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Saturday
Mar092019

GOP & DJT: Beware the Ides of March!

The OLD Philosopher – John M. Miller

 

 “Beware the Ides of March” is a line made famous in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. It was the warning of a mysterious, unnamed soothsayer to the Roman strongman. Caesar ignored the warning, and on the fifteenth of March, 44 BC, he was stabbed to death by several Roman senators who considered him to be an autocratic threat to the safety and security of the long-established Roman Republic.  

On or about the Ides of March, 2019, Robert Mueller may at last complete his lengthy investigation of President Donald J. Trump. It may or may not have a major effect on the growing uproar about the President and his tactics while in office. Only when the report is made public, if it is made public, shall we understand its effects.

Several U.S. House of Representatives committees are looking into civil and/or criminal charges against the President. Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are also seeking to determine whether to bring charges against Mr. Trump for alleged crimes he may have committed in the Empire State prior to becoming President.

The wheels of justice grind slowly. When the person whose behavior is called into legal question is the American President, not surprisingly they grind exceedingly slowly. No one wants to come to conclusions which later may be found to be flawed. Thus everyone is proceeding very cautiously.

From the moment Donald Trump was sworn into office on January 20, 2017, he has been under increasing attack from an army of opponents. Because he is so controversial, and because the charges against him are so serious, it is incredible that almost no one in the Republican Party has stood up to question his authority because of an avalanche of apparent legal impropriety.

Politically, the President has represented Republican conservatism very well in many respects. The economy is thriving, the tax bill of 2017 has benefitted numerous Americans, particularly Republicans, and many social issues dear to the GOP have been forcefully advanced by the President.

However, the growing list of legal infractions in which Mr. Trump may have engaged during and before becoming President is impossible to ignore. Until these matters are brought completely into public view, he himself cannot be found guilty of any illegalities, civil or criminal. Nevertheless, the list of allegations is bound to continue growing. Because of that, the court of broadening public opinion is slowly turning against him.

It is almost certain that impeachment proceedings will not be initiated by anyone in Congress. Legally, that might seem to be a moral necessity to some Americans. Politically, however, impeachment is anathema to most politicians from both parties. It is too risky for both sides, because each side knows they might lose.

Because the House of Representatives shall be controlled by Democrats until January of 2021, whatever committees they can conscript in continuing investigations of the President will continue to do their digging. The longer the drama drags on, the more they will believe their purposes are being fulfilled. Thus shall the President be inflicted with a thousand inevitable and unkind cuts.

Already several men have pled guilty to charges brought forth in the Mueller probe. It is reported that the House Democrats have asked an additional eighty witnesses associated with Mr. Trump to appear before their committees. If ten or twenty of the eighty plead guilty in order to protect themselves, can anyone seriously continue to believe that the artful dealer/dodger who initially enlisted them will forever remain unscathed himself?

It is at that precise point where the Grand Old Party puts itself into great peril. They cannot stay the course by attempting to maintain their united front behind the putative GOP leader. To do so clearly endangers themselves and their party.

If an increasing number of Trump business or political associates either plead guilty or are found guilty of crimes or misdemeanors that he may have demanded of them, it is foolhardy for Republicans to try to require that the ranks remain tightly closed. On the basis of what has happened in the past few months, there will probably be other Trump men who run afoul of the long arm of the law. If something looks, sounds, and smells illegal, it likely is illegal.

The Ides of March, 2019, are not an imminent threat to the President or his party. But if, by March 15 of 2020, conditions have not dramatically changed, Donald Trump will lose the presidency in that year. The GOP also will lose both houses of Congress.

The Master Showman has managed to make allies of millions of Americans over the past three-plus years. Whether that number begins markedly to shrink will depend on how those allies view the rapid demolition of the Trump political towers. Presumably that will be excruciatingly visible to their astonished and agonized eyes during the next year.

     * * * * *

     The word “prophet” is one of the most widely-misunderstood words in the English language. A “prophecy” is thought to be synonymous with a prediction, and thus a prophet is almost always perceived to be a predictor. Biblically that is not the meaning of those two words at all.

