May 21, 2019 (analysis) It is said that history does not repeat itself, but has echoes. We are living through one of those at the moment. Fists off let's dispense with the idea that impeachment has to be bipartisan. It was not either during Watergate or the Lewinsky scandal.
Watergate saw consensus emerge between the two parties only after extensive hearings. The issue started to take shape only after the Saturday Night Massacre. A single Republican broke with the party and remained alone, and attacked by his party elders until it was late in the process. We hardly remember his name, and I suspect the same fate awaits Congressman Justin Amash. Once this is over, he will likely become a footnote in a history book or two. However, his willingness to put his political neck on the line is commendable.
The problem is not Amash, but the Democratic Leadership and the environment of political tribalism we see in Washington. Speaker Nancy Pelosi learned the exact wrong lessonS from the Lewinsky scandal. Why she did not hold George W. Bush accountable for the Iraq war. Nor will she go after this president if she can avoid it. In effect, she is making the executive stronger and weakening Congress.
This is where the echoes also come. Partisanship is part of the soup in DC and the idea that Republicans abandoned Nixon, which Pelosi keeps repeating, are just wrong:
Even as Nixon aides resigned and the Watergate controversy grew around the president in 1973, many congressional Republicans were arguing that the investigations of the president were overly aggressive. Two future GOP presidents, George H.W. Bush (then chairman of the Republican National Committee) and Reagan (then governor of California), called Nixon and assured him that he could get through the scandal. Things escalated in October 1973 when Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor investigating his administration, leading both the attorney general and deputy attorney general to resign, in what is now known as the “Saturday Night Massacre.”
>But Nixon retained party loyalists in Congress even after that dramatic move to stop those investigating him. The House Judiciary Committee held a series of votes about recommending Nixon’s impeachment in July 1974. All 21 committee Democrats, and six committee Republicans, voted for the first article of impeachment, which essentially accused Nixon of obstructing the investigation of the Watergate break-in. The other 11 Republicans voted against that article. There were three articles of impeachment against Nixon. Nineteen Democrats voted for all three articles of impeachment. Just one Republican did. A majority of the Republicans on the committee, 10 of the 17, voted against all three articles.
It is a talking point meant to tap down the pressure from a base that gave Democrats the House, and like 2006 they want the House to hold the executive accountable. Just like 2006, the Speaker is doing all she can to actually avoid pulling the I trigger. Why? Monica Lewinsky, and the fact that the leadership has a deep disdain for the progressive base of the party.
The Clinton impeachment was a political show. It was also revenge for Watergate. For Republicans, who have yet to forgive Democrats, the opposition party is not legitimate and has no right to run the country. Never mind that their vision of what is politically acceptable is far closer to what was the Republican mainstream even a generation ago.
Both parties despise their base. Neither will do what citizens want. Now, what the donors want, that is a whole different story. And impeachment is not just divisive, which is the nature of the beast. It can be destabilizing for markets, and at this point, the rants of President Donald Trump on Twitter are exactly that.
Which brings Amash back to the picture. His breaking with the president may give the donor class the fig leaf they need to ask the leadership to pull the trigger. If we get extensive public hearings, and more Republicans break with the president, we will know something is up. At this point, it is not about the people, especially the progressive base of the Democratic Party.
Republicans might despise their base, but they have learned to fear them. This base has been very effective in attacking the status quo. Amash is part of that Tea Party revolt that claimed the scalps of two Speakers of the House. Progressives are still getting their feet wet on both resistance to Republicans, no matter what stripe, and their Neoliberal leadership.
For the donor class, this is a different story. They have been the puppeteers behind many an election. Top tier Democrats know where their bread is buttered, and so do Republicans. As Trump continues to make great damage to foreign relations and trade, behind the scenes meetings will be held and decisions will be taken. However, it will not be obvious that consensus has emerged until after the November election. Pelosi is correct in saying that an election is far more effective. She is also counting on Trump losing. But if he does not, and assuming the Democrats keep control of the House and take the Senate, you can expect that echo to grow stronger. Remember. watergate did not start after 1974, but rather much earlier.
However, the hearings that led to that consensus started before the 1974 election. And yes, Republicans rather not have to do the deed in the Senate. Ergo, from their point of view, it is best if the Ds controlled both chambers. However, as Trump continues to do great damage, the calculus for the donor class will change.
The machinations of business and economic elites are about power, illusions, and what comes next. For Trump, it is quite simple. He needs to keep the presidency to avoid facing the music. And in the end, the next president may still pardon him. Why? The Oval Office is a crime scene, and that makes work hard. There are other motivations, including illusions and pulling a nation together, and yes, stability.