And so we approach the inflection point: Donald Trump, the 45th (P)resident of the United States, will soon be impeached in the House of Representatives.
Whether or not he will be removed from office falls to the Senate, where the Democratic caucus must find 19 votes among the chamber’s 53 Republican members to convict Trump. Given our unprecedented polarization, that’s clearly a tall order.
But I’m not here to talk about impeachment. I’m here to talk about inflection points.
It is still remotely possible — if the evidence proves clear-cut and incontrovertible — that Trump could be removed from office before the election. But even if Trump is acquitted by his party’s Senate majority, impeachment will likely provide the decisive inflection point that determines our future direction. As a nation. As a people. As a planet.
Inflection is about collision: Great forces in motion, visible yet impossible to measure and model with predictive precision, crash into each other.
And it is that collision that fascinates me, because let’s be honest: It isn’t Trump on trial, but four decades of Republican rot. Reagan’s revolution in 1980 countered a weary liberal establishment with its roots in the Great Depression and the election of 1932. Forty-nine years later, Reagan’s rhetoric of greater freedom via smaller government rings hollow as we slouch towards mass-mediated fascism.
This isn’t what Reagan had in mind, but I was around for that election, and there were plenty of Democrats sounding the alarm. Remove these safeguards, they said, and the wealthy will grow more powerful, greedy and corrupt until our country is again in crisis, as we were at the end of the Gilded Age, as we were again in 1929.
We mocked them for decades. Today they look prescient.
So historical forces will soon smash together, and whether or not Trump is removed from office by the Senate, the particular angles of that collision will set the nation on a new trajectory.
It isn’t difficult to imagine many futures spinning out of that event, some terrifying, others hopeful.
But this is what I believe: The demise of the Trump era, whether it ends with the destruction of our Republic or the re-invigoration of our principles, is unlikely to produce a quick return to comfortable normalcy.
If the crash results in the GOP consolidating its anti-democratic power, we’ll continue down this dark and dangerous road. If the post-impeachment Republican Party implodes in the 2020 election, an opportunity for progressive reform and rapid transformation may appear. Neither of these extreme options will feel comfortable or normal.
At every point along the continuum between those futures lie alternate paths, and few of them appear easy. Given the challenges that face our nation and our planet, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our planet is also at an inflection point, and we face hard choices if we want humanity to survive the 21st century.
These are the interesting times the ancient Chinese warned us about. As this historic inflection point draws ever closer, we’re all about to become active — if often unwilling — participants in whatever future it creates. What on earth will we make of it?