And why all of a sudden does the success or failure lie with the reaction of Republicans in Congress and not the American people?
Yes, we understand the goal of impeachment is the removal of the Chief Executive. So Trump’s ouster is the “win” here if you’re looking at it only as a zero sum game. And in order for that to happen in short order, one measure would be the establishment of at least a trickle of bipartisan support toward that end.
But that wasn’t and isn’t the only reason to do it, yet a very strange thing is happening in a large number of stories we’re seeing since the hearings wrapped last week: Trump is being in effect already declared “the winner”. Like this one in the New Yorker headlined “The Awful Truth About Impeachment”, and subtitled “Facts be damned is Trump’s approach, and it’s working.” Or this, in the Washington Post headlined “Trump’s GOP support hardens despite damning impeachment testimony”. And oh so many others…
The Post story isn’t wrong, it’s just what did they expect, really? Another Watergate, where irrefutable evidence of a President’s corruption openly eroded his support within the party? That Republicans would act in good faith? We’re not living in those days. There’s no simple outcome to this, and no opportunity that’s now unequivocally been lost.
And we think the question is not “will Republicans in Congress allow Trump to continue”? Since we already knew they would, since they don’t see any real political downside yet to not supporting the President. The question really is and has always been “will the American people allow Trump to continue”?
There is no question after these hearings that:
- The President’s compulsive, conspicuous corruption lies a lot more naked.
- The proceedings got a lot of important, highly credible information and facts out to the public from highly competent public servants they hadn’t had the opportunity to hear from before.
- They got huge ratings: this captured the attention and imagination of the American public like nothing before in the Trump Presidency. This is probably the most important factor of all.
- And some of Trump’s people started eating each other. And the President—while not cooperating in any formal way—also started devouring some once very-close allies and supporters. There’s no way of doing that and looking “perfect” at the same time. You turn on your friends, and people you appointed, and people who helped you, and people you’ve spoken very highly of in the past, and people are always going to notice that, and are never going to respect that.
Yeah, Trump “won” the Mueller Report, and he could still “win” his impeachment. But we’re not even close to willing to say that’s already happened. And we’re dumbfounded that many people seem to be willing to leap to that conclusion. (As always, it’s the same group of people who said he could never win as President in the first place, and are now saying he’ll almost definitely be re-elected.)
As we pointed out in a story we wrote before this all started, there always was and still is huge political risk for Democrats. If they don’t succeed in creating a downside to supporting Trump then after this, he can do anything. That’s nothing new.
Trump’s acolytes knew he was a crook going in, they know he’s a crook now. Even Republicans who don’t worship him still revere him for the way he’s galvanized what’s become of the Republican Party. And he’s convinced them there’s a segment of the American public that is essential to their survival that only he knows how to reach.
We always think it’s glib when people call the Republican Party under Trump a “cult”. So we don’t. It is, like everything else in Washington, a political alliance built to amass and sustain power. But it is unusual, in that Trump brings only chaos, yet Republicans in Congress appear totally adrift without him. Which is why they increasingly do things like parrot ridiculous conspiracy theories just because that’s what’s in the President’s playbook.
So yeah, in that context, this is not a political alliance, it is a cult. And it takes more effort to break up a cult. For the simple fact that when you leave a cult, you can be sure everyone remaining is going to come after you, looking for blood. And those who follow their leader most zealously, most please him and receive his favor. And so the end, when it does come, and it always comes, doesn’t ever happen in a neat way. It gets really, really ugly.