morality requires that personal loyalty to Trump trumps all other concerns—even when Trump is in the midst of plans that could harm large numbers of people or the nation. Even when he’s doing something purely illegal. Trump made it clear that he was perfectly willing to breech both the spirit and the letter of whistleblower protection laws during his impeachment (Reminder: Donald Trump was impeached!) and the purge of inspectors general shows that Trump is out to get the tattletales, no matter where they live. Who watches the watchmen? No one, as far as Trump is concerned. 

Trump is still engaged in announced investigations of who posted an anonymous op-ed back in September of 2018 that said, among other things, “many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” And Trump is still looking for the person who distributed internal schedules in 2019 showing that Trump spent well over half his time either thumbing buttons on Twitter, or appreciating the softness of the Charmin, in unstructured “executive time.”

And now even more of Trump’s White House is involved in investigating those scoundrels at … Trump’s White House, this time in an effort to catch whoever let slip the Russian bounty scheme, and then kept making if obvious that Trump knew. Because he did. As a quick reminder:

  • Trump was personally briefed on the Russian operation by John Bolton over a year ago.
  • Trump received updates on the scheme at multiple points, including a February 27 daily brief.
  • Trump has called Putin at least five times since March, with the content of those phone calls unknown.
  • Trump has made repeated demands, despite knowing that Russia was both conducting a proxy war against American forces and engaged in an effort to thwart peace negotiations in Afghanistan, to have Russia readmitted to the G7, and threatened to invite Putin personally if other nations did not agree.

Amusing as it may be to see how much effort Trump puts into chasing his own tail, it’s even more frustrating that all of these whistleblowers are content to remain whistleblowers. Again and again, members of Trump’s staff have spoken up to denounce his policies after they’ve been removed from office—and often after they’ve secured a book contract so they can collect a check for describing just how dysfunctional things are within Trump’s regime. But none of them seem to be willing to step forward openly and immediately when seeing Trump engaged in behavior harmful to the nation.

There should always be whistleblower protections, and the information brought forward by these women and men is invaluable. But the fear with which insiders continue to regard Trump is frustrating specifically because Trump mistakes that fear for respect.

For the sake of our country, read this 2016 article again, because every word of it is coming true

It’s stunning to look back and realize it now, but this was written just two days after the 2016 election.  Along with Adam Serwer's piece in the Atlantic, bluntly titled “The Cruelty is the Point,” and Timothy Snyder’s tract, “On Tyranny,” Masha Gessen’s brief essay in the New York Review of Books,  “Autocracy: Rules for Survival,”  warning us of the threat Donald Trump posed to our nation’s continued existence as a functioning republic, has proved itself over and over as a frighteningly prescient and disturbingly accurate prediction of how this would all play out, down almost to its very last word.

Gessen, a Russian-American writer and National Book Award winner, has lived in autocracies most of her life. As an outspoken critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin, she was one of the first to point out that Trump would, based on all evidence at the time, essentially govern in Putin’s shadow, slowly and inexorably transforming the American Republic by imposing a corrupt, autocratic system on so-called American “institutions.”  As it turned out, Gessen’s assessment of the looming danger posed by Trump and his collaborators in the Republican Party, and her pithy but sound advice on what to expect from a regime that considered itself unbound by such institutions, resounds even more prophetically today as we watch another supposedly hallowed institution, the United States Senate, crumble into dust and irrelevancy, right before our eyes.

The purpose of this is not to revisit the entirety of Gessen’s essay. Most here have already read it (if not you should read it now). Briefly, she sets down a list of six immutable rules of autocratic behavior and explains how ordinary citizens must react, cope, and counter this type of tyranny; and she predicts how the Trump administration would fulfill each of those rules in its efforts to transform our government into something as near a dictatorship as possible. Those rules are: 1) Believe the autocrat—do not for a minute believe anything he says is intended simply to shock or exaggerate; 2) Do not be taken in by small signs of normality; 3) Institutions will not save you; 4) Be outraged; 5) Don’t make compromises; and 6) Remember the future.  Each one of these principles is followed by a prediction of how Trump would turn them into reality for our nation.  And each one, more or less, turned out to be accurate.

