Last week, the much-anticipated Special Counsel Report was released and every pundit devoted plenty of time to talk about it. No matter who you listened to, the interpretation of the report was probably drastically different from that of someone else, which isn’t surprising given the polarized state of American politics. However, what we got wasn’t a slam dunk for either Republicans or Democrats, but a nuanced document on a complex issue. Nevertheless, its in the time preceding the next election.
Before analyzing the report, I’ll try to briefly summarize the key points (a full copy of the report can be found here). Mueller’s report concluded that although Russia did try to influence the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor, the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russian government to achieve this outcome, although several campaign officials did become uncomfortably close to foreign nationals and in certain cases, engaged in criminal behavior that did not amount to collusion. Furthermore, once formal investigations were initiated, President Trump came dangerously close to meddling with them, but once again his actions were not enough to be considered obstruction of justice. In short, the Mueller probe revealed embarrassing and troubling behavior, but also made it clear that Trump was neither a traitor nor a present-day Richard Nixon.
However, because the report leaves plenty of questions unanswered (some of which may never be definitively answerable) and because few will actually read it, we are bound to hear the left and right spin it in whatever way will best suit their narratives. Many Democrats will undoubtedly use the report as grounds for impeachment; we’ve already seen several contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination say exactly this. Furthermore, there have been calls to hold perhaps dozens of congressional hearings on matters pertaining to the report to dig up more dirt on Trump. However, if Democrats care at all about their integrity, they’d stop these efforts. The truth is the report clearly stated there was no collusion and there wasn’t enough evidence for obstruction of justice; so, ignoring these conclusions and pushing for impeachment reveals you don’t care about truth and are only keeping the scandal alive because it supposedly benefits you politically. Furthermore, Democrats need to ask themselves if this narrative works well in a general election. The Democratic base will no doubt support impeaching Trump and investigating every action he’s ever taken, but they already hate Trump anyway and Trump supporters are not going to abandon him because of the Mueller Report or Democratic calls for more investigation. As for the few moderate voters left in the country, one would assume they’re turned off by naked displays of partisanship and won’t vote for an intensely partisan candidate. This is why Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who have tried to avoid impeaching Trump, are choosing the wiser course. In other words, one of the most off-putting things about the Trump era is the frequent lies and divisiveness; Democrats will do themselves no favors if their message in 2020 sits on those same concepts.
Republicans are rightfully happy that the President is not a criminal or traitor, however they’d be mistaken to only pay attention to the report’s bottom line. The truth is the President did engage in some highly embarrassing borderline illegal behavior and surrounded himself with several incompetent and scummy individuals. Now it’s true that Trump isn’t unique in his ability to produce scandal; all the presidents who came before him have engaged in shady behavior as well, but it’s also true that if GOP voters had done a better job evaluating candidate strengths and weaknesses a couple years ago, they may have avoided nominating someone who seems incapable of handling legitimate controversies in an acceptable way. Trump can complain about a biased media all he wants and his complaints are largely justified, but he and other Republicans knew they’d be up against that to begin with. Secondly, Trump seems uniquely capable of amplifying controversies and thus greatly harming himself. Wouldn’t it have been better to nominate someone who didn’t have such a propensity to shoot himself in the foot? Also, on an even more serious note, the Mueller investigation details that the Russian effort to interfere with the 2016 election was far and wide. Their attempts went beyond internet trolls on social media; the Russians were able to organize entire pro-Trump rallies attended by hundreds of unsuspecting Americans. The seriousness of this blatant attempt to undermine our republic should not be lost on any American, including die-hard Trump supporters. As of now, many Republicans recognize this and are taking measures to prevent it from happening again. The Trump administration has also tacitly recognized the threat, but it’s still clear that the commander-in-chief does not want to acknowledge the full extent of the threat. Republicans need to keep the pressure on him to maintain the validity of our elections.
In the broader interpretation of things, the Mueller Report reveals plenty about the present dynamics of American politics, particularly polarization. Every American should be relieved to know the President did not collude with a foreign government to win an election, yet many Democrats seem disappointed and in denial because it doesn’t fit their narrative. Likewise, all Americans should be happy that the commander-in-chief did not engage in obstruction of justice. On the other hand, Republicans and Democrats alike should demand better behavior on behalf of their elected officials when they act in the way Trump has, yet many Republicans are going to try to sweep everything under the carpet. Furthermore, all should work to avoid another episode of foreign interference in our elections, but again, it is doubtful whether the response will be adequate. However, we will never get appropriate responses to this or any other polarizing issue until we step away from tribalistic political tendencies and come together as Americans united in common purpose. It’s perfectly healthy to have strong and differing opinions, but when your ideological opponents become your sworn enemies, the state of your country and the effectiveness of your government will inevitably decline.
Jacob Marie is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.