There are two major points this week. Both are connected. We are going to see public hearings in the impeachment process. At the same time, Republicans lost the executive mansion in Kentucky, and Democrats now hold both the governorship and the state House in Virginia.
Both are connected and speak to a larger story. In some ways, the talking points used by Republican operatives may be a test of what is to come. Governor Matt Bevin was described as unpopular. The word combative was also used, and looking for fights where none were needed came up as well. He was described as unconventional by a few, which made me smile. If this sounds familiar, well it describes President Donald Trump as well. So this may be a test of talking points to explain Trump’s defeat in 2020. It is also the case that Bevin refuses to concede, which will not surprise this observer.
What is happening in suburban and exurban spaces should scare the party even more. These areas, which used to be reliably Republican, are now voting blue. Whether the pattern will survive more than one or two electoral cycles is a good question. But for the moment it repeats what happened in 2018.
Now to the upcoming hearings in Congress. Republicans have held their breath and called the impeachment all but transparent. They demanded the release of material, and public hearings until both were offered and they voted against them. The first hearing will come next week. This is after Ambassador Gordon Sondland amended his testimony. In essence, he has confirmed the aid to Ukraine aid was dependent on digging dirt on both Joe and Hunter Biden.
And no, we do this with other governments all the time is not operative. That is an excuse by Mick Mulvaney that was quickly walked back by the White House. Incidentally, the House has also summoned Mulvaney and I am not going to hold my breath for him to show up. The more facts that emerge into the open the worst it looks for Trump. His administration is in the midst of what will turn to be an existential crisis. He will be impeached. There is no doubt of that at this point. What happens in the senate is still an equation. No matter all the denials by Leader Mitch McConnell, the calculations will shift as the polling changes.
Here is where 2018 and last night intersect with this crisis. Politicians are creatures that appreciate self-preservation above all else. Why some newly elected Democrats showed profiles in political courage when they pushed for impeachment. Perhaps they also told us how naive they are, but I digress. The reality is that normally politicians are all about the next election. This is independent of political party.
National polls are showing erosion in the standing of the president. Americans want this to proceed at about the same numbers they wish it not to. However, even this has gone up. Likely as more evidence emerges, now in open hearing, these polls will continue to move in a direction the President does not wish to see.
But national polls…I hear you, why the elections last night are significant. Even in Mississippi, it was not a wipeout of the Democrat for the governor’s office. Yes, the Democrat lost, but it was not as dramatic as usual, and of course, Republicans are pointing to a very red state remaining red as a sign that things are ok.
The truth is that those suburban voters are abandoning the GOP. Things are shifting.
If the case went to the Senate right now, the president would be acquitted easily. It is also true that Lindsey Graham now refuses to read the transcripts he demanded. Can we all say hypocrisy? But the information is entering the national conversation and polls will continue to degrade the position of the president.
And at this point, all comparisons with Watergate are not applicable. This is only the fourth time in the history of the nation that a president faces impeachment. They are all sui generis, thankfully. They are also deeply divisive. Will we have a John Dean moment, like the commentariat keeps asking? No. We will have something just as dramatic, or a series of somethings. They will be an example to be used next time…assuming we have another impeachment in my lifetime. In a quick of history, three out of four have happened in my lifetime.
Republicans though may be facing an existential crisis. I know, we all would be rich if we got a buck every time the death of a national political party was invoked. However, the modern Republican Party is in denial over a multitude of issues, not just Trump. The climate emergency and the denial of science come to mind. That will continue to accelerate since science does not care about the party. And as rural residents start to be affected in an undeniable way, even that will start to change. We are starting to see this shift in California. So does the utter corruption within the party and the surrender to special interests. While Republicans remain strong in rural areas, a party cannot just survive with this core of voters.
So expect them to start changing their tune on a multitude of issues. Perhaps 2020 will accelerate that process, especially if they face a wipeout in Congress, Senate, the White House, and the states. Why current officeholders are busy voting in as many judges as they can. Why Trump formally initiated the withdrawal from the Paris agreement, and why he is busy undoing not just Obama’s environmental record, but as much as he can starting in 1972. It’s a wonder he has not demanded the dissolution of the Environmental Protection Agency. We are living in very dangerous times. And we must definitely ask what will the white supremacist base of at least some of the party do if we get such a dramatic rebuke at the ballot box?
Given that hate crimes have gone up in dramatic fashion, and the threats of civil war, it is a real concern. However, Democrats are going forward with hearings. Partially it is political. The reality is that impeachment is an utterly political process. However, they are also following their oaths to protect the constitution.
May you live in interesting times…