Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t have been more brazen, blunt and arrogant. He flatly said, “The way that impeachment stops is with a Senate majority with me as majority leader.” Now before McConnell issued his edit there was much chatter that a growing core of GOP senators might break ranks and vote to convict Trump if the full House voted to impeach Trump. It takes 20 GOP senators to break ranks to do that. Why would they? Some are in a tough fight for reelection and impeachment might be a winning card. For others Trump’s latest outlandish in your face subvert of the law is the final straw. For still others they fear that going to the barricades on his Ukraine double-dealing are optics so ugly for the GOP that it could wreck the party long term.
However, McConnell pretty much made this talk of a Saul like epiphany on the road to impeachment Damascus and vote to convict by GOP senators—thus removing Trump from office almost moot. Even under the best of circumstances that would be asking a lot of McConnell and the Senate GOP. They’ve already watched and gritted their teeth and summersaulted through tortuous apologetics as Trump has brought mafia chieftain stuff to the White House in thumbing his nose at the law, the Constitution, and traditional political convention and comportment.
McConnell isn’t throwing his bucket of cold water on impeachment solely because of any love of, or fear of Trump. He was in the Senate long before Trump came along and the betting odds are that he’ll be there after Trump is gone. He’s not going to the barricades with his Senate firewall talk to beat back impeachment out of any belief that Trump is being victimized by a left-wing mob as he dubbed the Pelosi impeachment inquiry.
It’s simply in part a matter of GOP hard-nosed self-interest and in greater part Trump’s dragoon of a party.
Self-interest first, GOP voters vote. Countless polls, surveys, and studies on voter preference, attitudes, and trends for years have shown much greater GOP voter turnout than Democratic. GOP voters dutifully vote in local, state, mid-term and, of course, presidential elections. Democratic voters don’t. They don’t just vote. They are far less likely to split their vote, and not cast a cross-over vote for a Democratic candidate.
It’s this core GOP vote then that matters most. The GOP would have little chance to continue its dominance over state and congressional politics without the fervid backing of these core voters. Though polls have shown a slight tilt among voters overall in backing the impeachment inquiry and even removing Trump from office, that’s not the sentiment among base GOP voters.
McConnell knows that and said as much in his recent re-election campaign video gleefully hand rubbing at using the impeachment fight as a spur to further fire up GOP voters.
McConnell also knows that white males still have outsized voter clout in the crucial Heartland states, North Carolina and Florida. They will decide who sits in the Oval Office in 2020 as well as electing and re-electing a lot of Republicans to state and local offices. Trump knows it too. He wasted no time in staging his trademark giant circus like exhibitions that pass for campaign rallies on their vote turf.
Now for Trump’s dragoon of the GOP. It’s more than just a cliché to say that whatever party a sitting president belongs to automatically makes him the titular head of his party. Trump rammed home that horrific fact when he bullied, cajoled, and intimidated GOP leaders into believing that defying him spells doom for anyone who defies him in any way in their reelection bid. It was more than an idle threat. He delivered on it or at least took credit for delivering on it in a handful of GOP congressional races that appeared to be close. He showed up, backed the GOP candidate, and he or she won. That solidified his cred as the guy with big enough coattails to drag anyone through to victory.
His unshakeable rabid base are the voters that the GOP will need Trump to rev up in the key swing districts in 2020. They’ll look to him to do just that for them. This is the voter loyalty that buys a lot of support from the GOP establishment even as they flail him or shake their head in disgust for his toxic presidency. And even give sound bite feints of righteous indignation his patented thug antics.
The 2020 election will be the biggest political money game on the planet. This time around Trump will have the dough to spare. He’s smashed records for fundraising, made the RNC’s entire electoral apparatus Trump Central, and will spread the cash around all over the media, mostly with incendiary attack ads and school yard bully language against his opponent that would make a drunken sailor cringe. The GOP will cringe, but it’s those gutter attacks that has often spelled the difference in getting a lot of Republicans elected. So, they’ll publicly decry them and privately welcome and cheer them.
For McConnell the only numbers that will count on Election Day are the numbers that show up at the polls. McConnell banks that stonewalling impeachment will swell those numbers—for the GOP. That’s good enough reason for him to brag that impeachment is DOA.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book is The Gentrification Wars (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network