Stop distracting from the core issue, elite negligence and national decline.
Is it possible that more than 20 Republican senators will vote to convict Donald Trump of articles of impeachment? When you hang around Washington you get the sense that it could happen.
The evidence against Trump is overwhelming. This Ukraine quid pro quo wasn’t just a single reckless phone call. It was a multiprong several-month campaign to use the levers of American power to destroy a political rival.
Republican legislators are being bludgeoned with this truth in testimony after testimony. They know in their hearts that Trump is guilty of impeachable offenses. It’s evident in the way they stare glumly at their desks during hearings; the way they flee reporters seeking comment; the way they slag the White House off the record. It’ll be hard for them to vote to acquit if they can’t even come up with a non-ludicrous rationale.
And yet when you get outside Washington it’s hard to imagine more than one or two G.O.P. senators voting to convict.
In the first place, Democrats have not won widespread public support. Nancy Pelosi always said impeachment works only if there’s a bipartisan groundswell, and so far there is not. Trump’s job approval numbers have been largely unaffected by the impeachment inquiry. Support for impeachment breaks down on conventional pro-Trump/anti-Trump lines. Roughly 90 percent of Republican voters oppose it. Republican senators will never vote to convict in the face of that.
Second, Democrats have not won over the most important voters — moderates in swing states. A New York Times/Siena College survey of voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin found that just 43 percent want to impeach and remove Trump from office, while 53 percent do not. Pushing impeachment makes Democrats vulnerable in precisely the states they cannot afford to lose in 2020.
Third, there is little prospect these numbers will turn around, even after a series of high-profile hearings.
I’ve been traveling pretty constantly since this impeachment thing got going. I’ve been to a bunch of blue states and a bunch of red states (including Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah). In coastal blue states, impeachment comes up in conversation all the time. In red states, it never comes up; ask people in red states if they’ve been talking about it with their friends, they shrug and reply no, not really.
Prof. Paul Sracic of Youngstown State University in Ohio told Ken Stern from Vanity Fair that when he asked his class of 80 students if they’d heard any conversation about impeachment, only two said they had. When he asked if impeachment interested them, all 80 said it did not.
That’s exactly what I’ve found, too. For most, impeachment is not a priority. It’s a dull background noise — people in Washington and the national media doing the nonsense they always do. A pollster can ask Americans if they support impeachment, and some yes or no answer will be given, but the fundamental reality is that many Americans are indifferent.
Fourth, it’s a lot harder to do impeachment in an age of cynicism, exhaustion and distrust. During Watergate, voters trusted federal institutions and granted the impeachment process a measure of legitimacy. Today’s voters do not share that trust and will not regard an intra-Washington process as legitimate.
Many Americans don’t care about impeachment because they take it as a given that this is the kind of corruption that politicians of all stripes have been doing all along. Many don’t care because it looks like the same partisan warfare that’s been going on forever, just with a different name.
Fifth, it’s harder to do impeachment when politics is seen as an existential war for the future of the country. Many Republicans know Trump is guilty, but they can’t afford to hand power to Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.
Progressives, let me ask you a question: If Trump-style Republicans were trying to impeach a President Biden, Warren or Sanders, and there was evidence of guilt, would you vote to convict? Answer honestly.
I get that Democrats feel they have to proceed with impeachment to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. But there is little chance they will come close to ousting the president. So I hope they set a Thanksgiving deadline. Play the impeachment card through November, have the House vote and then move on to other things. The Senate can quickly dispose of the matter and Democratic candidates can make their best pitches for denying Trump re-election.
Elizabeth Bruenig of The Washington Post put her finger on something important in a recent essay on Trump’s evangelical voters: the assumption of decline. Many Trump voters take it as a matter of course that for the rest of their lives things are going to get worse for them — economically, spiritually, politically and culturally. They are not the only voters who think this way. Many young voters in their OK Boomer T-shirts feel exactly the same, except about climate change, employment prospects and debt.
This sense of elite negligence in the face of national decline is the core issue right now. Impeachment is a distraction from that. As quickly as possible, it’s time to move on.
Three theories as to why the poll numbers are improving for the president and his party.
- First, the president’s personal standing has rebounded.
- .. Second, the formidable Democratic advantage on the generic ballot for Congress has narrowed.
Let’s call them the economy, exhaustion, and equilibrium.
.. based on the strength of the economy, one would predict more favorable views of Trump.
.. The rise in Republican numbers has also coincided with the tax bill passed in December.
.. “There’s no question that Trump benefits when a critique of his tax and health care policies is not front and center—especially when voters are hearing Trump’s side of the story on the economy,”
.. another product is fatigue: When there are so many scandals, they all start to blend together and fade. One retort to the anti-Trump slogan “This is not normal” is to point out that by now cataclysmic scandals are in fact the new normal. Trump’s improvement may reflect exhaustion with scandals and diminished anger at the president as a result.
.. Democrats would need a strong slate of wins to take back the House and a near-miracle to take back the Senate.
.. Democrats still don’t have a unified message.
In certain ways sexual predation actually was the culture in the years when Weinstein came of age, in the entertainment industry and the wider society it influenced and mirrored.
.. There is a liberal tendency to regard sexual exploitation as a patriarchal constant that feminism has mitigated, and a conservative tendency to regard it as a problem that’s gotten steadily worse since the sexual revolution.
.. You can remember some of it with ’70s statistics: Never so many divorces, never so many abortions, a much higher rate of rape, an S.T.D. crisis that culminated in the AIDS epidemic.
.. something new happenedin Catholicism between 1960 and 1980: The prevalence of pedophilia stayed about the same, but suddenly the rate of priests groping and seducing and raping teenagers shot way, way up. As went Bowie and Zeppelin, so went the most putatively-conservative institution in the country.
.. The coarse worldview I’ve called “Hefnerism” endured, as the victims of Weinstein and Bill Clinton and Donald Trump can well attest.
.. They featured our civilization’s last great burst of creative energy. Those predatory directors and rape-y rock stars made great movies and memorable music.
.. peace feels like cultural exhaustion.