It started early, in fact with the opening statements of Chairman Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Núñez. It was a tale of two different realities. It’s almost as if we were living in parallel universes.
One was legalistic and fact seeking. The other was full of bluster, half-truths and trying to cover for a crime.
What was most striking is that at this point Republicans admit something happened. But the theory of the case is that since it was not completed, this is not a problem. What is more, Jim Jordan was the chosen one to make most of the points, when the job was not in the hands of the staff attorney. It quickly devolved into screams and badgering of witnessed.
This was in stark contrast with the two witnesses, Ambassador Bill Taylor and George Kent. They both remained calm. They were consummate professionals. They were even asked if they already made their minds about impeachment. In an exchange that has gone viral, Taylor told Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe that it was the job of Congress to decide on this very point. Both he and Kent were there to tell them what happened. Ratcliffe attempted to withdraw the question, which is a classic maneuver to plant seeds in questioning.
But here is the problem. And I will dispense the play by play. I gave you one example of the taste of how combative this was at some points. I know others have dissected this. What concerns me is that this is my reality. There is another part of the nation where Congressman Jim Jordan scored hit after hit, and these are the never Trumpers who inhabit the swamp. Anybody who is critical of this president, no matter the degree, is increasingly the enemy.
There are attitudes among the Trump base that we should consider as we watch the process unfold.
* Large majorities of Americans believe the president should be subject to oversight and restraints on executive power. For example, 91% of respondents agreed that “the president must always obey the laws and the courts, even when he thinks they are wrong.”
* However, President Trump’s supporters are much more likely to express support for other types of accountability and oversight. For example, 48% of respondents with a favorable view of President Trump agreed that “the media shouldn’t scrutinize the president.”
* Among President Trump’s supporters, lower levels of education and lower levels of interest in news are associated with lower support for checks on executive authority.
Part of this is coming from a tendency towards authoritarianism. We know that a percentage of the population trends towards authoritarianism, where they depend on the leader to tell them what to think. We are in that situation. However, this support has dropped.
Nearly 80% of the study’s 5,000 respondents supported democracy overall.
The authors of the survey think the decline of support in strong leadership may be related to the presidency of Donald Trump, and specifically to having had a taste of what a strong leader who doesn’t much listen to Congress could look like.
Support for strong leaders and authoritarianism was stronger among people who didn’t vote in the latest elections. It was strongest among the so-called “missing Obama millions,” or the people who voted for Barack Obama in 2102 and then changed sides to support Trump in 2016.
This matters because we are at a crossroads. And this is where open hearings matter. Most Americans will not read the transcripts of the closed-door hearings. Sadly, people do not have time to watch full hearings, but they will be able to see and hear at least sections of them.
Unlike Watergate when Public Television repeated them at night (they should again), people can find this on social media and every network. Watching open hearings will likely change some views. It is a numbers game. If the base starts to split and reflect this in polling, more Republicans will start to peel off.
Politicians care about reelection. So watch those polls.
However, the president will continue to throw divisive speech and that may very well destabilize the country. We live in dangerous times.