Monday, October 21, 2019


It's still extremely unlikely that President Trump will be convicted in a Senate impeachment trial, but some pundit keep spotting rays of hope. Jonathan Chait writes:
... the alliance between Trump and the Republican Congress has visibly fragmented in recent weeks. Last week, the House voted 354-60 to condemn Trump’s Syria policy. Mitch McConnell has promised an even stronger resolution of disapproval in the Senate. Internal pressure from Republicans forced Trump to reverse his plans to hold the G7 summit at a Trump property, a crushing defeat for a president who despises both outward signs of weakness and missed chances to profit.
Chait knows that every individual act of defiance is political suicide for a Republican foolish enough to try it, but he sees a way out:
Trump has the power to end the career of dissidents, and he has flaunted it, forcing once-safe figures like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker to retire when they defied him. But his power lies only in the ability to pick off heretics one by one. The Senate Republicans can band together to vote him out, and Trump would have little recourse.
Collective action? Chait thinks the Party of Rugged Individualism is capable of that? If that were the case, it would have happened in late 2015 and early 2016. One Republican, Scott Walker, recommended collective action as a way to stop Trump back in the fall of 2015 -- as Walker ended his own campaign for president, he called for other candidates to drop out as well, in order to clear the field for a strong consensus alternative to Trump. It never happened, and we know the rest of the story.

Chait writes:
Trump would, to be sure, rage furiously against a party that betrayed him and try to whip up his followers against them in 2020, perhaps even running an independent campaign.
Wait -- Trump couldn't run again if he were impeached, right? Well, as Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law professor, noted last month at Politico, the Constitution doesn't require the Senate to disqualify an impeached and convicted officeholder from ever holding office again. A number of impeached officeholders have been removed from office and not disqualified from holding office again, such as Alcee Hastings, who lost his federal judgeship in a 1989 impeachment trial and then won a House seat a few years later. (He's now held it for nearly 27 years.)

But if Republicans have the gumption to join with Democrats to expel Trump, they'll sure as hell want to vote to prevent him from holding office again. They don't want him running an independent campaign for president intended to either (a) return him to the White House (which Trump might believe is possible, even running against a Democrat and a Republican) or (b) screw the GOP by splitting the right-wing vote and ensuring a Democratic victory. So no, he'll be permanently disqualified if he's convicted. (Democrats could vote not to disqualify, to make mischief for the GOP, but that raises the possibility that Republicans will just nominate him again.)

Chait writes:
But [Trump's] power relies on the support of the conservative media apparatus, which is loyal to the Republican Party. Fox News fell behind Trump because his interests dovetailed with those of the GOP as a whole. If the two began to work at cross-purposes, it would likely turn on him as rapidly as it fell in line after he won the nomination.
No it wouldn't. Fox has been trying to take a few tentative baby steps out of the Trump camp -- and it's not working. The Fox audience remains in the Trump cult. Fox can't risk this.

Trump has been an apostate Republican on some issues -- free trade, fighting ISIS -- but as long as he's pissing off the D.C. establishment and, especially, Democrats (who generally oppose a sudden, calamitous withdrawal from Syria that consigns Kurds to ethnic cleansing or genocide), the base is with him. Hey, it's not as if he's signing a gun control bill, or working with Chuck Schumer on an infrastructure plan. That would be heresy.
The cult of personality around Trump is a creation of the party-controlled media. To assume Republican voters would remain loyal to a Trump who has turned against the party extends them too much credit. They will follow whomever they are told to follow.
That may have been true once. It's not true now. Trump isn't Mitt Romney in 2012. This is a personality cult, and the acolytes aren't becoming disillusioned. Remember when Fox tried to slow the rise of Trump by sending Megyn Kelly out there to kneecap him? How'd that work out? Asking Sean or Tucker or Judge Jeannine or the Fox & Friendsters to follow a new, anti-Trump party line would be corporate suicide.

So no, this isn't going to happen. A few Republican senators might vote to convict Trump, but the number won't be double digits, much less 20 (or the 21 who'll actually be needed, because Joe Manchin, from Trump-mad West Virginia, will vote to acquit). I'd be surprised if more than three Republicans vote to convict -- and I wouldn't be surprised if none do.

No comments: