So Here’s Where We Are….

I did it again. This should have posted tomorrow morning. Sorry.

This week saw the start of the public phase of the House Impeachment process. Media outlets–left, right and center–have reported on testimony, the behavior of various Representatives, the White House and a multitude of partisans. Still other outlets have reported on those reports.

In other words, there has been a lot of noise. Amid the clamor, though, I think Josh Marshall has made the most incisive observations.As he points out, the question commonly asked is whether the Democrats can make their case convincingly to the American public. And as he also points out, that really isn’t the question.

What’s really being asked is whether Democrats will be able to convince not the American people but Republican partisans and more specifically congressional Republicans. And that is by design an all but impossible standard because they are deeply and unshakably committed to not being convinced.

This is not only the obvious verdict of the last three years. It’s even more clear with the questions which have emerged since September. Congressional Republicans have hopped from one argument to another: from no evidence of wrongdoing, to the wrongdoing is actually fine, to a rearguard action against a corrupt process. The chaos of arguments has zero logic or consistency beyond the simple and overriding one: of refusing to accept that the President did anything wrong no matter what evidence emerges and simply use whatever argument is available to justify that end.

Marshall is right. The pundits who are evaluating the Democrats’ “performance” by their success in moving immovable Republicans are applying a ridiculous standard. As he says, no sane person willingly plays a game or has an argument or even wages a war in which the adversary gets to decide who wins or loses.

That not only guarantees failure it breeds a a sense of helplessness and mawkish begging. It demoralizes supporters and puffs up opponents with a sense of unmerited power.

Public opinion surveys show the public is already pretty well convinced even in advance of public hearings. Overwhelming numbers see this kind of extortion and foreign election interference as wrong. Similar numbers believe the President did these things. Even in advance of public hearings roughly 50% of the voting population already supports the extreme step of removing the President from office – something that hasn’t happened in almost a quarter of a millenium of American history.

Marshall points out that the evidence of illegal behavior and abuse of power is already overwhelming. Damning testimony has come from Trump’s own appointees, and to the extent details are still missing, it’s because Trump has kept people who could fill in the blanks from testifying.

Certainly it is important to air the evidence publicly, clear up good faith confusions and nudge as many people who believe the President did something wrong but are hesitant about the upheaval of impeachment in the direction of supporting impeachment and removal. But the basic case simply makes itself. The evidence is overwhelming.

His conclusion–with which I entirely agree–is sobering.

It’s not the Democrats who are on trial here, needing to prove themselves with some magisterial performance. Indeed, it’s not even really the President whose guilt is obvious and not even questioned with serious arguments. Who and what is on trial here is the Republican party, which has made it pretty clear that they are willing to countenance any level of law breaking and abuses of power so long as it is done by a Republican or at least as long as it is Donald Trump.

The Democrats’ job is to lay out the evidence in a public setting and get elected Republicans to sign on the dotted line that this is presidential behavior they accept and applaud. That won’t be difficult. They have one last chance to change their answer. Democrats real job is to clarify and publicize that that is their answer.

This isn’t pollyannish. It is simply recognizing the nature of the crisis in which the country finds itself and avoiding nonsensical, bad-faith exercises that can only end in frustration. The aim for Democrats is to set forth, calmly and clearly, what the Republican party accepts and what it is and consolidate the non-Republican, non-authoritarian nationalist vote which supports the rule of law and the constitution. Since the GOP is self-indicting, President Trump will almost certainly not be removed from office and these questions, properly set forth, will go before the people in one year.

What We The People do then–and the margin by which we do it– will tell us who we really are.


  1. Marshall is right. Trump has admitted to at least one felony in his conversation with Zelensky in which he conditioned appropriated aid to Ukraine on their public statement that the son of a potential domestic political opponent is under investigation for some undisclosed wrongdoing as a member of the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company. I am currently engrossed in watching the first day of the impeachment proceedings before the House, and while Republicans talk about Biden’s kid neither they nor Ukrainian prosecutors have produced any evidence to support such a claim of wrongdoing, and I think if they had such evidence we would have heard about it weeks or months ago.

    My guess is that the House will impeach Trump and that the Senate will not convict him, though they may if after these public hearings Trump’s removal is favored by a public opinion in the high fifties, some ten points higher than current polls suggest. I hope I am wrong in speculating that the Senate will not impeach him, but given senators like Graham and McConnell and their ilk I’m afraid I’m right, and while I am not sure that Trump will be the Republican candidate in the fall of 2020, if he is (and this would be a measure of just how far the bar has fallen) it will be the first time in history an impeached president ran for reelection, a dubious first – but bring it on, because I think under such circumstances Ronald McDonald could beat him.

  2. Crime doesn’t matter to Republicans. Look who their donors are. They are merely being good, obedient employees of corporate/banking America. We shouldn’t expect actual justice, patriotism, truth and honor here. These are REPUBLICANS and they are utterly lacking in any of these traits.

    It was so nauseating to watch/listen to Devin Nunes throw up all over himself this morning. They are pathetic, but Republican voters, who are also dutifully corrupted, will support the lies, deceit and stupidity that their “representatives” offer. This may be the end of our republic.