     The Hebrew prophets considered themselves to be spokesmen for God. Prophetes is a Greek word which means “to speak bubbling over.” It is to make enthusiastic (en theos: “in God”) proclamations. The prophets felt called to preach on behalf of the God of Israel, and they did so with a conviction which seemed to many who heard them like a veritable volcanic eruption.

     The thoughts contained in this essay are those of an octogenarian minister. I was ordained nearly fifty-five years ago. I find it amazing that I am still preaching most Sundays. Consciously and subconsciously I admit that I have usually tried to be a prophetic preacher more than a pastoral or priestly preacher.

     In no way, however, is this essay prophetic. It is not the word of God, nor do I claim it to be that. Instead, it represents the musings of a man who has had a lifelong interest in politics.

    That interest was badly shaken in 1974 by revelations about a man I voted for three times for President. In many respects he was a master politician, particularly in foreign policy, but he had a major character flaw. “I am not a crook,” he said. Very sadly, he was.

     Nixon’s crookedness was essentially political, however. That was made evident by two determined Washington Post investigative reporters, and then by a host of other print and video journalists. He wanted to stay in power at all costs, even if it required lying and misleading his most loyal supporters.

     My personal political leanings have been steadily buffeted since 1980. They have been badly battered since January of 2017.    

     The behavior of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and other questionable American political luminaries are as nothing compared to the fundamentally criminal activities of Donald Trump. At its deepest level, our President has a larcenous mind.

     Dogged investigative reporting brought down the Nixon Administration. But that was child’s play compared to the sleuthing which has chased the Trump Administration from Day One. People who primarily watch Fox News think Donald Trump is not guilty of any crimes. People who watch MSNBC, CNN, or the news programming of the “free” non-cable networks, and who read the volumes of print material about the Trump presidency, know that he is a crook. It has not yet been proven definitively and conclusively in court. He is innocent until proven guilty, of course, but he will be proven guilty.   

     Theologically I do not fear for our country. One way or another, in the providence of God, we will weather the storm that has befallen America since the election of Donald Trump. By providence, everybody always ultimately weathers everything - - - one way or another.

     Politically, however, I do fear for America. I am equally concerned because of both parties. The Democrats have always had a hard time getting their act together, and they are currently following in that tradition with astonishing consistency. But the Republicans have severely veered from their tradition. They are blindly following a man who has no discernible political philosophy at all, and who frequently violates time-tested principles of political conservatism and common decency.

     When something is very unsettled and appears likely to remain that way for a while, the British say it is “at sixes-and-sevens.” The United States of America presently is hugely at sixes-and-sevens.

     If the Republicans do not soon begin to disassociate themselves from Donald Trump in large numbers, then by the Ides of March, 2020, they will have no choice other than to make Mr. Trump their candidate in the 2020 election. There will be no other option.

    If that happens, Mr. Trump shall lose the presidency, and the Republicans will lose both houses of Congress. The Trump base shall remain loyal, but it will inevitably shrink to a number incapable of either re-electing him or many of their candidates for Congress.

     If the Democrats win the presidency and both houses of Congress, they will be at sixes-and-sevens. They will not know how to govern, because they will have no unified program for future governance. And with ten to fifteen candidates running in the primaries, the identity of their candidate shall ultimately be as uncertain as it was when there were initially seventeen Republican candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016. Running for a presidential nomination has become an extravagantly expensive extravaganza for far too many people.

     No one can know what will happen in the election of 2020. But if, by next March 15, things have not changed in a major way, catastrophe awaits us.

     None of this is a prophecy .It obviously is a prediction, however.

     There are two flies in this sticky political ointment. 1) Can the Democrats win unless they find a candidate who is able to articulate a convincing centrist platform? 2) Can the Republicans win if they support Donald Trump too hard for too long?

     In summary, I make this observation, which also is not a prophecy, but a prediction: Should Donald Trump take the oath of office for a second term on January 20, 2021, the American electorate shall receive exactly what they deserve.

     Beware the 2020 Ides of March.

 

John Miller is Pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC.

More of his writings may be viewed at www.chapelwithoutwalls.org.

 

 

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