Friday, September 27, 2019


Megan McArdle thinks Senate Republicans might abandon President Trump, under certain circumstances:
... if public opinion turns in favor of impeachment, the Republican senators currently muttering “Nothing to see here, move along” may easily find their “questions” about his “troubling” behavior ripening into a firm belief that the president needs to go. Trump will have no party loyalty or longstanding relationships to fall back on; if voters are on board, Republicans will defenestrate Trump with great speed and greater joy.

For that to happen, though, a clear majority of the public must back impeachment. Not a mere plurality, or even a slim majority, but somewhere north of 60 percent of Americans saying they want the president removed. That would spare GOP senators the difficult choice between conscience and political expedience: A pro-impeachment majority that large would mean losing not only the presidency but also the seats of many senators who voted to keep Trump in office.
I have my doubts about this, and if there is a tipping point, I don't think it's 60%.

Remember the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination? When it was getting underway, the Iraq War was extremely unpopular: in a May 2007 New York Times/CBS poll, 61% of respondents said the U.S. should have stayed. Two months later, 62% told Gallup that the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq. A CNN poll in the summer of 2007 found that disapproval of the war was at 64%.

And yet apart from Ron Paul, who was reflexively anti-interventionist, no Republican turned against the war. The war might have been opposed by nearly two-thirds of the country at the time, but no Republican apart from Paul would dare to take a position associated with the hated Democrats. The war was a hill John McCain died on in November 2008.

There's another reason that Republicans in Congress won't abandon Trump during this impeachment process: It's likely to take place well before primary season. I'm not referring to the presidential primaries, although it may precede those. (Democrats are talking as if they might have articles of impeachment drafted by the end of October.) I'm talking about House and Senate primaries. Every Republican who defies Trump runs the risk of losing to a Trumpite primary challenger. Even GOP senators who aren't up for reelection in 2020 will want to avoid a mass defection. They can't actually allow Trump to be convicted in the Senate, because every Republican with an upcoming primary would potentially have to pay for that act of heresy, even the ones who remained loyal.

I'm presuming that Trump will retain the support of Republican voters by a comfortable margin no matter what the impeachment process unearths, just as the Iraq War retained the support of GOP voters (and only GOP voters) throughout the waning days of the George W. Bush presidency. Trump would have to do something really extreme by GOP standards to lose favor with his base -- like, say, signing a gun control bill.

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