Wednesday, June 07, 2017


Jonathan Chait believes that Republicans will never agree to impeach the president, largely because of the nature of conservatism, and the current political leanings of Trump:
Conservatives still have not lost their sense of being an insurgent movement that might at any moment be betrayed by the party Establishment. Conservatives think of their role as quasi-independent, but they also imagine it as focusing exclusively on enforcing fealty to their doctrine by politicians who might otherwise be inclined to wander. The scenario they are built to fight against is the Republican president who colludes with Democrats, not one who colludes with foreign dictators. If the president is fighting against the opposition party, they assume he is acting correctly....

Many conservatives opposed Trump during the primaries because they suspected, with good reason, that his conservatism was shallow or insincere. They worried that, once elected, Trump would abandon their priorities and pursue the most expedient course.

But Trump has not done that at all. The policies or talking points Trump has abandoned are the centrist ones: He would protect Medicaid from cuts, give everybody terrific coverage, hammer the big banks, spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure, and cut deals with both parties. This week, Trump formally abandoned the last possible area of ideological compromise in infrastructure, “clarifying” that his plan relies on private industry, states, or cities ponying up the money. Trump’s budget actually cuts federal investments in infrastructure. He has positioned himself to the right of even House Republicans on domestic spending, and continues to push for their grossly unpopular plan to cut a trillion dollars from Obamacare....

Trump is faithfully supporting the conservative agenda, so most conservatives faithfully support him.... Trump may have committed impeachable offenses, but the impeachment clock has not even begun to move.
Martin Longman (BooMan) disagrees, citing the many enemies Trump has made in official Washington, as well as his seemingly fair-weather friends:
... Trump is so breathtakingly ignorant, incompetent and self-destructive that he really has no true allies in elected office. What Chait doesn’t explore is how Trump’s astonishing isolation and his weak support make him incredibly vulnerable.

We can start with the fact that even Trump’s allies in the Intelligence Community have rebuffed him. He could not convince the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to intervene with Comey despite having nominated Coats and seen him confirmed just days earlier. He couldn’t prevent his Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation and now Sessions is threatening to resign rather than continue to serve at the displeasure of the president. He put Rod Rosenstein in place at the Justice Department to kill the Russia investigation in Sessions’ stead, and Rosenstein promptly named Bob Mueller as a special counsel to broaden the investigation. He put Mike Pompeo in to head the CIA, but the CIA seems as committed to Trump’s political demise as ever.

It needs to be remembered that the FBI has been running a counterintelligence investigation against Trump and his associates for about a year now. That’s not a good place to be.

... Trump hasn’t been able to muster any reinforcements, which could be seen this week in his failure to attract top defense attorneys to represent him or to successfully build a rapid-response communications team to fight back against Comey’s coming testimony.

... Almost no members of Congress endorsed Trump in the primaries. The Speaker of the House effectively disowned Trump after the Access Hollywood tape came out in October. They tolerate him much more than they support him. And they tolerate him because they want things from him.... The problem here is that Trump is failing to deliver in rather spectacular fashion....

In truth, Republicans have very little use for Trump at this point. He’s given them everything he’s likely to give them.
"Trump hasn’t been able to muster any reinforcements"? But Trump has millions of reinforcements: the loyal voters who cheer him on, many of whom are probably more inclined to stick with him the more he seems to be under siege. The Trump base is far from a majority in the overall electorate, but most Republican House members run in safe, gerrymandered, solid red districts, so if enough swing-district Republicans were to join with Democrats to impeach Trump in the House, the safe-district Republicans would be in trouble, even if they themselves voted no, because they'd have let the leader of the conservative movement down. No matter what we find out about Trump, no matter how little genuine backing he has in Washington, the House will continue to block impeachment as long as it has a Republican majority, because he's not going to lose his voter base, and his voter base is, essentially, the Republican voter base.

BooMan acknowledges the importance of tribalism to the GOP -- but he assumes there's a limit to it:
I’ve long got over the optimistic idea that Republicans will break with their president out of an instinct for self-preservation. Their behavior on Iraq in the lead-up to the 2006 midterms convinced me that countless conservatives will go down with the ship rather than give succor and support to their political enemies. But whether to surge or withdraw in Iraq was a more complicated question than whether Trump should be defended in the face of clear demonstrable evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors.
But at this point, what could possibly constitute "clear demonstrable evidence" if Republican voters simply don't want to believe what the evidence shows? Hell, if investigators somehow turned up high-quality video of a Russian agent handing Trump or his son-in-law several suitcases filled with cash, the GOP base would assume it was -- let's say it all together now -- "fake news," a phony, tricked-out video cobbled together by evil agents of the Deep State. Nothing is going to sway these folks.

Impeachment (which requires a simple majority) might happen in a House controlled by Democrats after the next midterms -- but conviction (which requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate) is still almost certainly impossible. Unless, of course, Trump tries to work with House Democrats in 2019. Then he'll be a RINO and a cuck, and thus fair game. But by then the GOP strategy will have shifted to "Blame Democrats for everything wrong with America." So I think we're going to be stuck in this moment for quite a while.

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