Now that President Donald Trump has officially survived impeachment, without even having to endure a real trial, and with only one current Republican (Thank you, Mitt Romney!) willing to stand up against him at any point in the process, it is important to understand how this outrageous and dangerous outcome came to be. This is the case even though there were some people, like me, who predicted back when the Ukrainian scandal first broke, and then again when impeachment became inevitable, that this is exactly how it was all going to turn out.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 reasons why justice was not remotely done, to a level almost as horrific as the O.J. Simpson murder trial (yes, there are some legitimate similarities):
Media Fragmentation: Many Trump critics kept hoping, much like with Richard Nixon in 1974, that public opinion would eventually force Republicans to remove Trump. (Since, unlike Nixon, everyone knows Trump would never have the class to resign). Because of the dramatic media fragmentation since then, however, this was always a fantasy. Unlike Trump, Nixon did not have essentially state-run media outlets like Fox News, talk radio, or the right-wing Internet to protect his supporters from “Fake News!”
Mainstream Media’s Lost Credibility: Not only did Trump benefit from having his own state-run media complex, but in comparison to Nixon’s time, the liberal mainstream media has not only lost massive portions of their audience, but also most of their credibility. It should never be forgotten that much of what Trump is able to get away with is because half the country does not believe ANYTHING they hear about him from non-“conservative” sources. This reality was decades in the making, but was cemented, probably forever, when the news media openly cheered Barack Obama on to two election wins, and through all eight years of his presidency.
Mueller’s Disastrous Testimony: It is more than symbolic that the most dramatic moment of this scandal, the phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, occurred the day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s disastrous testimony on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. While the fact that Russia benefited from the whole scandal should have heightened the damage done to Trump, the reality that Mueller’s investigation was misperceived by Republicans as a total nothing burger actually helped Trump by creating the false impression that Democrats were just out to impeach him no matter what. (When, given that Trump may have committed more dramatically impeachable offenses in that scandal than with Ukraine, the truth was exactly the opposite).
The Loss of John McCain, Charles Krauthammer, and Shepard Smith: If there was ever going to be traction for right-leaning people to approve of Trump being removed there needed to be some “cover” for those who might have been inclined to do so. Politically, any chance of the cover developing died with the late Sen. John McCain, and the ensuing Trumpification of his phony best friend Sen. Lindsay Graham. On the media side, the death of the great Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer and the resignation there of Shepard Smith ended any hope of other major Fox personalities being shamed into telling the truth (Chris Wallace and Andrew Napolitano just weren’t enough to accomplish that Herculean job.)
The Modern Politician’s Definition of Self-interest: I doubt that our politicians were ever really as character-driven as we would like to believe that they once were, but there is also no doubt that doing the right thing just out of principle has never had less currency than it does today. When once our leaders seemed willing to lay down their lives for what they believed in, today, even asking them to endure a nasty tweet from President Trump is too much to ask. Because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running for re-election this year, he was never going to allow anything bad to happen to Trump. He, like every other Republican in the Senate, values his cushy gig way more than preventing his grandchildren from some day living in a monarchy, or worse.
America’s Short Attention Span: As proven by the fact that Twitter has become the most dominant form of political communication, we are no longer a substantive country. We need to be constantly entertained, and the stakes of the game have to be high. For a variety of reasons, the Ukraine scandal was simply not that compelling by today’s standards. Most Americans could not find the country on a map and, because the military aide eventually went through after the scheme was disrupted, there was really “no harm, no foul.” As outrageous and dangerous as what Trump and his cronies did was, no Americans (other than a few “deep staters”) had their lives negatively impacted by the whole fiasco.
Result as Foregone Conclusion: Because everyone knew that Republicans were never going to oust their own king, the lack of drama caused by the forgone conclusion created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without drama, the audience size for the hearings was greatly reduced, therefore cutting down on the chances that public opinion could change enough to force Republicans to act as something more than the paid-off jurors of a rigged trial.
Trump Desensitization: The most underrated weapon in Trump’s arsenal was that he creates so much chaos and outrage that people literally can’t remember everything he has done, and any specific scandal loses its ability to create a sustained reaction. Like new parents of twin babies, we are all so desensitized to Trump’s poop that even when we are knee-deep in it, the mess and ensuing stench no longer has much of an impact.
Trump Cult Was Built For This Purpose: Since literally the day he announced he was running for president, Trump has strategically and systematically built a “Cult 45” following which was designed specifically to endure an attack of this sort. That is why he created the terms “Fake News!” and “Deep State,” so that his core support would never be vulnerable to believing anything bad about him. Once he transformed at least 70% of the Republican Party into a cult, he was untouchable because any Republican who dared to go against him would be committing instant political suicide.
Luck and Timing: Fulfilling the adage that it is better to be lucky than good, Trump’s run of extraordinary good fortune continued in this scandal. Not only did the whistleblower actually save him because the scheme was aborted before it came to fruition (and, it should be pointed out, would have made him EXTREMELY vulnerable to blackmail from Ukraine closer to the actual election), but the timing of all of this could not have been less conducive to removing him from office. Because this is an election year, Republicans were even more unlikely to go along with impeachment, and the Democrats’ obvious rush to get impeachment done before 2020 began gave Trump more than enough ammunition to discredit the process among those who never wanted to believe any of it to begin with.
John Ziegler is a senior columnist for Mediaite. He hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at [email protected]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.