If you have any doubt as to the legitimacy of Gessen’s analysis or the soundness of her advice, then consider the following excerpts from it, written two days after the 2016 election and two months before Trump actually took office. The signs of just how perilously weak the American Republic would be in withstanding such an assault were evident in the concession speeches of Hillary Clinton, the words of the Democratic runner-up Bernie Sanders, and even former President Barack Obama, all of whom offered varied forms of the standard “olive branch” owed by the politically vanquished to the victor. Expecting Trump, whose real goal was absolute power, to respond to these platitudes was a depressing exercise in outright naivete, masking as political politesse. Gessen saw it for what it was: ridiculous and dangerous.

However well-intentioned, this talk assumes that Trump is prepared to find common ground with his many opponents, respect the institutions of government, and repudiate almost everything he has stood for during the campaign. In short, it is treating him as a “normal” politician. There has until now been little evidence that he can be one.

Gessen first predicted that contrary to the common assumption that Trump could never command the allegiance of so-called “mainstream” conservatives, the  Republican Party would instead rush to embrace Trump. In this she was, again, absolutely correct.

He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric. On the contrary: it is now the establishment that is rushing to accommodate him—from the president, who met with him at the White House on Thursday, to the leaders of the Republican Party, who are discarding their long-held scruples to embrace his radical positions.

After what is expected to be a full-blown acquittal of Trump in the Republican Senate next week (possibly accompanied by a few shiny votes of some Democratic quislings fearful of Trump’s wrath), there is no doubt whatsoever that the Republican Party, including nearly every elected Republican official in the country, is prostrate under Trump’s boot-heel. It was almost amusing to watch the media circus solemnly placing the fate of an autocratic monster in the hands of proven cowards such as Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander.  The Republican-controlled  Senate is now as laughable an entity as was the Roman Senate in Caligula’s age, and it seems only a matter of time before Trump sees fit to place a horse in the chamber.

Gessen also assured us with dead-on certainty that Trump would continue with his campaign-stated plans to dismantle not only the Affordable Care Act (which he has tried to do, with some success), but most if not all of the legislation and rulemaking passed in the Obama administration (which he has done), and would continue to use the functions of government whenever possible to punish his political opponents.

Observers and even activists functioning in the normal-election mode are fixated on the Supreme Court as the site of the highest-risk impending Trump appointment. There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right; there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court. And since Trump plans to use the judicial system to carry out his political vendettas, his pick for attorney general will be no less important.

With the nomination of Executive Power ideologues  Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr, Trump again has performed exactly how Gessen predicted. She suggested that a Chris Christie or Rudy Giuliani could be chosen for AG, specifically for the purpose of investigating Hillary Clinton. As it turns out, Trump found someone possibly worse than that in Barr, while retaining Giuliani as his personal consigliere.

Gessen also predicted how the stock market would respond to Trump--it would leap to embrace his lies as if on cue: “Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures. So do people. Panic can be neutralized by falsely reassuring words about how the world as we know it has not ended.”  This is exactly what (until the Coronavirus reared its head) the financial markets have done in response to Trump’s lies about the “trade war” with China. They and the financial press have reacted like trained monkeys, eager to accept the most absurd assurances about Trump’s tariffs and his trade “policy.”

But the harshest prediction has been the most devastating. Gessen, asserting that “institutions will not save us,” first noted that Vladimir Putin took a year to totally assimilate the Russian media landscape and an additional four years to dismantle its electoral system, so-called “institutions” which Americans also claim as their own. The same dismantling of the “cherished bulwarks” of these paper-thin “democracies”  occurred in Turkey and Poland over the span of a few years.

