Never one to pass up an opportunity to squirt lighter fluid on a bonfire, longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone revived a threat we have heard on and off again from practically the day the 45th president took office, that impeaching Trump would touch off a second Civil War:
“The people who are calling for impeachment are the people who didn’t vote for him. They need to get over it,” Stone said to TMZ in an airport baggage claim.
“They lost. Their candidate had every advantage: They spent two billion dollars, we spent $275 million. Sorry, we whipped their ass. It is over. You lost.”
He added, warning: “Try to impeach him. Just try it. You will have a spasm of violence – an insurrection – in this country like you have never seen before… Both sides are heavily armed, my friend.”
The idea that a move to impeach Donald Trump would amount to an effort to reverse the 2016 election results is a familiar one, as Gene Healey noted earlier this summer:
“Hysterical critics of President Donald Trump are leaping to impeachment as a way to reverse an election they have yet to accept,” the conservative Manchester Union-Leader complains.
But some of the president’s defenders are every bit as overwrought as the resistance. There’s a specter haunting America, they charge: a vast left-wing conspiracy determined to dethrone the Donald. “I fear we’re witnessing nothing less than a coup attempt against a lawfully elected government,” Dinesh D’Souza warns. Singing from the same hymnal, Gary Bauer, Tom Tancredo, Ben Stein, Lou Dobbs and others have joined the “coup”-crying chorus.
There’s one rather obvious problem with the hypothesis that a presidential impeachment would take us all back to the dark days when it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to become commander-in-chief. Removing Trump from office via the impeachment process would not make Clinton his successor: that would be his handpicked running mate Mike Pence, who has not uttered a public word dissenting from anything the Boss has done. And if Pence somehow went down with the Trumpian ship, the other 16 people in the constitutional line of succession are members of Trump’s Republican Party. There’s nary a liberal or even a RINO in the group, so far as I can tell.
You could even argue pretty convincingly that impeaching and removing Trump would be very adverse to the short- and long-term interests of the Democratic Party. Why make some conventional Republican like Pence or Paul Ryan (the next in line) who has not bragged about sexual assaults or embraced racists or cozied up to Vladimir Putin or gone crazy on social media a sitting president? What horrendous public-sector policies or congressional initiatives would impeaching Trump torpedo? Why squander the opportunity to reap electoral benefits from a good backlash against Trump?
If you turn all these questions around and ask why Republicans would regard the impeachment of Trump (assuming, of course, there were explicit grounds for undertaking it, which there would be) as justifying an actual bloody civil war, it becomes apparent what a cult of personality the man has built for himself. He has adopted most of the standard policy positions of conservative Republicans, who have (with a few exceptions) loyally lined up in support of their new chieftain. If he were to resign tomorrow or be impeached tomorrow, there would be howls of triumph and relief and anger and despair, but probably no big change in the direction of the country (in the short term, anyway). And thus no reason for Roger Stone’s friends to bring out the shooting irons and start trying to kill the cops and soldiers who would inevitably be brought in to restore the peace.