Sorry, but I’m going to get all political on you again. Feel free to ignore my paranoid rantings.
One of the things that QA and writing have in common is the need to answer the question “Why?”
When testing, it’s not enough to know that a certain sequence of steps causes the program to go blooey*. The tester has to try to determine why; the answer to that question will have implications for who’s going to fix the bug and when–or even if–it’ll get fixed.
* Technical terminology.
Similarly, when writing, it’s not enough to know a character takes a certain action. The author needs to know why; characters who act illogically or do something stupid because the plot requires it make readers throw down the book and not buy anything else by the author.
So I’m doubly inclined to ask “Why?” when my government goes blooey.
In this case, the question is “We have a president who continues to spew lies, ignore the advice of his councilors, threaten war, and generally do the exact opposite of working for the benefit of his country. Why, then, has not a single member of his party–the majority in Congress–acted to restrain him?”
Let’s ignore for the moment the question of why Trump acts the way he does. For the most part, it’s irrelevant to the question we’re looking at now. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that his actions are driven in part by Russian influence. We’ll take that as a given and move on.
Possibility One: No Congressional Republicans are acting to counter Trump because Russia has something on every single one of them.
It’s possible, but improbable. Diogenes notwithstanding, moderately honest people aren’t hard to find. Granted, the ratio is probably skewed in Congress, but the odds still say that there must be one or two Republican congresscritters who haven’t taken money from the NRA or another Russian front organization, been recorded cheating on their spouses or stealing from church poor boxes, and don’t relax by pushing old ladies down the stairs.
More likely, what we’re seeing is a mass case of mental paralysis. Suppose you’re chatting with your friends at a restaurant. The waitress asks “Would you like some dessert?” and you haven’t even looked at the menu. You stare at her while you try to process the question. Finally, she takes pity on you and says “The cheesecake is good,” and you immediately say, “Great, I’ll have that!” even though you don’t much like cheesecake, and would really prefer the strawberry shortcake.
That’s mental paralysis. The honest Republicans never expected to have to decide between party and country, re-election and personal honor, and they’re frozen. They go along with whatever the party wants because it gets them past the brain lock. And maybe cheesecake isn’t so bad after all.
Sooner or later, though, they may start to decide they’re tired of cheesecake and want that strawberry shortcake. We may have seen the first sign of that with Senator Scott’s move to block the appointment of Ryan Bounds to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Kudos to Senator Scott.
But then, why–there’s that question again–does the party leadership not at least act to replace Trump with somebody less polarizing?
Even if we leave Trump’s value as a distraction, allowing them to push their agenda through, who could they replace him with?
Consider the succession. President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro Tempore.
If Trump is removed–impeached, forced to resign, assassinated, whatever–Pence becomes president and chooses his new vice president. Who must be confirmed by both houses of Congress. The Republicans would need to get their choice past the Senate without a vice president to break a tie. It would only take one Republican breaking ranks to block a candidate.
And if you think Congressional Democrats have mobilized against Brett Kavanaugh, you ain’t seen nothing yet. That fight could easily drag past the November election.
And let’s get real here. If Trump is actually guilty of conspiring with Russia to swing the election, would anyone believe Pence wasn’t also in the plot up to his eyebrows? If Trump goes down, the Democrats block the appointment of a new vice president, and take control of either house in November, then the games get really interesting.
Remember, while the Speaker is an elected position (voted on by the members of the House), the Senate President Pro Tempore is not. That’s based strictly on length of service in the Senate. If the Democrats flip the Senate–which seems more likely than the House–Patrick Leahy of Vermont steps into the succession. Nominally, he’d be fourth in line, but if the vice presidency is vacant, he’d move up a step.
Meanwhile, over in the House… Suppose compelling evidence of wrongdoing by Pence turns up after Trump’s departure. Pence goes down (eventually). With no vice president, we get President Paul Ryan [shudder] and the same logjam in appointing a VP. Assuming, of course, this all goes down before a new Speaker is elected in January. Yes, we really could have a lame duck Representative become president.
Logically, Ryan is as likely to be guilty of collusion as Pence, if not more so. But that might even be beside the point. If Ryan becomes president, he can’t also be a member of the House. Imagine the confusion if the Republican governor of Wisconsin has to appoint somebody to fill Ryan’s seat until the new Congress is seated in January–especially if a Democrat wins Ryan’s district.
Bottom line here: the current situation is chaos, and there’s no clear path to stability for Republicans who, for whatever reason, won’t or can’t relinquish power.
Stay tuned. December may be a very interesting month, especially if Democrats flip both houses in November.