Sunday, February 14, 2021


Under the headline "It'll Do," David Frum grades Donald Trump's second impeachment on a curve:
The 57–43 margin wasn’t enough to convict under the Constitution. It wasn’t enough to formally disqualify Trump from ever again seeking office in the United States. But practically? It will do as a solemn and eternal public repudiation of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office.

You say that you are disappointed? That a mere rebuke was not enough? That justice was not done? It wasn’t. But now see the world from the other side, through the eyes of those who defend Trump or even want him to run again. Their hope was to dismiss this impeachment as partisan, as founded on fake evidence, as hypocritical and anti-constitutional—to present this verdict as an act of oppression by one half the country against the other. That hope was banished today.
No, that hope wasn't banished today, because Trump's supporters don't care how many Republicans voted to convict -- they just wanted to win, and they got their wish.

They would have taken any margin as a landslide victory, which is the phrase Trump used to describe the 2016 election, in which he lost the popular vote by 3 million, and the 2020 election, in which he lost it by 7 million, and lost the Electoral College as well.

Frum writes:
The background fact of this second Trump impeachment trial was how broadly popular it was. In January, a Monmouth survey found that 56 percent of Americans wanted Trump convicted. Quinnipiac reported that 59 percent regard him as responsible for inciting violence against the U.S. government. According to ABC/The Washington Post, 66 percent believe that Trump acted irresponsibly during the post-election period. According to polls, fewer than a quarter believed that Trump did “nothing wrong” on January 6.

Those are not the numbers on which to base a Grover Cleveland–style comeback tour—especially not when the majority of Americans also believe that Donald Trump did a bad job handling the COVID-19 pandemic and that President Joe Biden is doing a good job.
But the polls always understate support for Trump, because many Trumpers are congenitally mistrustful and won't talk to pollsters. And I'll remind you that Barack Obama had a 69% job approval rating in March 2009, while the Republican Party had a 59% disapproval rating a month later. That didn't prevent Republicans from shellacking Democrats in the 2010 midterms, and didn't prevent a tight presidential race in 2012. Granted, Obama wasn't running against George W. Bush, who was widely reviled when he left office, but Bush's favorability ratings were even then in the process of returning to positive territory. Don't assume it can't happen again. Trump's polling is probably at its low point, and it's not that low.

I don't blame Democrats for the impeachment outcome. Even if they'd called witnesses, nothing would have changed -- Republicans would have tried to deflect blame to Nancy Pelosi, the mayor of D.C., Antifa, George Soros, whomever. They would have denounced Democrats for prolonging the trial while COVID relief languished (even though they'll now attempt to minimize the amount of relief that's made available).

The problem is Republican officeholders and Republican voters. They wanted this outcome. The Framers said that conviction in an impeachment trial must be by a two-thirds vote; there just isn't two-thirds support for the idea that Donald Trump is a reprehensible person guilty of high crimes. So America got the verdict it deserved.

If you were a member of the Senate and watched the case House managers presented in the impeachment trial without feeling the need to convict, then nothing would have moved you. The same is true for much of the American public.

Donald Trump skated because a significant percentage of the population wanted him to skate. Witnesses wouldn't have changed that. A 9/11-style fact-finding commission won't change that. Our problem is that roughly 40% of the country is cool with Trumpian depravity. This isn't a problem we're going to solve easily.

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