Although the Michael Cohen case isn’t referred to as “Trumpgate,” nor is Stormy Daniel’s surname Lewinsky, the shady dealings of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign are increasingly reminiscent of the long and winding road to disgrace and downfall that his predecessors, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, followed in the 70s and 90s.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, a specialist in “solving problems” to take a phrase from Quentin Tarantino, admitted to the FBI that he paid two women to hide their relationships with the candidate, and Paul Manafort, the chief of Trump’s turbulent campaign, has been convicted of eight financial crimes. He may have to negotiate his situation and his sentence by telling Special Counsel Robert Mueller what’s true and what’s false regarding Russian support for the president’s campaign. All the elements are in place for a large-scale crisis that is creating uncertainty and bewilderment outside of the United States, but not so much within this country, whose institutions — the press included — have often put politicians, senior officials, congressmen and presidents on the ropes throughout the country’s history.
Now Trump’s case, a few weeks before the congressional midterm election campaigns begin, brings together a sex scandal and possibly a federal crime: fraudulent tampering with the electoral process. Both issues are viscerally repugnant to the morals of the conservative Republican voter and the political ethics of any traditional American Democrat, whomever he may vote for. It also expands the list of the candidate’s collaborators who committed illegal acts or made false statements. Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and now Manafort and Cohen. Almost all of the president’s campaign men have followed in the footsteps of the Watergate spies who stole information from the Democratic Party to benefit Richard Nixon’s re-election.
The midterm elections are going to take a toll on the president. The Democrats will take advantage of their rivals’ weaknesses, and the Republicans who have any chance of being elected are going to distance themselves from Trump to save themselves, and take a position as they face a 2020 election that may not feature the incumbent as a candidate. All sides are aware that, although we may find it unbelievable, American democracy can in fact advance without a strong president. It can’t advance, however, without well-defined interests that are clearly presented to the electorate and defended legitimately.