Let's assume that Michael Cohen will testify that Trump was aware of and approved ahead of time the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where his son and other campaign officials met with a Russian operative to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton. Let's further assume that his testimony can credibly be corroborated by others. This would mean that Trump conspired with a foreign government to win the presidency, lied about it and, as we already know, tried to cover it up by dictating an exculpatory but untrue statement about that meeting's purpose. Game, set, match. Or as a White House lawyer put it during Watergate after learning of a smoking gun-type revelation from a taped conversation in the Oval Office, "that's the ball game." Right?
The problem, of course, is that almost half the country is watching a different ball game. The one where the fans are not at all bothered by Trump's racism, authoritarianism, corruption or, as it turns out, his treasonous conduct. They will either deny the truth or justify it or say it doesn't matter. This includes the Republicans in Congress as well as the roughly 40% of the population that provide him with unconditional support -- roughly the same percentage, by the way, that doesn't believe in evolution. Just sayin'.
Frank Rich wrote a compelling piece last year about "the remarkable staying power of the American voters" who support right wing demagogues and put people like Donald Trump in office. He notes the many parallels between Trump's campaign and the racist, nationalist and populist appeal of George Wallace, and how Wallace, after a failed attempt as a third-party candidate in 1968, actually posed a serious challenge for the Democratic nomination in 1972, until he was shot while on the campaign trail. As Rich points out, Wallace’s supporters (ultimately co-opted by Nixon) were driven “by their authoritarianism, feelings of political powerlessness, and racial prejudice.” Sound familiar?
Trump has given these people a voice. And, in return, they have given him their undying loyalty. So what happens when Mueller provides irrefutable evidence of corruption, abuse of power and conspiring with the enemy? We already know the Republican Party will do nothing beyond a few tweets expressing their concern -- they are so in the tank for Trump and have been so willing to put party over country that it is folly to think that anything Mueller finds will be enough for them to actually act.
So, of course, Democrats must take back the House and maybe even the Senate to restore some semblance of democracy to at least one branch of the government. And then perhaps, finally, an investigation with subpoena power, bolstered by Mueller's findings, can be undertaken that hopefully won't be thwarted by Trump-nominated judges. But then what?
Trump has thoroughly degraded our democracy with his constant lying, the commingling of his personal, family and business interests with those of the government, his relentless attacks on legitimate media, and his aggressive efforts to undermine the Russia investigation. He has created a cult of personality for a wide enough swath of the country that his demise -- whether by being frog-marched out of the White House or by failing to win re-election -- will be seen as the product of a "witch hunt" or a "rigged" political process. Or, worse, the work of the Clintons. Will they accept it peacefully? Or will they take to the streets with their guns and tiki torches?
There has long been an assumption that our government, our democracy is strong enough to withstand bad electoral choices, that there is a pendulum that will swing back from the brink of disaster. After all, we survived Nixon and Reagan and Bush II. Will we survive Trump?