The Democrats are clearly frustrated by their failure to convince congressional Republicans that President Trump has committed any act approaching an impeachable offense. This was made plain when House managers Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) resorted to the bizarre and self-defeating tactic of insulting the integrity of the very senators who will ultimately decide the president’s fate. The Democrats obviously believed their relentless attacks on all things Trump, combined with impeachment, would eventually cause Republicans to abandon him just as they did President Nixon in 1974. Instead, their three-year smear campaign has only strengthened the president’s support among Republicans in both houses of Congress.
The Democratic case for Trump’s conviction is so flaccid that it hasn’t persuaded the voters upon whom the GOP relies to win elections. FiveThirtyEight reports that a mere 8.4 percent of Republicans and only 41.8 percent of Independents support Trump’s removal. Consequently, the president’s support among congressional Republicans shouldn’t be difficult to understand. Yet an explanation continues to elude not only the Democrats but also the establishment media, which has churned out countless “think-pieces” in a uniformly unsuccessful attempt to solve the conundrum. One of the more amusing theories is that the United States has somehow stopped producing statesmen with the moral courage to speak truth to power.
A recent Politico essay by Garrett M. Graff suggests that President Nixon’s downfall may not have been accomplished but for the courage of Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who went to Nixon in August 1974 and demanded that he resign. Graff then asks, “Is there even a figure in the GOP left today to carry such a message to a White House under siege?” The irony of reading this portrayal of Goldwater in a publication like Politico will not be lost on conservatives who know how the press savaged him in 1964 when he ran against Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. Indeed, many of the dirty tricks that President Trump has endured were road-tested on Goldwater, including the claim that he was clinically insane.
Another ludicrous explanation for the refusal of Republicans to run for the tall grass is that Trump is an iron-fisted tyrant who rules his party through intimidation and threats. Lead House manager Adam Schiff was unwise enough to refer to this nonsense during his closing remarks to the Senate Friday night: “CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that key senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’ I don’t know if that’s true.” A similar take was offered by George Conway and Reed Galen at NBC’s hilariously titled THINK. They assure their readers that Trump controls the Republicans by virtue of raw fear and that GOP senators cringe beneath his sneer of cold command:
Fear drives Republican members of the Senate today. Fear is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is acting upon as he attempts to limit the length and scope of Trump’s trial. Fear of Trump drives the actions of the spineless GOP caucus, as does fear of the truth, and fear of a partisan base to which none dare speak the truth. Fear has, indeed, dominated Republican senators’ actions from the moment the impeachment proceedings began.
If this claim were true, “moderate” GOP senators like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, Maine’s Susan Collins, and Utah’s Mitt Romney would not have signaled their willingness to consider additional witnesses or hinted that they were persuadable on conviction. These Republicans are not afraid of Trump. Now, having been accused by Nadler of colluding with Trump in a cover-up and insulted by Schiff’s suggestion that White House threats will determine their votes, they may be angry enough to vote against any motion put forward by the Democrats. As Jonathan Turley of George Washington University writes at the Hill, the Democrats violated a fundamental tenet of litigation:
It is the one unbreakable rule in litigation. You can insult the defendant or the opposing attorney and, on occasion, you might even insult the judge. But the one thing you can never do is insult the jury.… The most riveting example this week was the argument of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who stood in the well of the Senate and appeared to accuse Republican senators of a conspiracy to “cover up” the wrongdoing of the president.
As if to illustrate Turley’s point, the most vehement Republican objections to the insults came from Sens. Collins and Murkowski — whom the Democrats could least afford to alienate. Meanwhile, the president’s lawyers introduced their defense Saturday morning, and in just a little more than two hours all but obliterated the Democratic impeachment narrative using their own witnesses. Showing the senators example after example of exculpatory testimony deliberately omitted from the Democratic presentation, they demonstrated that the House managers gave them a distorted view of what was said during the fabled Trump–Zelensky call. Particularly devastating was a video of Adam Schiff fabricating quotes from that conversation.
This brings us back to the difference between 1974 and 2020. In the summer of 1974, very few voters would have known about the skulduggery described above. The Democrats were determined to bring Nixon down, a hostile corporate media enjoyed a monopoly on the “news,” and the GOP establishment consisted of swamp creatures willing to desert him. In 2020, the Democrats want to bring down Trump, but the corporate media no longer controls the information received by the electorate, and the voters want Trump to dismantle the GOP establishment and drain the swamp. Most of the electorate understands impeachment is a sham, and congressional Republicans know what fate awaits them if they abandon this president as they did Richard Nixon.