Illustrious Conservative New York Times thinkfluencer and friend of Thermidor Ross Douthat is certainly no stranger to bad ideas. He spent most of 2016 ripping off hot takes so bad they had to be compiled and documented in article form. Recently he's been on a column writing spree whose theme seems to have been "wacky and impractical ideas to save the republic with." And which consist mostly of, you guessed it, bold and audacious plans for new tax credits.
However, Douthat's most recent column has gone far beyond his usual schtick of liberal pop cultural analysis and tax credit advocacy, as he is now openly calling for Trump's removal via "The 25th amendment solution":
It is an argument, instead, for using a constitutional mechanism more appropriate to this strange situation than impeachment: the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for the removal of the president if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and (should the president contest his own removal) a two-thirds vote by Congress confirms the cabinet’s judgment.
The Trump situation is not exactly the sort that the amendment’s Cold War-era designers were envisioning. He has not endured an assassination attempt or suffered a stroke or fallen prey to Alzheimer’s. But his incapacity to really govern, to truly execute the serious duties that fall to him to carry out, is nevertheless testified to daily — not by his enemies or external critics, but by precisely the men and women whom the Constitution asks to stand in judgment on him, the men and women who serve around him in the White House and the cabinet.
He goes on to cite reports of chaos and backbiting within the Trump White House as proof of Trump's incompetence. Incompetence which is so great, it warrants removal via the mechanism which was designed for President's suffering from serious and legitimate illnesses.
While Trump, in some sense, is most certainly incompetent, his impulsive decision to bomb Syria (rumored to be heavily influenced by the tears and theatrics of his 30-year-old daughter) is proof enough of this reality. His inability to do much in his first 100 days also speaks to a certain, but less menacing, kind of incompetence which has more to do with lack of political experience than with actual lack of fitness. Yet these and other problems have been compounded by the fact that Trump, a man very much in need of knowledgeable and loyal advisors, has been simply unable to find them. The reasons for this lack of competent advisors is more than simple disorganization on the Trump Administration's part (although this certainly played a part.) The greatest hurdle Trump faced was that there simply aren't many Ideological Trumpists in positions of expertise and influence who would be qualified to serve in a Trump Administration (with the few who are having quickly become targets for political assassination.)
It's important to remember however that the Trumpist talent pool has been kept shallow for decades by design. The Neoconservative/ Straussian modus operandi of blackballing/marginalizing heterodox voices in the wonkish world from which administrations are staffed has ensured that even when they lose elections, as in 2016, they still win them. Trump and co have been forced to do business with this poisonous establishment simply because, like all cut throat monopolists, they had ensured there was no competition.
Much of the chaos currently gripping the White House is no doubt due to the machinations of said Neoconservatives. McMaster, in particular, comes to mind, as a particularly pernicious influence. Not only has it been reported that he has continually drawn Trump's ire over his tendency to directly undermine the President, but he is also the carrier of a profoundly dangerous Ideology. McMaster is the acolyte of David Petraeus, who is himself an acolyte of sorts to none other than Max Boot. Yes that Max Boot, the one who made an impressive #6 showing on Thermidor's own list of "Most Loathsome Neocon Bugmen."
All of these points are really tangential to Douthat's main argument, however. An argument which wasn't fully made clear in his column but which was elucidated more fully in a tweet storm he produced:
Now things have gotten really interesting, haven't they? Douthat here is making a sort of ostensibly Reactionary argument for Trump's removal based on the principle of elite privilege to decide matters which are beyond the grasp of the pleb's simple minds.
You can find this type of thinking riddled, however cryptically, throughout much of modern American conservative thought. The fear of the mob, a fascination with the manners and customs of Europe's past Aristocratic class, the exultation of the ideal of the noble statesman who dedicates himself to Aristolean virtues in order to better serve the common good etc.
Beneath much of this rhetoric is a secret wish that America's "elite" would finally, in some way, become a kind of aristocracy. Complete with Bourgeois family values, Jane Austen caliber courtship rituals and other rigorous standards of moral virtue which the lower classes would feel inclined to imitate.
However charming such naivete from the bow tie set may appear to the potentially sympathetic critics of egalitarianism and advocates of hierarchy, one must resist the temptation to take such sentiments too seriously. The error the advocates of this approach make is a categorical one. They've mistaken a group of middle managers and technocrats for potential aristocrats and worthy elites. The fact that a certain group of individuals happens to be on top in any particular society doesn't in and of itself indicate the possession of particularly refined and abundant virtues. Too often advocates of hierarchy, in their haste to signal against egalitarianism, have been too quick to embrace elitism for its own sake, regardless of how corrupt or vile the elite in question happens to be.
And America's elite is vile indeed.
Its crimes are far more than the obvious incompetence which has manifested itself in everything from the Iraq war to the 2008 financial crisis to the selling out of America's industrial base to East Asian rivals. One could easily compile a small library composed just of books documenting the current elite's failures over the past 25 years, none of which they have ever been held accountable for.
Their crimes are also far more severe than the basic fact that the members of America's elite have a rather schizophrenic understanding of their own role as elites (or rather, managers.) After all, on the one hand they claim to, at least in theory, derive their legitimacy as elites from the people. Yet they also claim the right to overrule the people when their opinions and preferences do not match up with elite desires. Either the people are sovereign or they are not, and the elites must find another foundation to rest their own legitimacy upon.
The actual crime of the group of middle managers and bugmen Douthat mistakenly thinks are "elites", his friends and colleagues, is that they have dedicated themselves to spreading an ideology which is both profoundly destructive and legitimately evil. An ideology which is, at best, a grotesque parody of the Christian faith Douthat claims to love. An ideology whose stated aims are the spread of abortion on demand (which according to the Christian faith is clearly murder,) the promotion of sodomy, including the promotion of sodomite marriage (which again, according to the Christian church fathers is equivalent to murder) the promotion of the ontological violence known as "gender ideology" which is presently being taught to children. All of this and more is promoted by this group of so-called "elites" under the guise of spreading "freedom" and "human rights", and frequently this evangelization takes place down the barrel of a gun.
These are simple facts, but you wouldn't know it by reading Douthat's thinly veiled praise of these so-called "elites." As Douthat obviously seems to think, not only that their crimes aren't that significant, but that they are also both competent and virtuous enough to relieve a sitting head of state based on nothing more than their prerogative as "elites."
The truth, contra Douthat, is that Trump, even if he is ultimately incompetent at governance, still serves an important role. Namely, as a roadblock for the Liberal "elite" Douthat seems to have such a high regard for. An elite which shouldn't be converted or preached at but rather should be liquidated as a class. And considering this class's noxious combination of incompetence and criminality, this ought to be seen as the sole possible desirable and legitimate outcome.
It is Douthat's elites, rather than Trump himself, who need to be deposed and exiled, and not because they are elites but because they are corrupt and evil ones.