Trump’s Brain in a Vat

There’s a philosophical argument dubbed “The Brain in a Vat”. If I can oversimplify it, the brain in a vat argument asks you to imagine the possibility that your brain is hooked up to a computer (like the Borg!). This computer can simulate all that we encounter in the world, including your body. The question goes: If you can’t be sure that you’re not hooked up to a computer, then you can’t rule out the possibility that all your beliefs are false, can you? In meme terms, “You can’t be a God-fearing Christian with a love of classical music if there is no God and music!”

That would all be very comforting to a lot of people right now. My Trump-supporting Facebook friends have gone dark over the last couple of weeks. Most have turned to non-issues like the removal of confederate monuments as a proxy for their character beliefs. My left-leaning Facebook friends are frothing at the mouth over this impeachment talk like it’s their first orgasm all over again.

It’s bad enough that I almost opened LinkedIn. It’s that bad.

The problem with impeachment is three-fold. First, it’s likely to take a very long time. People conveniently forget government works slow and the gears at the Bureau of Bureaucracy aren’t designed to work fast. The Nixon-era Watergate scandal took two years or more to fully play out. In that time the midterm elections happened and Republicans lost big and continued to do so. In 1974, Republicans lost 49 seats in the House 3 months into Gerald Ford’s term. I’m not sure what it would take for Republicans to move to impeach Trump and remove him from office, but I doubt they’re there yet. Remember, the Constitution only calls two items specifically and one broadly as impeachable offenses: “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors”. The last part is up to Congress to define.

The second impeachment problem is people think impeachment is removal from office. It isn’t. Impeachment is like indictments for mortals – it just means charges have been raised against you. Removal from office is a whole other process. Trump could be impeached and remain in office in the current environment.

The third issue is a Theseus paradox. If you replace all of the components of an object, is it still fundamentally the same object? In other words, if you replace Trump with Pence, is it still the same White House? With exception of a few close aides, it’s hard to imagine Pence replacing the entire cabinet. Jeff Sessions would still probably be sitting there. It’s not hard to argue that the current state of affairs is bad for the country, but it’s also bad for getting things done domestically. In some ways, we have a blissful moment of inaction because Trump is so mired in scandals all the time. Pence is much more adept at handling and deflecting that. He could move legislation.

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