Impeachment losers: shared reality and the rule of law

Yes, it sure is good that in some way Trump has been held to account (damn is it good the Democrats took the House in 2018).  But, I’m mostly left with frustration about what this has revealed about our current politics (i.e., what has become of the Republican Party).

From Aaron Blake’s take-aways:

Republicans have long held their nose with Trump. They’ve looked past the tweets. They’ve given him the benefit of the doubt on things like Charlottesville. They’ve dealt with his unorthodox and unwieldy style and the headaches that come with it. And they’ve gotten their rewards: oodles of judges, two Supreme Court justices and tax cuts.

But the defenses they’ve mounted of him over the past three months — and particularly Wednesday — really solidify the bond. Trump asked a foreign country to investigate his political rival based upon spurious evidence, and he did the same with a conspiracy theory that Ukraine might have interfered in the 2016 election rather than Russia. Numerous members of his own administration have said a White House meeting and military aid were withheld in connection with the push for those probes.

And through it all, the GOP has largely shrugged. It initially defended Trump almost purely on process grounds, but its defenses of him Wednesday were more about how there just isn’t much substance to the allegations against him. They effectively endorsed his actions. They pretended he didn’t actually do the things he indisputably did. They pretended he was actually interested in corruption in Ukraine, against all evidence. They made arguments that strained the bounds of logic to dismiss his actions. They even compared his persecution to Jesus on Wednesday — twice. [emphasis mine]

It’s perhaps no surprise that no Republicans voted to impeach and no GOP senators will likely vote to remove him from office; those are very serious punishments even if they think Trump did something wrong. What’s remarkable about what we’ve just seen, though, is how thoroughly Republicans bear-hugged him.

And Dana Milbank, “The House has impeached Trump. But in a sense, he won.”

But in one sense, Trump won.

Wednesday’s 10-hour impeachment debate on the House floor and the party-line vote that followed proved that Trump’s multiyear campaign against the truth — 15,000 lies and counting — has succeeded. Republicans, united, didn’t spend much time defending Trump on the (unfavorable) merits. Instead, in an appalling spectacle of mass projection, they took turns accusing Democrats of the very offenses Trump committed — with Trumpian language and disregard for reality.

Democrats are the ones, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said, who committed a “stunning abuse of power.” Democrats are the ones, Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) said, who “colluded with Russia and Ukraine.” Democrats are the ones, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said, who engaged in “the largest and most massive coverup of such a list of crimes against our country.” Democrats are the ones, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said, who committed an “assault on the Constitution.” Democrats are the ones, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said, who are “interfering in America’s election.” Democrats are the ones, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said, who “have dangerously shattered precedents.”

It was as though Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson had taken over the House floor. [emphasis mine] Even during the most solemn constitutional ritual, Republicans were auditioning for an audience of one — and outbidding each other with conspiracy theories in hopes of scoring a favorable tweet from the boss.

It goes without saying, I think, that a democracy is trouble when we cannot even agree on the most basic political reality.  And, of course, in a narrow political sense, when that’s the case, the liars win.  When I talk about “American Political Culture” I don’t even talk about “belief in an actual reality” as a shared value as it would seemingly go without saying, not anymore.

And, as for the rule of law, I do talk about that.  But this year’s developments are so depressing.  The rule of law cannot really exist as a partisan issue.  It cannot exist if only one political party is willing to defend it.  It cannot exist if the President can do literally anything and be defended by his co-partisans.  It cannot exist if one party thinks the Attorney General should use the power of law enforcement to pursue the president’s enemies.  And, yet, here we are.  Its hard not to be sad and very concerned about the state of American democracy.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Impeachment losers: shared reality and the rule of law

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    The underlying issue that has brought us to this point is the gross misreading of the American public. The nativist strain is clearly much larger and more committed than liberals thought. The Republicans were taught by Trump’s triumph over some of the GOPs’ favorite sons that nativism encouraged was the road to power in a democratic election. And that nativism could be the road to never ending power after that election.
    It’s happened before.

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