Good Friday Morning! Or should I call it the week of Disney Plus? If you ever wanted proof that Democrats or DC, in general, is out of touch, look at the fact that they held the first day of open impeachment hearings on the day Disney launched their streaming service.
It’s anecdotal, but I’ve noticed that even my more hardcore #Resistance friends, who are entirely on board with impeaching Trump, are far more into DisneyPlus, and Epstein didn’t kill himself memes. And that’s even with all the networks going full-blast on the impeachment front. I’m sure people are watching/paying attention, but this will be a long process, and I doubt that focus will hold.
Part of living in a fractured culture, where everyone has their own silo’s of media to explore, it’s harder for something big to dominate the entire culture. Impeachment hearings have a moment — but it isn’t long — before everyone goes back to their corner and ignores it. Gallup says 13.1 million people watched day one of the hearings, which is on par with the Mueller testimony, and well below the Comey testimony — and that’s including all news networks. They estimate 71% of the country watched the Nixon hearings in the ’70s. All of which suggests the anecdotal is right — people aren’t paying attention to this spectacle.
That leads me into what I want to talk about today, regarding impeachment and trust — links to follow.
Briefly — I want to continue thanking everyone for the reviews on the podcast. Keep sending those in and spreading the word! It’s always good to see something like this gain traction.
- Quick hit: An underrated aspect of the last 15 years or so, Hilary Clinton clearing the field from any competitors in 2008 and 2016 unnaturally suppressed the number of people who wanted to run for President. While we’re watching even more people jumping into the race these days, her impact still looms over everything, because many of these people could have run in 2016, which would shrink this field. But she ran in 2016, and now everyone is coming out of the woodwork to run.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the Beltway Outsiders Podcast host Daniel Vaughan talks about ABC News squashing the Jeffrey Epstein story they had in 2016 and what that reveals to us about media overall. He also talks through the politics of impeachment in Washington DC and the political fundamentals pushing various segments of the Democratic Party. And finally, he talks through the experience of learning to write columns and what advice he’d give to people just starting and wanting their platform.
Impeachment is political – not legal. Republicans should keep up the pressure. – Conservative Institute
The latest argument that Donald Trump’s sixth amendment rights are getting violated is wrong. But there is a political element to it that shouldn’t get ignored.
Walt Disney squashed the Epstein story. They should answer for that. – Conservative Institute
ABC News’s decision to commit to a blackout of the Epstein case is one of the times where there’s an open conspiracy, and we all get to see and watch it take place.
Is this a unique breach of trust? Or another in a series of breaches?
As I said above, open impeachment hearings are here. By the time you read this, the third day of testimony will be underway or already done. A fact I find interesting, in the FiveThirtyEight impeachment tracker, support for “impeach and remove” sits at 47%, which is the lowest its been since October 7th, which was right before support for impeaching and removing peaked near 50%.
As a shorthand, you can take about five points off that to get a sense of what impeachment numbers are in the battleground states and swing districts. Democrats are starting their impeachment hearings at a time when support is waning on the impeachment front.
The task for Adam Schiff and the rest of the Democrats is to prove that the Ukraine call on July 25th was a unique breach of trust that necessitates immediate impeachment, not an election. Polls heading into impeachment hearings aren’t trending towards Democrats — but that’s not the narrative in the media.
Impeachments aim to fix trust
I’m feeling like a broken record here because I keep having to hit this same point. But here it is again: Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. Impeachment was designed to fix a breach of public trust so deep and profound that impeachment was the only solution, not an election.
The key here is the Federalist Papers 65 and 66. In 65, Alexander Hamilton said that impeachment covered “offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” And it’s not just a simple breach. It’s something unique that makes impeachment the preferred option.
This fact means that impeachment is not a legal solution; it’s political. As Hamilton says, impeachment topics have a “peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
Taken together, what this means is that impeachment is supposed to fix a breach of trust. It’s supposed to restore confidence in the government as a whole. I have a column coming out on how solutions that try to get rid of Trump are, so often, breaches of trust too. I won’t belabor that point here, but I do want to pause for a moment and hone in on the issue of trust.
Trump and trust…
Donald Trump entered the White House after the 2016 election with record-low approval ratings. He had no trust from the people, and everything since his election has done nothing to raise that trust. In effect, he entered office with a breach of public trust already in place — but that wasn’t unique to him — both Trump and Clinton were untrusted by the public. Whoever got elected, would have entered office with a breach of trust with the public needing repair.
That breach is critical to note because if there’s a lack of that already in place, and the person still gets elected, it means impeachment is, counter-intuitively, harder to achieve.
Take Trump’s conduct, either with Ukraine or anything else, and had any previous GOP President done it, you’d have a far different take on impeachment. If George W. Bush started asking other countries for dirt on John Kerry or Al Gore, we’d be surprised. It would be a breach of trust with us because it would be a startling shift of character.
Trump asking for that same thing? It’s on-brand for him. It’s something that would have shocked exactly zero people before, after, or during the 2016 election.
Elections versus Impeachment…
Trump got elected with a lower bar of conduct expected of him. To impeach him, you have to prove, weirdly enough, a higher public breach of trust. And that’s why I say the task of Democrats isn’t to show Trump has bad conduct — it’s that this particular conduct is to uniquely bad, that it warrants impeachment instead of waiting for an election.
Democrats are not succeeding on that front. A Monmouth poll showed elections are preferred, even among Democrats, to an actual impeachment:
Most Americans (59%) agree with the statement that “if you want Trump out of office, it makes more sense to focus on next year’s election rather than go through an impeachment process now.” Just one-third of the public (34%) disagrees with this view. Even among those who support removing Trump from office via impeachment, 4-in-10 (39%) actually agree that focusing on next year’s election provides a better opportunity to remove him from office.
