Sunday, September 29, 2019


We continue to be told that a significant number of Republicans in Washington are fed up with President Trump and wish they could be rid of him. A few days ago, Republican strategist Mike Murphy said that if there were a secret ballot, as many as 30 Republican senators would vote to convict Trump in his impeachment trial. Former Republican senator Jeff Flake subsequently said there would be "at least 35" GOP votes to convict if the ballot were secret.

Ross Douthat says GOP staffers are feeling the same way.
Ask an intelligent Republican staffer ... what happens if Trump is re-elected, and you’ll get a heavy sigh, a thousand-yard stare and then a hopeful “Well, maybe we can just pretend he isn’t there ...?”

This is the state of Republican politics with impeachment suddenly looming. People are ready for the after, the reckoning to come, the attempted restorations and Trumpisms-without-Trump, the great Nikki Haley-Tucker Carlson brawl.

But if Trump survives impeachment and somehow gets re-elected, there will be no after Trump, not yet and not for four long years. Instead Trump will bestride his party like a decaying colossus, and his administration’s accelerative deterioration will be the G.O.P.’s as well....

Outside the ranks of the truest Trump believers, most Republicans anticipate very bad things in 2022 and 2024 if the Trump Show continues uninterrupted. And most would happily fast-forward through that show....
Douthat argues that Republicans should muster the 20 Senate votes needed to convict Trump, even though he knows it won't happen.
Start with Mitt Romney, add the four retiring Republican senators, plus the most embattled purple-state 2020 incumbents, plus a clutch of Republicans most at risk in 2022, plus the handful of the senators who don’t face the voters till 2024 ... and then you’re just a few Republicans of principle away from 20.

In voting to remove Trump (and to bar him, as an impeachment can, from simply running for president again immediately), these 20 would allow the other 33 Republican senators to stand by him, thank him for his service and promise to Make America Great Again themselves. And the more ambitious among the latter group of senators would then compete to succeed Trump, while his wrath was concentrated against the treacherous 20.
(A minor quibble: Republicans would need 21 anti-Trump votes, not 20, because Joe Manchin will vote to acquit. Trump's approval/disapproval numbers in West Virginia are 59%/38%, according to Morning Consult.)

As I've been saying, Republicans can't vote to acquit -- certainly not if they're facing primary challenges. No, not even the Republican who seems most likely (at least in theory) to cross over.

Polls suggest that Democrats' change of heart on impeachment has moved public opinion in their favor, but for Republican voters, the scandal confirms what they've long believed -- that Trump is the target of a shadowy Democratic/mainstream media/Deep State plot to drive him from office. If Trump actually did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, some Republicans might -- and I emphasize might -- vote to remove him from office. But to GOP voters, this story confirms every paranoid right-wing rant from the last three years.

But if Trump is reelected after surviving impeachment, that doesn't mean he'll get through another four-year term. I said a few days ago that Democrats won't get a second shot at impeaching Trump before the election -- if they impeach in the fall, it won't be politically possible for them to come back next spring and say the now want to impeach on, say, the Stormy Daniels payoff. But if Trump wins again, I predict he will be impeached a second time, simply because (a) Democrats are likely to hold the House in 2020 and (b) a victorious Trump, like a badly behaved teenager, will keep testing the limits until he does something brand new that will clearly warrants impeachment.

If he beats the rap now and wins a second term, he'll have no more fights to fight. He'll need something to give zest to his life. (It certainly won't be legislation.) So he'll up the ante -- he'll do something more appalling than he's done now, because he has a psychological need to be embattled.

Douthat, Flake, and Murphy suggest that many Republicans hope Trump will self-impeach. If he wins a second term, I think they'll get their wish. And maybe the next high crime -- possibly occurring at the same time as a recession and bad 2022 or 2024 poll numbers for the GOP -- will move a few Republicans in the Senate to the conviction camp.

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