If there are no witnesses, it is not the Democrats’ fault.
Impeachment threatens to damage the institution of Congress, nevertheless Democrats do their jobs.
I have previously written about the historic demise of Congress’ power which has been eroded at the hands of multiple presidents. It no longer has the power of the purse, nor does it do much to ‘regulate commerce with foreign nations’. It laughs in the face of Advice and Consent, with more ‘acting’ senior White House positions than ever.
But these are exceptional times — the impeachment trial of a first term President — and therefore historical trends are less helpful; redundant even. It is right that we examine the behaviour of our individual representatives during this trial with objectivity. Judgement has to be individual, not just institutional.
Oversight of the Executive branch, regardless of how Constitutionally sacrosanct it is, has therefore become a optional extra for Republicans; an in work-perk if you will. To be exercised if, and only if, it serves a political purpose. Impeachment cannot happen, Republicans say, because it is too close to an election and we simply cannot allow that. It’s too disruptive to disrupt the Disruptor-in-Chief. Wait, or maybe it can’t happen because it doesn’t reach the criteria of a high crime? Or, maybe it can’t happen because it was the ‘perfect call’. Or is it just some deep state conspiracy dreamed up by those crazy libs? We don’t have play that game. Hey, let’s all just ‘get over it’. Where exactly does it say that in the Constitution, Mick?
I am no flag waver for the Democrats, but the intellectual gulf between the two parties has been the defining feature of the impeachment process so far, and it’s too easy for voters not to see that.
Politically, the GOP have been in disarray, unable to maintain a single message, but more fundamentally they have been inferior to the Democrats at every turn. Whether it be Adam Schiff’s closing statements, Republican Senators claiming there is no new evidence while simultaneously blocking new evidence, the blatant hypocrisy of both the Senator’s and President Trump’s defence team, or those ridiculous banners that Devin Nunes sat in front of. It is so important that voters can distinguish the conduct of the two parties.
There is one area where the Republicans have been very strong, however. Because the acquittal of Trump is effectively certain, the definition of what is a ‘success’ or ‘failure’ is more fluid and Republicans have benefitted from that now impeachment is under control of the politically more capable Mitch McConnell. McConnell can create false-arguments that he knows Democrats are likely to lose in order to give Republicans some much needed momentum.
The latest example of which is the argument over witnesses. Now, in anyone’s book, a trial is not a trial without witnesses. That is not a controversial, politicised comment. It is a broadly accepted fact. But the GOP don’t really do facts at the moment so are trying to flush away any witnesses that could provide more information and hurt their guy in the dock. This has shifted the goalposts for Democrats and forced them into a fight they may well lose.
Despite John Bolton’s book leak prompting some positive noise from persuadable GOP Senators, Democrats still need a total of four of them to switch sides. If this doesn’t happen, it is not the fault of Democrats. They have done their job, and it shouldn’t be their responsibility to cajole, plea, and persuade their elected colleagues to fulfill their Constitutional duty. The fault lies exclusively in the hands of Republican Senators.
Perhaps we will only find out who wins these battles on November 3rd, but in the meantimes, the voters are not impressed. Republicans have proven how comfortable they employing distortion, no matter how ludicrous their position and that has a dragging effect on Democrats as they too are pulled into the swamp.
There is an institutional resentment towards Congress. Unless you are a highly informed voter, it is all too easy to dismiss the entire body as one great, corrupt mess. This sentiment has been superbly captured by Jon Favreau’s podcast, The Wilderness. Not only are voters deeply cynical of politics and politicians, they are increasingly unable to separate the incompetence and corruption of one party with the dutiful work of the other. The worst part is, Republicans are aware of this and are using it to their advantage.
The message is simple: These people get elected by you and to serve you. They have no divine right to be where they are. Senators should be held to the highest personal and professional standards, so demand more of them. Or, think of it this way — would you be able to freely select tasks from your job and ignore those you don’t like? Would you be allowed to set your own work agenda with no consequences? Can you behave with the same degree of reckless incompetence in your job? If you can’t, they shouldn’t. This is not just politics as normal. Don’t give them a free pass.