Protests won’t stop Trump derailing Mueller Inquiry; Putting the Left in Congress Will

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The broad hints Trump gave Monday that the search of his personal attorney’s offices on a tip from Robert Mueller might lead him to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has galvanized the American left, which is pledging massive public rallies in response.

Public protests and rallies are great if they get people involved, but in and of themselves they are not enough. There were massive anti-war protests in spring of 2003, perhaps the biggest in American history, but they did not stop the invasion and occupation of Iraq by Bush-Cheney and their Big Oil backers. The beginning of the end of the US occupation of Iraq came only in 2006, when the Republicans lost the midterms and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield (ripe for investigatory Congressional hearings) was forced from office. The nail in the coffin of the occupation came in 2008 when the Blue Wave turned the GOP into a rump regional party of the Old Confederacy.

The lesson is that protests in and of themselves do not alter the course of affairs. Electing decision-makers does.

If you think Trump should be impeached, you have to work to have the Democratic Party take over both chambers of Congress. Moreover, you have to use primaries to weed out the Establishment dead wood and put in the Democratic Socialists of America caucus within the Democratic Party. Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi are not going to impeach Trump.

When I give public talks around the country, people often ask me, in some puzzlement, what they can do to change things. I tell them to get involved in politics. In midterms, it is not unusual for only a third of the population to vote. That was how the Tea Party took over Congress in 2010 and hobbled President Obama permanently from accomplishing virtually any of his legislative agenda. The Tea Party was billed as a grass roots movement, but it was a covert operation of a few far right wing billionaires, who were afraid Obama would raise their taxes to pay for universal health insurance. They have gone a good way toward reversing Obama’s steps in that direction, and managed instead to accomplish the largest give-away of wealth to the upper crust in American history, just a couple of months ago.

But if you look into it, the billionaires didn’t spend that much money on hobbling Obama and putting in Trump.

The money of a handful of cranky old white rich people is only efficacious because everybody else is playing couch potato and moaning at the television screen.

If they did not donate money to a campaign, they don’t have a right to moan.

Going to your town square and protesting will have zero effect if you don’t give money to a candidate, walk the neighborhood ringing doorbells for her, and get out the vote.

Public hopes for a Blue Wave in November could well be overblown. Most states allow partisan state legislatures to draw the electoral lines, allowing them to set up the voting districts in ways that favor the incumbent party. This skewing of electoral districts is an old practice going back to the nineteenth century, called gerrymandering because some of the districts were so complicated they looked like a salamander. The majority of the bad gerrymandering in the past couple of decades has been carried out by Republican legislators, as in Texas, where they split Democratic Austin into eight districts and attached a rural Republican majority to each, effectively disenfranchising Austin’s Democrats.

Some states, like California, have gone to a non-partisan commission system for setting districts. Get a pledge from your state representative to support such a change.

There is increasing evidence of a significant Russian trolling operation in the 2016 election, but that is unlikely to have been decisive.

What was decisive is that 38.6% of the electorate did not vote. Specifically there was a 7% decline in the African-American vote from 2012, a drop of 750,000 or so. Some of those stay-at-homes were in Detroit, and if they had come out Trump would not have won Michigan.

I am not blaming them. They clearly were not invigorated to vote by the Democratic campaign that Podesta and Clinton ran.

What I am saying is that if you want a Blue Wave in November, you can’t get it unless you bring back out those missing 750,000 African-American voters. Which means you need Democratic candidates who will address their problems.

You could argue to them that Jeff Sessions is one of their big problems.

In general, in the United States eligible voters from families of four making $40,000 a year or less have just checked out of the political system and mostly don’t vote.

This outcome is not inevitable. In India, in contrast, the poor do vote, which is why even the right wing in India often sound like Western sociaists.

Overcoming the massive GOP gerrymandering in places like Texas and Wisconsin will require reaching out to those disprivileged populations who ordinarily don’t vote. That endeavor will not happen unless you, personally, join in and give of your time, money and effort.

A march is a pleasant Saturday afternoon with friends. It is emotionally satisfying. But it is only a beginning, and unless you get political , then the Trumpies will go on getting their way.

