In Congress, Republicans used the House Intelligence Committee’s recently concluded public hearings to depict impeachment as uninteresting, unpopular, unfair, unnecessary, unsubstantiated, unpromising, and unwise. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, likewise prejudged the whole endeavor, saying that should the Senate try Trump on impeachment charges, “It’s inconceivable to me there would be 67 votes to remove the president from office.”
So say the Republicans, with impressive bravado. Meanwhile, the nation is heading straight at a moment of truth that will show what every Republican in the House and Senate is made of.
The public has received a mass of credible evidence that the president violated his oath of office to pursue a delusional personal agenda at the expense of national security. Trump enlisted other senior White House officials to further this agenda, explicitly empowering a private citizen, former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, to orchestrate it. The House Intel hearings were an effective whodunnit. A parade of witnesses described a president at ease with sacrificing America’s public interests to those of Russia and to what matters to him personally. Such are the “goods” Republicans are bent on defending, at the expense of nation, party, and their own place in American history.
For, if the president’s conduct is tolerated, our republic is gone.
Republicans have sought to diminish the gravity of this Constitutional crisis. They complain mightily about the Democrats, perhaps because it’s painful to admit the turpitude embodied in the leader of their own party. They evoke the 63 million Americans who voted for President Trump in 2016, as if the mandate he secured then forever freed him from Constitutional limits or Congressional oversight. Republicans even assert that the riveting testimony given before the House Intel Committee was trivial and boring, whereas this great week of political theater was singularly dramatic, momentous, and often moving. Americans are far more sophisticated and more concerned with political rectitude than Republican lawmakers care to consider. No poll can predict what will happen to Republicans who choose to enable Trump’s abuse of power.
Republicans like Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes pander to the sort of voter they imagine forms the unshakable bedrock of Trump’s support: this voter is ill-informed, narrow-minded, and easily hurt. Republicans point to Trump’s forty-percent approval rating, as though this were a justification for abdicating the responsibilities Congress has to the Constitution. Congressional Republicans come across as fearful of securing office on their own terms, once this amazing charlatan leaves the public stage (which, given presidential term limits, is destined to happen anyway).
Deference to Trump’s “base” is curious and self-defeating. Trump is one of the least popular presidents in recent history, on a par with Gerald Ford. (For graphical comparisons to other presidents, click here and scroll down.)
A simplistic and condescending view of the voter has the Republican establishment running very scared. Republicans wants citizens everywhere to believe that impeachment is doomed, because otherwise Republican politicians will have to face the crisis of leading their constituents into the post-Trump age. Will Republicans continue to shirk the responsibility of leading, which, in a republic, involves educating citizens on complex matters and figuring out how to change their constituents’ minds?
Impeachment is now before the House Judiciary Committee. In the coming weeks, Republicans in power will come under increasing pressure to lead the nation, rather than dither about how hard it is to do the right thing.
Image: Edmund S. Valtman’s “Don’t Put Up Any Resistance! Just Keep In Step,” published 13 April 1973, from this source.
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