  3. I miswrote. I wrote that “the Senate will not impeach him.” The Senate does not impeach presidents, that’s the House’s job. I should have written “the Senate will not convict him.” Mea culpa.

  4. I’ll take it a step further, having watched today’s hearing. Nobody’s opinion was or will be moved.

  5. The fact has become: It is not how you play the game, it is if you win or loose.

    That is not the lesson I remember from my childhood, but it is how Republicans roll today. It might mean the end of American Democracy, but I hope not.

  6. Impeachment is making the Republican Party take responsibility for their aiding & abetting corruption in the White House. I don’t think the Senate will be moved to convict over their bulldog hold onto power. Yep, it’s up to the American People to vote him out. I hope we can keep our Democracy.

  7. If our democracy does go down the tubes, you can bet that every Republican out there will blame the Democrats!

  8. Both political parties have made it clear now what their standards are for how US government business should be conducted. The differences could not be more stark.

    Next year we each will vote for the standards that we think best protect the Constitutional rights so many have given their all to protect for us.

  9. Sheila – don’t worry about the early post – it’s probably post-Trump Stress Syndrome. Not only has a news junkie like myself switched to periodically viewing predictably sappy Hallmark movies to relieve the stress, but my brother’s dog has become neurotic, which the vet blames on his humans watching too much TV news and reacting. She said a lot of that is going around.

    In any event, this is a great analysis. I agree completely. I also agree with Gerald’s prediction of impeachment with no conviction. However, that fact really shouldn’t matter.

    What we need is for the Democrats in Congress to grow spines. They should present the hard evidence, not feed the Republican trolls, and make the case to the people and to history — not try to convince the True Believers. They should present the articles of impeachment listing the chosen number of crimes (too many gets confusing), but then add “AND other impeachable offenses that are not enumerated here.” – or “too numerous to mention”?

    Then they should hit the campaign trail and remind the public of the gutless, anti-American Republican Party of McConnell and Trump – for the next decade. Scorched Earth towards the Party of McConnell, Trump, and Putin — and remind people that Trump represented not America, but Putin, Kim and Erdogan. Maybe a reborn Republican Party can emerge from the ashes, or another properly center-right party will come into existence and replace them, but present the evidence and use it as a flame thrower – don’t worry about “will the Republicans come along?” or even “will the Trump supporters concede?”

  10. We should have seen this coming. After all, the Republicans have been acting in exactly the same way since the 1980’s,
    1] Global Warming
    a] It didn’t exist
    b] Then, it existed but humans have nothing to do with it so it is useless to try to halt it. We’re
    c] Well, yes, we did cause it but it’s now too late to do anything about it. Again, we’re

    I could name any number of other examples: voter suppression, gerrymandering, the environment, gun control, healthcare, immigration, prison reform. You get the gist.

    As to the icurrent problem, things are worse than Marshall reports.
    Trump WILL remain in office — that’s obvious. Once he is not removed, whether or not he is impeached, the precedent will have been set. His behavior will be accepted as the new normal and future presidents and other office holders will emulate it because they will know they can.

    Eventually both parties will act in the same way because Democrats will recognize the disadvantage they put themselves in by obeying the law when the Republicans refuse to.

    The US will go the way of Ukraine of the 1980’s. I believe we have known this was coming for the past 40 years —- it was only a matter of how quickly we would arrive at this point.

    Well, now we know.

  11. Copied and pasted from a Reuter’s Political article regarding Hunter Biden’s position on the board of the Ukraine energy company, October 18, 2019:
    “Interviews with more than a dozen people, including executives and former prosecutors in Ukraine, paint a picture of a director who provided advice on legal issues, corporate finance and strategy during a five-year term on the board, which ended in April of this year.”

    “Biden never visited Ukraine for company business during that time, according to three of the people.”

    “…the question commonly asked is whether the Democrats can make their case convincingly to the American public.” Maybe the questioning should begin with answers such as that above regarding Hunter Biden’s already investigated role on that Board position and former Vice President Joe Biden’s rightful government actions regarding, also already investigated, connections to the previous Ukraine administration. Hunter’s crime appears to be simply one of making a poor choice in accepting the position using his father’s name.

    The crux of the current Impeachment Inquiry is based on what Trump is asking the new Ukraine President to answer when the answers are already public knowledge. I watched yesterday as Republican House members flailed like drowning men and women who keep throwing back the life preservers offered to them. As Joe said this morning on “Morning Joe”; why can’t THEY just admit Trump’s quid pro quo actually happened and move on, Trump and Mulvaney have already admitted it as fact without using the term “quid pro quo” in that infamous phone call. These hearings, now public, must be to get the full information in front of the public before November 3, 2020, as Trump continues publicly providing more and more evidence of his impeachable actions and words.

    “What We The People do then–and the margin by which we do it– will tell us who we really are.”