By the way, if Trump gets rid of Rosenstein and finds someone in the DOJ to fire Mueller, then Mueller’s investigation is likely over with. Entirely. All the threads of potential wrongdoing he unraveled would just sit there in files save for the indictments he has already brought. The investigation of Trump’s private attorney, Michael Cohen, will continue, since that inquiry is being conducted by the US Attorney’s office for southern New York, ironically by a Trump appointee who replaced Preet Bharara, who was fired to stop this sort of thing from happening.

But Trump really could just deep-six the Mueller investigation.

And there would be nothing anyone could do about it as long as the GOP has both houses of Congress.

Standing in the streets chanting won’t change that outcome. Canvassing for a genuinely Left candidate this fall could.


PS: Informed Comment is not a 501(c)3 nonprofit precisely because they are forbidden from taking partisan positions such as the one in this essay. Apparently lack of this tax deductible status hurts our annual fundraiser. If you like Informed Comment, remember to donate, since it is almost completely reader supported (the occasional ads don’t amount to much).


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

CNN: “Source: Trump considering firing Rod Rosenstein”

15 Responses

  1. And another huge Thank You Juan, for this contribution.

    I stood on street corners for at least a dozen campaigns and candidates, from the ’60’s to the ’00’s. Over 50% will never talk to you whatsoever. Of those who will, everybody has a favorite celebrity they’d like to see as President — but if it’s a problem that needs the attention of a city councilor or a state legislator, hardly anyone can care. No one who’s even 5 feet outside a city or state office-boundary can care about that district, and even in the district there’s only 30% or so who can care about local races.

    The answer is to organize, organize and organize some more. In my writings elsewhere I’ve argued for a strategy of organizing both within and outside of the Democratic Party.

  2. I agree with you Juan that we need to vote, but I think public protests and response can have a powerful effect – just look at those great students from Parkland.

    There is a movement ( to take to the streets within 24 hours of any mischief with Mueller or DOJ by Trump – you can cut and paste the following link to sign up, which I did this morning, and you can send the link to friends.

    Go to:

    link to

    If possible, it would be great to have a movement, state by state, to occupy the home offices of every GOP member of the House – and not leave until they fulfill their constitutional obligation as a check on a lawless president.

    • Not against protests. Been to a few myself. But Parkland students have not changed one national law, and unless we have a whole different Congress, there is no prospect of them doing so.

  3. I am a reader and a regular re-poster of the pieces on your blog, yours and others. I am mostly with you in the intent of this piece, but not completely. Your prescription of “cleaning out the deadwood,” is rather general. I have in my politics, studies and talks become more precise. I’ll give an example. In Michigan, for governor, there is a moderate Dem, perhaps in your mind, “deadwood,” certainly to some DSA folks that I know, and there is the DSA candidate. SHE is a Dem from a predominantly white, suburban district who has been elected many times and now in her late 40’s, an attorney, has risen in the state legislature to become the Senate Minority Leader. She is liberal, not DSA. Her DSA endorsed opponent is a first time doctor, a young man who has headed the Detroit city Health Department for a few years. That’s it. Nice guy. Endorses Medicare for All. Not ever run or elected to anything. We have a hated Republican governor who might be succeeded by another hated Republican Teaparty guy. Yet the DSA folks are attacking the woman as too moderate, not in with Bernie, etc. We have a real opportunity to win. It takes a powerful mix of folks, a large coalition to win state offices. She is gaining those elements, step by step. He still has his small crowd. “Cleaning out the deadwood,” is a good idea. It’s like “draining the swamp,” on the left. If 2016 taught us anything, it suggests that we need to be careful about what we say and much more precise about who we target. “Cleaning out the deadwood” strikes me as launching a drone strike and not really caring about who is in the house. I enjoy your blog and your other contributors and look forward to doing so in the future.

    • Yes. Making the entire Dem “establishment” (whatever that is) the enemy is a recipe for failure. And yes, voting and supporting candidates is the best shot at political power. The most progressive ELECTABLE candidate is the one to support.

