Saturday, December 14, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 50

The year and the decade are soon to pass and American politics remain divided and tribalized. This week, Donald Trump became the fourth President ever to have formal Articles of Impeachment voted out of Committee to the whole of the House of Representatives. We can expect action this week on the House floor that will be quite indicative of our times. Republican Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency before the act of Impeachment, when it seemed clear that he might be forced from office. Democrats Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton of course were acquitted with unanimous support from the Senators of their own party. Many are predicting the same fate for Donald Trump, with all Republican Senators, even those who have expressed dismay over his actions, to vote to keep him in office until the next election. Time will tell if the history will be made in terms of specific votes, but it seems nearly impossible to conceive that Trump will "lose" in the Senate.

Of course, the House will vote first. I remember watching the debate and the vote 20 years ago, nearly to the day, as well as the immediate and defiant response by Bill Clinton and House Democrats. Still, several House Democrats, most representing conservative areas, did vote to impeach Clinton, and several moderate Republicans opposed impeachment. This week, the vote is expected to be even more along party lines. While an iconoclastic libertarian is expected to vote differently from his one time Republican colleagues, many will be surprised if a single House Republican votes to impeach. The signs are clear that Democrats will have the votes to pass the threshold, as several Democrats in districts won by Donald Trump have said they will vote to impeach. Still, there is news today that one of just two Democrats to have opposed the inquiry itself, is actually preparing to switch parties and join the Party of Trump in a district that Republicans have usually won. If this comes to pass, clearly freshman Congressman Jeff Van Drew will have come to accept that his chances of remaining the Democrat nominee in his district without a pro-impeachment vote have already passed.

For Congressman and Senators, so much of this is about politics and political survival as well as the fear of "rocking the boat." The fact that these votes are occurring so close to the next Presidential election will give many cover.  Politicians are afraid of defeat though, if not in general elections, than in primaries. Next Saturday, I may offer some more personal thoughts about courage and doing the right thing and how that is lacking today. To be clear though, I am a staunch conservative who believes the 45th President needs to be removed from office through this Constitutional and peaceful process because he has so clearly abused the powers of his office for personal and political benefit. As I have said before, the facts itself are not so much in dispute. Either people care or they do not. They should care. We have Presidents not dictators in America. Nobody, no matter how powerful or how good (or bad) of a politician as they might be is above the law. Regardless of outcome, this message needs to sent to all of America and all the world in present time. Ultimately, history will judge all who were in a position to confirm or sanction the actions of Trump.

Of course long before he ever spoke on the phone to a Ukranian leader, Donald Trump was a person lacking of character and basic decency. This week, he was passed up by Time Magazine as "Person of the Year" and he seems to not like that, much as he has complained in decades past about not being nominated for Emmy's and things of that nature. Instead, the distinction (which is not even technically an honor, though it was intended as such in this case) to Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old girl from Sweden who received international fame this year as a "climate activist" and whose anger on the issue attracted much attention. It has to be said that Miss Thunberg is also someone with Asperger's Syndrome, which likely makes her both very intelligent and driven but also quite awkward in public settings. Whatever one thinks of her politics (and by being an activist, she certainly should not be beyond criticism on substance) or the magazine selecting her (I would have gone with people like Col. Vindman and Dr. Hill for instance), her being attacked on Twitter by a petty and jealous President, using specific language that seemed to reference her medical condition was cheap and uncalled for. Trump told her she needs to deal with her "anger management" and to "chill." The supposedly enigmatic First Lady of the United States who understandably asks for privacy for her young son but also leads a campaign called "Be Best" about cyber bullying shamefully sides with her husband once again on matters like this. After all, that could be in her contract. Something tells me those words may come back to haunt Trump, perhaps a little less than a year from now. Miss Thunberg snarkily added these words to her Twitter bio. Good move. It might be easier for someone on the Autistic Spectrum to overcome these matters than a true sociopath like DJT.

As always, the contest for the Democrat nomination marches on. A debate was scheduled for this upcoming week in Los Angeles, but that now seems to be in peril because no candidate will be willing to cross a union picket line to participate.

If the debate is held, candidates may be asked about this past week's general election in Great Britain. To summarize, it was a huge victory for Conservatives and the worse defeat for the Labour Party since I believe the 1920s or 1930s. At one point, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were brothers in arms in terms of "third way centrism." Now, their respective parties have moved very much to the left and that has had harsh consequences for those parties in both countries.

Not everything that happened in the UK is relevant to our own politics, but much should be considered. It was the surprise victory of "Brexit" that predated the surprise election of Trump in the U.S. and for many of the same reasons. That action of right-wing populism has been rocky since but clearly the voters determined they still want Brexit to be completed. Many believe this means that Trump's reelection is more likely than many believe. If nothing else, it should make Democrats think.

Boris Johnson is a controversial recent Prime Minster who is often compared to Donald Trump in ways beyond their physical resemblance. Still, his party had little difficulty dispatching that of Jeremy Corbyn, an old school socialist who was quite divisive, even in his own party. For one thing, Corbyn has never been able to get past his long association with anti-Semitic causes and individuals. For others, what he and his party were offering were just too far left to be palatable, and this is of course in a country that is inherently more liberal and open to larger government than the United States has ever been. To no one's surprise, Corbyn will be stepping down as the head of his party after such a humiliating defeat.

Again, our systems are different. They elect a Prime Minister based on individual legislative elections (most recently Democrats won a majority of House races), and we of course have an Electoral College, which allowed Trump to win, despite getting far fewer votes nationwide than his opponent. Even staunch Trump supporters seem to concede the Democrat will ultimately win more votes than their man next year.

Both parties should look at what happened in the UK though and be concerned. For Republicans, it could mean that a divisive leader with controversial associations to bigotry might be too much for people to vote for, even if they agree with the party on many issues and even if the opposition leader is heavily flawed. However, we basically saw that template in 2016 and we know the results.

Democrats need to ask themselves about the risks of moving too far to the left, as Corbyn and his party did. The fact that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are leading contenders for the nomination makes this more than a hypothetical. Other Democrat candidates such as Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden openly raised this concern late this week after the British elections.

I cannot help but see the irony of Biden doing this. Over thirty years ago, as a first time Presidential contender, he was forced to drop out of the race after being caught plagiarizing the life story and family background of the leader of the Labour Party, who that year would also see his party lose big.

This year, Biden is certainly unlikely to borrow any speeches from Jeremy Corbyn and is pleading for his party not to copy their template very closely at all.


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