  12. The Guardian published an article on support for Impeachment. Roughly 48% of Americans say they support impeachment in one form or another, according to FiveThirtyEight’s impeachment polling tracker, while 44.4% say they do not support it. The actual polling is here:

    This poll is razor thin – even money if you are a gambler.

    The Republicans in the Senate will not vote to convict. The GOP strategy is there was no quid quo pro, if there was – Who Cares and attack the witnesses.

    The Impeachment Inquiry needs to move along with the facts and let the American people decide next year if President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence should retained.

  13. To my way of thinking these impeachment hearings are the last chance for the Republican Party and the rest of us to look at ourselves and see what we have become. If ever there was a time for soul searching, this is it.

  14. Think the impeachment is only about one thing – our values. It is pathetically mediocre to get all worked up over political favors. The issue is obstruction, both of Congress and justice. If the “favor” was all there was, why won’t The Duck allow his folks to testify? They could and then Congress could go through its work and the process as set out in the Constitution. Even if the Senate refused to impeach after a trial – the public could have their vote in the election.

    But no, no testifying, not even after subpoenas. That is undercutting the rule of law, a rock foundation of our democracy. What if every witness called for a grand jury simply said “I am doing what the President did and was not punished for?” What would we say to our kids who asked about it?

  15. Sheila; I ordered your book “Talking Politics?…”, it arrived yesterday. Reading the Introduction brought a question to mind about the early days of Trump’s attempts to end the ACA. A late-night comedian had his staff question people on the street asking if they preferred Obamacare or the ACA. I shouldn’t have been surprising at the number of people who want to end Obamacare and keep ACA; have we moved beyond that yet? Where are we on that issue?

    On the first page of the first chapter this quote sent me to my computer; “…some of our most acrimonious debates arise from concerns that by giving the government enough authority to do particular jobs, we may be giving it the power to unduly limit our liberties.” Isn’t this one of the issues which came out of the hearing yesterday regarding the danger of the powers which seem to be given to Trump as president, becoming the “norm”. Can – will – the sitting administration and Congress stop Trump from enacting bills and writing Executive Orders which will establish future presidents to Rule rather than Serve this country? Is this where we are regarding the future of the presidency?

  16. Our founders described for us not perfect government but government functional for the long term and without Europe’s aristocracy.

    Republicans defend the government now that the current aristocracy believe is their due.

    We have to decide between them and the concept of democracy as we have been required by history to do several times.

  17. The difference between Rs and Ds are the standards to which each hold Presidential behavior to.

    Democrats believe that risking global stability by other countries hostage for personal political favors is Presidential behavior that constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors (words chosen by founders to be purposefully vague and therefore at the discretion of Congress).

    Republicans believe that every President should be allowed to do that.

    No matter what Congress decides we get to decide in 2020 what our standards are by who we elect. (Although it will be impossible to undo the precedent set by this Congress)

  18. This might seem unrelated to the topic but in the biggest picture:

    The difference between science and politics is stark.

    Science is aiming for the ongoing prosperity of today’s and tomorrow’s human species.

    Science deniers are aiming for their survival alone at any expense.

  19. I have heard several democrats say that Hunter Biden’s big mistake is accepting the board position “using his father’s name”.

    What other name should he use? And wouldn’t using some other name be much worse in terms of public perception when it is discovered?

    What if my father had been President of the United States? Am I then expected to change my name? Or am I expected to never again take a job? Maybe resign myself to digging ditches the rest of my life.

    So this is also “where we are”.

  20. Now Larry; you know exactly what I meant with my remarks about Hunter Biden. He was offered the job because of his name; he did not apply for it. If you were Donald Trump’s son today; would you be proud to use it?

  21. Pete – you are almost right – Republicans believe that their Presidents should have unbridled power, but Democratic Presidents shouldn’t – It is the principle that whatever governs closest to the Republican Party governs best – be that Congress vs. the Executive or State vs. Federal (or for that matter Indiana vs. Indianapolis, once the Democrats took over).

    JoAnn – I believe that you are making a mistake in your assessment of of “powers given” – our “fear of too powerful a government” has led us to unchecked multi-national corporations and uber-rich. We removed the governmental checks on them in the name of de-regulation (i.e. strip government power) – I often point out that Reserve Mining of Minnesota poisoned Lake Superior until the EPA stopped them. They wanted their “freedom to pollute”. Michigan tried to fight the mining company but backed down after Minnesota responded to corporate blackmail – defend us of we close the mine and fire everyone – the EPA, after its creation, put a stop to the pollution. We need a strong government – executive branch – to crack down on polluters, tax cheats, and other crooks – a stronger Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example – more power to infringe on the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor.

    Mitch McConnell wasn’t given the power to block Merrick Garland, he invented a new (temporary) rule and took the power. We didn’t give Donald Trump the power to do most of the things he has done. He has taken the power and was aided and abetted by the Republicans and increasingly, his buddies on the courts.

    It isn’t the amount of government power, it is the people wielding it. We have to make certain that we can and do (or is it do and then make sure we can) elect the right people. This means voting — always — and start making some changes in the rules to protect against any future Donald J. Putins.

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