So far, what we know about special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election might be disappointing to anyone who actually hoped that this would be the thing that finally sinks Donald Trump in explosive form. It didn't conclude that there was collusion—but it also noted that it "does not exonerate him"—and the special counsel won't be bringing any more indictments beyond the whopping 37 already issued.
The full report still hasn't been released to the public, and right now all we have is a four-page summary with questionable conclusions from newly appointed Trump loyalist Attorney General William Barr. But collusion was always a high bar for a campaign that was characterized by constant dysfunction, and the truth is that Trump is more of a generally corrupt, tax-avoiding real estate developer with a gut instinct for how to whip up racist animus than he is an evil genius. And that shouldn't be comfort to anyone.
Mueller's report was never going to deliver easy justice, because even if it somehow got Trump kicked out of office, the factors that put him there in the first place, or what has been unleashed since his malice-laced campaign, wouldn't suddenly evaporate. And few people have better articulated that recently than New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On Sunday, she tweeted, "As horrific as this president is, he is a symptom of much deeper problems."
He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020.
But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism he amplified+reanimated.
Trump won the 2016 election largely because of deep problems with the U.S. and American democracy that all preceded his candidacy. Republicans have been working for years to find creative new ways to block voting access to people who aren't likely to support them, through voter ID laws, surgically precise partisan redistricting, and aggressive voter purges.
Although Trump gladly embraced anti-immigrant hysteria in his very first speech as a candidate, and has since only used the softest possible language to condemn white supremacist violence when he deigns to condemn it at all, it won him support because that racism and xenophobia was already so deeply rooted in the Republican base. Fox News, for example, spent a good chunk of time ahead of the pivotal 2010 midterm elections railing against "anchor babies," a slur used to describe the U.S.-born children of immigrants, and the "Ground Zero mosque," a planned Islamic community center two city blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Center. Once the GOP took back the House of Representatives, both topics mostly vanished.
And all the while, Trump has been supported by a Republican Party that today seems to exist for no other reason than to make sure that it keeps existing. The GOP's biggest victories since Trump's election are their deeply unpopular tax cuts, designed to increase the wealth and power of American aristocrats, and Mitch McConnell's quiet flooding of federal courts with hardline conservative judges hand-picked by the extremist legal activist group the Federalist Society, a leading example of dark-money power.
Like Ocasio-Cortez says, even if Trump—and, by some inexplicable miracle, Vice President Mike Pence—vanished from the White House tomorrow, none of these problems would go with him. In the short term, a more liberal president might be able to undo some of the damage that he's unilaterally caused, like reining in the more galling actions of ICE, for example. Without a Republican Party willing to confront the ideas behind Trumpism, and with Democrats who can't muster anything more than "America is already great," someone smarter, more calculating, and more dangerous may not be far behind.