Why didn’t impeachment work with Donald Trump? Perhaps the U.S. could have copied South Korea, a nation that seemed to have gotten it right with the peaceful removal of ex-President Park Geun-hye. But the recipe to impeachment often involves a special ingredient that we don’t want to admit we have to use.
Now please excuse my long New Yorker style wind-up to my main point.
In 2016-2017, Koreans protested every weekend during the frigid winter to impeach the corrupt President Park Geun-hye. Yes, it was peaceful, successful and they even cleaned up Gwanghwamun Square afterwards so where’s my gripe? Not enough attention was given to the secret sauce: jealousy.
Just like people pretending to eat more vegetables than they really do, we like to pat ourselves on the back by saying South Korea is an advanced democratic nation. It certainly is trending in the right direction in fits and starts. Betting on South Korea’s future is a solid move.
But for thoughts of regime change to occur, enough people need to believe their physical life, their freedom and their ability to create a better life have been unfairly taken away. And it only takes a tip of the hat to move a feeling that life’s not fair to the action-oriented emotion of jealousy.
Impeachment worked in 2017 because for consensus of that kind of massive change, you have to ask for the cooperation of some very strong dysfunctional societal forces of society. But this funk (dysfunction) is what makes the impeachment recipe work.
So don’t try the glossy brochure version of impeachment at home. Failure may result in your doom. So tread carefully, dear activist.
Taking a deep dive into the South Korean case, here’s my secret recipe for impeaching a president.
INGREDIENTS & DIRECTIONS:
- Seasoning: The president must have a backlog of injustices that were brushed off, rationalized or forced upon the public. His or her enemies and political opposition now have moral authority, but not majority of public opinion. The president’s power base is still supporting him/her. But there’s flavor waiting to be unleashed. You can feel it.
- Hubris: The president and more importantly his cronies start to piss everyone off, even those within his own team and political establishment. It’s their abuse of power fueled by their inferiority complexes. It’s not just his enemies anymore who are judging. Everyone in the know is getting irritated that people in power are acting childish. The oven is pre-heating.
- Public Fight: This is when hubris moves behind closed doors and into the public square when the president or his cronies actively fight with major power brokers that once supported him. The voters take notice that there’s a fight between mom and dad. The president’s image of providing his power base with what they need seems to be threatened. The water is boiling.
- Supporters Find Plates Empty: In an effort to win the public fight, the president violates his supporters’ understanding of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and/or money. Or it’s revealed he’s been doing this all along in an area his supporters suddenly care about. They start to notice they never got what was promised and only those at the top are getting fed. In Korea, the line was crossed when it was revealed that the president’s best friend used her association and had unwarranted power: getting a building in ritzy Gangnam, getting her daughter into a prestigious university (despite being unqualified) and shaking down conglomerates for money. This is a double helping of jealousy for this recipe.
- Impeachment is Served: This violation of life, liberty and pursuit must be at the intersection of function and dysfunction to hit the impeachment sweet spot. Because nations vary on what they will put up with versus what is absolutely unacceptable, this sweet spot will vary country by country in shocking ways. In all other areas of the recipe, ‘people are same all around the world’. But in this stage, you will see how culture, history and structure shapes what line may not be crossed in each nation. Now you have moral authority and public majority. Each dish has its own unique flavor. It wasn’t that the president let children die on a sinking ferry. Apparently there’s an acceptable loss of life for the greater good still at play. But when you mess with people’s hope for investment, their dream of educating their kids and their fantasy of also getting easy money through bribes? That’s when everyone gets hangry and starts chomping at the bit for justice.
In order to bring impeachment to its full conclusion, you have to have the secret sauce that I like to call the intersection between function and dysfunction.
What is function? The rational argument that upholds the values that you think your society is based upon. It’s the good girl image that needs to be protected. In Korea, it was a case of a president abusing her power.
What is dysfunction? The actual bad girl that drives the ultimate behavior like when she doesn’t want to admit she acted out of jealousy. Remember in Korea, a significant portion of the population was willing to accept that the president essentially allowed the drowning of hundreds of citizens.
You have to admit that there is a critical portion of voters who are comfortable with injustice. Or their version of justice differs from yours. Instead of eroding your values to match theirs, understand their values and speak to how they’re being violated… on a grand scale. For the base that was still clinging to the president and was okay with the collateral damage of seeing their own countrymen betrayed and left to die in a sinking ferry as the coast guard was watching right next to it, arguing against corruption in the government is not going to appeal to them. They have a built-in budget for ‘blunders’ and people getting hurt in the name of ‘progress’. But once that progress doesn’t include them or if they see that progress go to someone else when they feel like they deserve it… well, now we’re getting to the secret sauce.
let school children drown? Well, we all make ‘mistakes’. president’s best friend gets an office building and her kid into college by cheating?
oh, hell no.
So how does this apply to America? It’s all about the base. The Base. For Trump voters, the secret sauce is white power. No matter how much they get impoverished by Republican policies, reinforcing white power allows them to survive. Their false self is fed. The unfair advantages stay alive. Liberals need to stop saying those on the other side are just unaware or ignorant. They know exactly what agenda they’re pursuing: white power.
As long as Trump never betrays his promise to those clinging to white power, he will have enough of the public still on his side. And he knows it. That’s why the U.S. impeachment attempt didn’t have the secret sauce. Disaffected whites are jealous but they have a leader who can soothe these feelings and give them hope. For them, hope springs eternal with Trump. Hope is all many of them have in this rapidly shifting world. Perhaps if this pandemic roars out of control, then people will finally face the truth that maintaining a false self based on white power is useless if your real self dies from disease. But even then, people will be willing to give their lives for an identity. And that leaves us with the tough truth of how the sausage is made: until you know how to properly cook impeachment, your best bet is to vote.