A Time of Testing for FBI Deputy Director McCabe and for the Country

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is in an unenviable position. Subject to a partisan witch hunt by Republicans eager to discredit the FBI investigation into Trump, McCabe is facing enormous pressure from all sides. Fox News is pushing for his ouster, and Republicans in Congress smell an opportunity to create a distracting scapegoat. It’s no surprise, then, that he is looking forward to an early exit once his pension vests, even as Trump mocks him publicly and threatens his retirement. Who could blame him?

But he might want to reconsider. Duty to country should stay his hand. The next 11 months will be a testing ground for the entire nation. The president knows the upcoming midterm elections will likely doom his hopes of legislative victories–an ugly prospect for a president with terrible approval ratings and very little to show for his first year in office. Trump knows the walls of Mueller’s probe are closing in around him as well, which could mean not only the end of his presidency but even the destruction of his financial empire.

A cornered animal is a desperate one. Unfortunately, Trump is not the only one facing the pressure. The Republican Party is also dangerously desperate. Despite holding control of nearly every level of state and federal power, Republicans have achieved their successes through one part dumb luck and one part temporary structural manipulation of democracy. The GOP has lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections, salvaged only by fortunate and unsustainable electoral college wins. Their House and many of their state legislative majorities rest on the back of aggressive gerrymandering that may be obliterated after the next census, and that cannot stand up to demographic changes regardless. Only the anti-majoritarian Senate combined with the filibuster will save Republicans over time as long as democracy continues to flourish in America. This is why Trump, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon are so desperate to enact anti-immigrant policies: it’s not just a matter of racism, but of political survival.

Republicans will therefore defend Trump with all their strength, simply because they must. Having tied themselves to Trump’s base and his cult of personality, they cannot afford to hang Trump out to dry and throw away two elections to concentrate on rebuilding. If they lose the elections that determine post-census redistricting, they will not be a party capable of sustaining a majority given four more years of demographic drift.

All of which means that the next eleven months will be an incredibly dangerous time for the country. Both Trump and the Republican Party will be sorely tempted to circumvent accountability for the president’s likely crimes, to appoint a bevy of judges and enact radical policies designed to tie the hands of progressives for a generation, and to enact voter suppression schemes to mitigate future electoral disasters. They may even be tempted to scuttle democracy itself in order to protect plutocracy, patriarchy, and white Christian supremacy from a rising generation of diverse, secular and more economically progressive voters.

Public servants like FBI Deputy Director McCabe will be directly in the line of fire as Trump and the Republicans attempt to subvert and destroy democratic institutions. Their resolve will be severely tested. Many of them are Republicans who may not ideologically align with even center-left much less progressive politics. But insofar as possible, they must try to endure through the 2018 and 2020 elections for the sake of the country they serve. America is a two-party system that seeks equilibrium with an impatient electorate, and if Democrats do storm to wave victories they won’t hold power forever. But this version of the Republican Party must be disempowered for good.

It’s difficult to ask, but it’s vital that all of us–citizens, activists and public servants of decency regardless of ideology–stand together and endure the coming onslaught. This moment is our time of testing, and we must not disappoint.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.