  4. Yes, yes and yes.

    People need to get off their duffs and head to the polls come Election Day. The rightwing won this last election because too many people who ought to have known better decided to forego the vote – they couldn’t be bothered or were steamed that Bernie lost and were just too “pure” to vote for Hillary. Or they were sucked by Russian bots and reactionary strategists to waste their votes on the wacko 3rd party candidates.

    This time let’s get smart about this. If the Democratic candidate fails to live up to your dreams of perfection, vote for them anyway – and then hold their feet to the fire to get them to improve. But for Pete’s sake, let’s not imagine we’ll get out of our current mess without changing the current composition of Congress.

    Now, it’s on us.

    • I admit to being a whacko who voted for a 3rd Party candidate.
      But there is another type of voter who voted 3rd Party: the ones who assessed the character and promise of each candidate, and then voted for the best one.
      If you vote for the lesser of 2 evils, you are still voting for evil.

      • You are describing the entire history of democracy. George Washington had his evils, it’s just that no one ran against him. Lincoln was viewed as a lesser evil by many (only getting 35% of the vote in a four-party field). So was Franklin Roosevelt.

        So why did society progress despite these flawed leaders? And why do societies at other times go bad regardless of the good intentions of those in charge?

  5. brother Cole… please.

    since before i could vote, folks have counseled reliance on the moderate wing of the slave-owners party. the few gains the left has made since the end of the 19th century, have been the result of movements in the street. the right to vote for women and African Americans? by definition could not be won by voting. industrial unions? if anything, reliance on the “friends/backstabbers of labor” has deep sixed that movement. the end of the war in Vietnam…credit goes to the sacrifice the Vietnamese were willing to make with a supporting credit to the world wide anti-war movement .

    as Malcolm X told us: It is the system itself that, that is incapable of producing freedom for the twenty-two million Afro-Americans. Just like a chicken can’t lay a duck egg…a chicken can’t lay a duck egg, because the system of the chicken isn’t constructed in the way to produce a duck egg. And just as that chicken system can’t produce, is not capable to, of producing a duck egg, the political and economic system of this country is absolutely incapable of producing freedom and justice and equality and human dignity for the twenty-two million Afro-Americans

    we, the wage slaves cannot put our eggs in the care of the slave master’s party.

  6. Muller could just share all of his files with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Almost every indictable offense Trump and his croney’s have committed was committed in New York State and so is under Schneiderman’s jurisdiction.

    All of the money laundering with Trump condo’s, Taxi services, Russian mobsters in Brooklyn and Russian Oligarch’s buying condo’s. All of their crimes happened in New York.

  7. If the left thinks Trump will care if they protest, they need to get a grip. Trump doesn’t care about anything except himself and how to stay where he is. Protestors are of no consequence to him. He believes he knows better and with Fox egging him on, there will be no change.

    Even if there were tens of millions in every major city in the U.S.A. protesting Trump still would stick to his “agenda”. people who protest can’t do anything to him. Now he might send the military to deal with them, taking the position they are revolting against the government but that is about it. Then expect to see a repeat of Kent State, except on a much bigger scale.

    Trump and his billionaire supporters are only interested in money and remaining on the top of the heap.

    • What those tens of millions in every major city do have the power to do is paralyze the American economy. But they’d have to devote their lives to it 24/7, until yet another Republican speculative bubble finally collapses at the spectacle of ordinary people refusing to buy goods from the major Wall Street corporations. Basically, the oligarchy keeps Trump in power. When they panic, anything might happen.

  8. It’s a fair guess that the Donald’s priorities are
    1. Avoid impeachment at least until mid-term elections
    2. Win mid-term election (however you define that)
    3. Set sights on 2020 and a second term.
    Whatever he does, however crazy, unexpected or whatever, will fit with these personal priorities.

  9. Trump will attack Syria and the DOJ, simultaneously because he NEEDS his 24/7 media cascade to feel worthy.

    Both attacks will result in massive collateral damage(s) both here and in Syria.

    All to show off his gangster abilities for Putin and to please “The Base.🐖🐑”

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