IT APPEARS that the American Democratic party may have forgotten a crucial fact on the way to impeaching President Donald Trump. That is, the reason he was elected in the first place.
As unlikely as it seemed at outset of the 2016 election, Trump acquired support from a broad spectrum of voters disillusioned with the political status quo. He prevailed upon people’s deep-seated frustration with an economic and social malaise that had come to affect people personally, in their homes and workplaces.
In the end, Trump didn’t so much “drain the swamp,” as he’d promised, except for some flunkies around him and some staff from the Obama era. What he did instead was speak the language that had been missing in formal political discourse.
So despite their riveting testimony, replete with surprising details of how Trump and cronies like Rudy Giuliani illegally conducted the business of the country, the parade of well-qualified and highly-regarded witnesses produced by the Democrats in their impeachment efforts were successfully cast by Trump and others as just more of the same.
Their testimony, their stellar records and even their characters were panned, pilloried and trashed by Trump’s obedient defenders in Congress and by Trump himself in his succession of corny tweets that continue to speak the common man’s language.
There were enough common men and women to elect this conniving huckster because he wasn’t a D.C. regular, and there appear to still be enough of them to give Trump a decent chance at a second term, dependent largely on who the Democrats pick to oppose him and how effectively that campaign is crafted. It can’t just be anti-Trump, since Trump’s core will not be convinced that anything the man does is anything but pure. It has to appeal to as wide a variety of voters as possible, in language that speaks to everyone.
Impeachment isn’t so much seen by Trump’s constituency as a stain on his record as it is a badge of honour for having resisted his leftist political rivals and, in all likelihood, for surviving the coming Senate trial that will be a gong show in terms of process dictated by Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentuckian with a nose for survival and a remarkable ability to look the other way whenever Trump steps in it.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for all her wiles, may have signalled a delay this week in sending the impeachment articles to the Senate as much to buy time to see how things play out as for her stated reason of trying to force McConnell to be more accommodating in the trial to come.
Americans for Trump are strangely unwilling to see the Republican impeachment script for what it is — brazenly stonewalling the legal requirements of the process by withholding relevant, and likely highly-prejudicial documents, and witnesses with direct knowledge of Trump’s illegality. It does not seem to occur to his obsequious supporters that such refusals signal desperate acts by a desperate man who’s been caught, but who will survive with the assistance of his party’s brass and the rank-and-file who put their political survival above their sworn duty.
It is more than noteworthy that Republicans in the impeachment process to date have never really defended Trump. Instead, they chose to criticize the process and impugn the Democrats’ motivation. A favourite is to claim the Dems “hate” Trump. No, what they hate is how low he’s willing to go outside the bounds of decency and civility in American politics.
Are Republicans acting in the public interest? Not according to a poll by Fox News — Trump’s favourite network — which found 54 per cent of Americans wanted Trump impeached and 50 per cent want him impeached and removed.
For their part, the Democrats signalled that they are at least willing to play by the rules when three of their members voted with every single Republican against impeachment. Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson called it a waste of time because of Republican opposition. More to the point, he represents an increasingly Republican district and faces a tough re-election fight.
Among those who supported the articles were several Democrats in right-leaning districts elsewhere who rode to office on Barack Obama’s coattails and who now know they’ll probably be defeated but voted their conscience anyway. Those are among the heroes of this process, sitting across from villains like Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes, attack dogs whose ideological zeal and servility to Trump know no bounds.
Perhaps, too, Pelosi was too careful with how she crafted the case against Trump. For a long while she was unwilling to pursue it, preferring instead to wait, then hone in on two crimes in one act — the infamous call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to force him to find dirt on Trump rival Joe Biden in return for desperately needed military aid against rank Russian aggression, followed by brazen refusal to co-operate with the investigation.
U.S. consumer guru and one-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader has a theory. Instead of her one-track mindset, Pelosi should have thrown everything at Trump — all of his hideous activities — and let the weight of the evidence pile up so high that all but the craziest Trump cultists would be forced to concede this man is not presidential material.
For one thing, he (and his three eldest children) defrauded eight charities through the Trump Foundation. He paid a fine earlier this month, the kids were sent for sensitivity training, and it barely registered in the minds of Trumpsters. Such is his power of persuasion over willing sycophants.
He’s gutted the Environmental Protection Agency and closed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that protected people from Wall Street excess. He’s enriched his family by having foreign governments use his hotels upon his presidential invitation. He took $3.7 billion from the defence department to build his silly wall. All these are impeachable offences.
He’s a sexual predator, a bigot and a racist. He separates children from their parents and locks them in cages. He lies by the hour.
Some say leave it to the voters to decide Trump’s fate. But if all of this and the phony Trump University, the mocking of disabled, the incitement of violence against opponents haven’t convinced the public to turf him, it’s left to the Democrats to do their best. But as long as they are viewed as just more career politicians doing more of the same old, same old, the average American voter might just give Trump a second term.
Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.