Not to rain on the Democrats’ impeachment parade, but you might want to grab an umbrella.
I’ll be brief: President Trump will not be convicted by the U.S. Senate, and his positioning for reelection will have been strengthened by the process.
As even my blind dog knows, the House of Representatives on Tuesday announced two articles of impeachment against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Both of these accusations, according to Democrats, constitute an existential threat to the republic and raise the prospect that our three-pronged system of checks and balances hangs by a thread.
They have a point.
Trump abuses power with the frequency of Florida showers. And he did ignore House committee subpoenas for documents and witnesses, which sort of seems like obstruction. On the other hand, the White House considers the impeachment process a sham and, therefore, posits that the administration needn’t comply.
The reasons for the Senate’s likely resistance, meanwhile, are timeless — survival and power. No matter how much some Republicans may disagree with Trump’s methods, his style and his atrocious rhetoric — a daily slaughter of the English language heretofore confined to kindergartens and saloons — the GOP’s base is unbudgeable. My grudging suspicion is that, thanks to the Democrats, that base will expand.
As a compulsive interviewer, I talk to dozens of random people on a given day. Moreover, I happen to live amongst the indigenous peoples, if I may be humorous for a moment. That is, my daily life in the South involves what Beltway people refer to as “everyday Americans” — that is, folks who don’t regularly hop the Acela between Washington and New York or call themselves political junkies.
From self-identified Republicans, I hear: They’re wasting their time, speaking of impeachment. And from Democrats: He’s going to win in a landslide, isn’t he?
From such conversations, I’ve gleaned that, though some Republicans don’t like the cut of Trump’s jib, they long ago surrendered any hope of being reminded of George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. Elegance, apparently, can be sacrificed for a strong economy, record-low unemployment, briskly moving business, a tough immigration policy and, not least, a president who finally stands up to China.
But another factor favors Trump, and this, perhaps, is how he wins. At a certain point during an impeachment proceeding, there’s no one left to like. Inevitably, the least likable person isn’t the target of impeachment but those who lead the effort. After slogging through the vile details of Bill Clinton’s affairs, it didn’t take long for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr to be viewed as the villain for making us look. That was his job, of course, but I well remember the night in my kitchen when my husband, who was not a Clinton supporter, commented upon hearing the latest lurid development, “I’m beginning to feel sorry for Clinton.” Ultimately, Clinton was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate — and probably would have been reelected were third terms allowed.
Impeaching Trump could have a similar effect. When people examine the lineup of the president’s congressional prosecutors — Mother Superior Nancy Pelosi, the prim and pursed-lipped Adam Schiff and grumpy scold-meister Jerrold Nadler — it’s easy to imagine why some might rather take their chances with a player like Trump. Remember, life is a continuation of high school, and Congress is just one big gymnasium.
This isn’t to say that Republicans emerge as valiant crusaders for the moral good. Both sides have behaved poorly, and “winning,” alas, isn’t an option. We’re all gritting our teeth through nothing less than a trial of our system of government. But, for reasons as much psychological as political, Trump is going to survive impeachment — and he’ll be stronger for it.
The Donald is many things, but he’s plainly not smart enough to pull off a proper conspiracy. What kind of self-respecting villain asks a foreign leader for an investigation into his political opponent and then says, okay, just pretend and announce that you’re investigating?
The president is smart enough, however, to flip this impeachment against the Democrats as yet another witch hunt by a bunch of scoundrels, liars and thieves. All Trump needs is a fresh slogan and a new cap — and we can be sure they’re coming.