The question on whether or not Donald John Trump is convicted and removed from office by virtue of a Senate Conviction will come down not to loyalty or the current makeup of that body. The fate of President Trump will lie with what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expects to happen on January 3rd, 2021, the first day of the 117th Congress. Senator McConnell, who is up for re-election but not in any real danger of losing his seat, has to be concerned about losing his majority. There are many days between now and when the Senate may be forced to take a vote on the Articles of Impeachment. What happens during that time period, and the public mood on the subject will be determinative. In the aftermath of the release of the Mueller Report, but before Mr. Mueller’s somewhat halting testimony, many who pushed for impeachment noted that in 1973, the Impeachment Proceedings begun with only 19% of Americans in favor of it. Their battle cry was Impeach now, current public mood be damned.
Those who advocated #ImpeachmentNow were leaning heavily on the Watergate experience. On May 17, 1973, the Watergate Hearings began, on August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon, resigned. In the 450 days from start to finish, Senate Republicans moved from staunch defense of President Nixon, to coming to the Oval Office and telling him the jig was up. In August of 1973, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater said that Watergate was efforts by liberals to “discredit and destroy” the “Conservative mandate” of 1972. A year later Senator Goldwater was among the now famous cadre of Republican Senators telling Mr. Nixon that it was time to step down.
The investigation of the Trump Campaign, its ties to Russia and possible obstruction of justice with the cavalcade of stories and indictments it produced failed to move the needle in the mind of the public. And in the immediate aftermath of Mueller’s testimony Donald Trump included in his “victory lap” a fateful phone call that may serve to do what the Mueller investigation could not do.
In the two short weeks since the revelations that have stemmed from the Whistleblower allegations of a July phone call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump appeared to use military aid to pressure Mr. Zelensky into investigating Former Vice President Biden. It should be noted that there is no law against having opposition research on your opponent.
In one of the great political ironies, former Texas Governor John Connelly who was shot during the assassination of President Kennedy was just three years removed from circulating stories at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of Lyndon Johnson that Kennedy was suffering from Addison’s disease.
And that was fair play because the source was not foreign, the rumors were true, and American voters would want to know about the health of a potential President.
President Trump’s effort was an affront to the thing that Americans hold dearly the prospect of elections unfettered by corruption and foreign intrusion. The scheme unfurled by the White House, which now includes indictments out of the US Attorney’s Southern District of New York office, reflects a Presidential distain and distrust of the very systems that he swore to preserve and protect. The President traffics feverish anti American social media posts that threaten civil unrest if he is impeached,
The news and revelations are moving at a breath neck pace. Now 50% of Americans favor an Impeachment Inquiry according to an aggregation of polls on the subject. The challenge to the Democrats is not whether or not they can galvanize their caucus to secure a vote to adopt articles of Impeachment, it is whether or not they can craft a narrative of high crimes and misdemeanors that are both thorough, and simple. They are also compelled to move as swiftly as possible noting how team Trump has been extremely successful by using the court system to “run out the clock”. Both sides know that allowing this effort to be drawn out, can only favor Donald Trump in the eyes of a public that has to have by now investigation fatigue.
Many observers suggest that with the information that is already available; there is enough to pass Articles of Impeachment. But here is where Democrats will be challenged. They will need to use all the information available to them to paint a picture that does not cast a hyper partisan shadow. Rather, they should frame Trump’s misdeeds in way that says this Presidency is the sum of our founder’s fears. They should also be able to have their articles speak to the most important block of voters in America, the ones who consider themselves to be independent. In a country where there exists a clear partisan divide, we should not sleep on the role of the independent voter.
And we also can’t sleep on the fact that 2020 brings about not just a Presidential election, but the United States Senate is up for grabs. Independent voters will in most likelihood, decide whether it will be Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer would be the Majority Leader in the 117th Congress. In key battleground states like Colorado, Maine, and Iowa according to the website Independent Voter News independent voters are in the majority. Similar numbers of registered voters in contested states of Arizona and North Carolina also reveal that large swaths of the electorate are not tethered to the left or to the right. It is these voters who Democrats need to consider in drafting their articles of Impeachment. And to make thing more worrisome, according to the polling website Morning Consult, Donald Trump is underwater in every State where a vulnerable Republican Senator will be running.
In addition, it will be equally as important that Democrats put a human face on the issue. These are not talking points, or political pawns, they are people. What I see as a parade of patriots, that have already testified, individuals with long and impressive records of public service, including military service has a gleam of red white and blue that cannot be ignored. The American public have taken notice, and will continue to do so as the investigation pivots to a more public phase.
Republican attacks on those who have chosen country over party, will fall on deaf ears of voters weary of partisan wrangling. Thus, the impeachment narrative needs to highlight those career government civil servants who risked their jobs, perhaps their safety and good name to stop, or mitigate abuses of power. They provide a stark contrast to Republicans whose primary response to this constitutional crisis are shameful political stunts.
Those civil servants have worked in anonymity for years, and did not relish coming out of the shadows, but chose to because they were patriots. Some have worked tirelessly under both Democratic and Republican Presidents and in either case never were exposed to abuses and corruption that moved them to act in a career-defining manner. These people were bullied, threatened and vilified by President Trump and his allies, the narrative has to say, what if this was you or someone you loved? If the Democrats can make that kind of common sense “Stars and Stripes” case to the American public, independent voters will surely take note.
When Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the start of the Impeachment Inquiry, she made a note of “Constitution Day” September 17th, noting with irony that it was on the 230th birthday of the Constitution, Congress was informed by the Trump Administration it would not turn over the whistleblower report. The Constitution should inform the Democrats and remind them their Articles should not be cloaked in red or blue, but in red white and Blue. Independent voters will give articles shrouded in the Constitution the weight they deserve. And if it appears that independent voters in those key states that hold the future of the Senate in their hands may turn on any Senator who fails to convict Donald Trump, McConnell will act in a manner to preserve his power.
Very few people in Washington understand the power game more than Mitch McConnell, and given the choice to be loyal to Mr. Trump or to preserve a Senate Majority is there any doubt on what Leader McConnell would do?
Add to that, one of the leading Democratic Presidential contenders, Senator Elizabeth Warren has all but indicated, that if elected, she will push to remove the Senate filibuster rule, which would further weaken McConnell’s hand as a Minority Leader. Democrats, there is a path to conviction and removal, but it depends on the story you tell.