More pollsters should test that question as we head into 2020. Because that gives you the real mandate for politicians, should they push for impeachment or let the election decide? Polling shows elections have a preference, which matters for all these Democrats and Republicans in purple districts and states.
Notice what all these polls are suggesting when you put them together. A plurality, or a slight majority, of those polled, agree that Trump has committed lousy conduct. A plurality would even say that the behavior is impeachable — and even impeach/remove level.
But they don’t want an actual impeachment — they’re saying they would wait for the 2020 election to decide. That 34% of the public that wants impeachment matches the core part of the progressive base. Around 80% of Democrats want impeachment, so it makes sense that you’d find a core group that doesn’t want to wait for the 2020 election.
But the majority pointing away from impeachment are what inform my predictions right now. The political pressure is leaning towards impeachment right now. Democrats may be able to change that through the open hearings, but history suggests they won’t. They couldn’t make the Mueller report big enough to move people. I doubt they’ll be able to do the opposite here.
All that said, here are my predictions for the impeachment movement going forward.
- Democrats will struggle to get enough votes for impeachment. They had two already balk at voting on the process. Before the process vote, rumors said 16 Reps wanted to break with the Democratic party. Voting on the actual articles of impeachment is the harder vote.
- The politics of supporting a vote on impeachment are similar to Obamacare or the GOP government shutdown in 2014. The hardcore partisans are convinced its good politics — but reality says otherwise.
- If Democrats do get the votes to pass impeachment in the House, the Senate will use the Democratic primaries to put pressure on Senate Democrats to vote down the measure. If there’s a chance that a Senate trial could interfere with the Democratic Primaries, Democrats will try to push a vote to happen either before the primaries (unlikely), or after the primaries get decided.
- Watch Pelosi get pressure from both moderate Democrats and the Democratic Primaries to avoid a vote that hurts them. Moderate Democrats don’t want any votes. Senate Democrats don’t like the timing.
- If Pelosi backs off impeachment, she’ll either try to drag out the inquiry process through the 2020 election or shuttle it all together, blaming Senate Republicans for already choosing a side in choosing to acquit Trump, making the House process meaningless. If she tries dragging out the process, the GOP and White House will pivot and demand a vote — calling the Democrats bluff on a lack of votes — to “end the witch hunt” before the 2020 election.
Most everything you’re witnessing right now has little to do with the substance of the impeachment inquiry. Everything right now is about power politics — a zero-sum game where everyone is jockeying for the most powerful position they can manage. Once one side sees their situation as untenable, they’ll try to get out of the process.
In my opinion, Democrats are holding the weaker hand because they have less time in which to act. They face softening polls, a time crunch because of the primaries, and a moderate faction that wants nothing to do with impeachment. The weakness for Republicans is Trump — he continually protects himself from the weakest possible position, making their lives more difficult.
Democrats need these public hearings to make a tremendous impact on the public. If that doesn’t happen, they’ll be in an even weaker position. We’re in the middle of Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years, multiple streaming services launching, and more cultural things pulling people’s attention in other directions. I suspect people will just say, “just forget impeachment and move on to the 2020 election so we can tune out until then.”
I can’t blame them for thinking that.
Links of the week
Warren Wealth Tax Could Slow Economy. Early Analysis Finds – Jim Tankersley, The New York Times.
The ‘Hooker Laureate’ of the Dirtbag Left – Kaitlin Phillips, The Cut
First, Take No Stand: On assisted suicide, the medical profession ducks behind “neutrality.” – Aaron Kheriaty, The New Atlantis
Supreme Court Declines to Stop Suit Against Remington in Potential Blow to Gun Industry: Court could still intervene down the road – Stephen Gutowski, The Washington Free Beacon
The Not-So-Persuasive Sales Pitch for Impeachment – Jim Geraghty, National Review
The alt-right has no future in conservatism – Madeline Fry, The Washington Examiner
Five Polling Results That May Change the Way You Think About Electability – Nate Cohn, The New York Times
CNN’s Stelter continues on-air network blackout on ABC News not running Epstein story – Mike Brest, The Washington Examiner
Netflix’s “Unnatural Selection” ducks the big questions about gene editing: The techno-utopian finale of the new Netflix docuseries celebrates a feat of “gene editing” that is anything but – Jonathan R. Latham, Salon
[The best long-form article I’ve read in a while] This Plane Accidentally Flew Around the World: After Pearl Harbor, the crew of Pan Am flight 18602 was forced to do the impossible – John Bull, Medium
Facebook’s new Preventive Health tool pushes people to advocate for their health – Mary Beth Griggs, The Verge
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the impeachment hearings, Rep. Adam Schiff was asked why the Intelligence Committee wasn’t looking into corruption on the part of the Bidens, but rather focused on Trump’s phone call with Ukraine.
“Hey, it seems kinda like maybe we should look into this whole thing with Hunter Biden getting $50K a month from a Ukrainian company,” said Rep. Jim Jordan. “Let’s see if we can find out about this possible corruption.”
PROVIDENCE, RI — Immediately after sitting down on the living room couch and covering herself in a large cotton blanket, area girlfriend Amanda Bettman, 28, announced her intentions Monday to remain in this state for the next five calendar months. “I am cozy right now, this is my ideal state of warmth and comfortability, and I shall remain underneath this blanket for the next 150 days or until such time as the cold weather season has fully transpired,” the Providence resident confirmed to her boyfriend as she drew the comforter to her ears and curled up amongst several big, fluffy pillows.
Thanks for reading!