Gessen acknowledges that the United States has stronger institutions than these second-world nations, as we were continually reminded at the start of Trump’s term in office. But here’s the thing:

The problem, however, is that many of these institutions are enshrined in political culture rather than in law, and all of them—including the ones enshrined in law—depend on the good faith of all actors to fulfill their purpose and uphold the Constitution.

The abdication of its responsibilities by fully one-half of the United States Congress and Senate in support of a wannabee dictator like Donald Trump—and the complete and wholesale embrace of corruption that this represented—is the most visible demolition of our institutions, but the pollution of our Federal judiciary with rabid  (and in many cases totally incompetent) ideologues is no less corrosive to the American constitutional order. For our Democracy to survive it is necessary that certain rules and norms be observed, rules and norms that everyone accepts.  When one party is willing to forego the truth in pursuance of contrived conspiracies and outright lies; when one party through procedural manipulation ensures that no legislation will proceed or even receive debate, then that essential good faith has clearly been abandoned. As a result, the “institution” dies an ignominious death. The dissolution of our federal government under Trump has also been accelerated by the perversion of our federal agencies, now tasked with working not for the interests of the American people, but for a narrow corporate donor base.

The dismantling of institutions is not limited to our Constitutional structure; Gessen also predicted exactly what would happen to the press after Trump. At the risk of being repetitious, remember this was two days after the election itself, and well before Trump even entered the White House:

The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House. Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access. There is no good solution (even if there is a right answer), for journalism is difficult and sometimes impossible without access to information.

The power of the investigative press—whose adherence to fact has already been severely challenged by the conspiracy-minded, lie-spinning Trump campaign—will grow weaker. The world will grow murkier. Even in the unlikely event that some mainstream media outlets decide to declare themselves in opposition to the current government, or even simply to report its abuses and failings, the president will get to frame many issues...[.]

Trump now has an army of voters numbering in the tens of millions who simply do not believe legitimate news sources, since they report negative news about Trump. Attacks on journalists and media outlets are a staple of his Nuremberg-like rallies. Seasoned reporters and news agencies, from CNN to NPR, are now routinely singled out and denied access to a White House that has all but abandoned press briefings.  Again, Gessen was spot on in her prediction: indeed, “institutions” will not save us. It only remains to be seen whether foreign influence in the form of Russian-generated propaganda will topple our last remaining institution—our elections themselves. Significantly, Gessen’s essay was written before the Mueller investigation was even conceived, let alone the degree of Russian influence on the 2016 electorate discovered.

So where does that leave us? There are only three rules left.

Of those, the first is  “Be outraged.”  Do not normalize anything this administration does. Never forget that this is not normal.  It can never be allowed to be normal. Most of us here have learned  through the bitter experience of the last three years to never stop fighting against this nightmare. We are not alone in our outrage, and we should never forget the fact that there are millions of us—in fact we are the majority.

The second, Don’t make compromises. This should go without saying, but somehow some Democrats need to be reminded. There can be no cooperation—ever--with this regime. As Gessen states, to do otherwise is not only corrupting, but soul-destroying. Willfully or even expediently ignoring the corruption of this fledgling autocracy will destroy any future this country may still possess.

Finally: Remember the future. Trump and Trumpism will come to an end one day. The man himself will no longer be around in a few years and his unique brand of insouciance and arrogance has already shown itself not to play well in the form of pale imitations. Trumpism and Trump’s personality are not as transferable or convertible as the Republican Party believes. 2018 showed that very, very clearly, and we all have the power to ensure that 2020 will demonstrate it to the Republicans again.

Most importantly, Gessen urges that the Democrats must offer up a powerful and compelling alternative vision to counterbalance Trump’s conjuring of an imaginary, lily-white past that appeals so much to his racist, xenophobic base. That is the challenge of not only of our nominee, but for all Democrats who want to wrest our country back from the brink of tyranny where it now rests. We failed to do that in 2016. We cannot and must not fail again.