Work on the Berlin Wall began on August 13, 1961 – the German Democratic Republic built their Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart (Antifaschistischer Schutzwall) cutting off West Berlin from East Germany and East Berlin, protecting its citizens from fascist elements conspiring to prevent the “will of the people” in building a socialist state in East Germany – but everyone wanted to leave. This couldn’t last, and on the night of November 9, 1989, Germans on both sides were taking sledgehammers to the thing. This was freedom. This was joy. That’s what the world saw on television. So, the wall was gone, and then the Soviet Union was gone. The world changed. Francis Fukuyama said this was The End of History – “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” – quite a popular concept at the time.
And then Western liberal democracy died. America didn’t triumph. America tore itself apart with Donald Trump’s inauguration address:
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
He told America that everyone is out to get us. He told America to sneer at the rest of the world – to get angry and get tough. The world was laughing at America. He also said that the rest of America – the blacks and the gays and the urban hipsters and the fancy-pants experts and the goofy scientists and all “politicians” in general – was laughing at Real Americans. Mexicans and Muslims were laughing at us too.
He could fix that. When someone hits you, hit them back ten times harder. We’ll build that wall and Mexico will pay for it. Muslims would be banned from entering the country – once he got a few more judges who saw things his way. Hit back ten times harder. That way no one messes with you ever again. That’s the way America should deal with the world. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
The angry and resentful loved that. Obama was arrogant and had despised them, so they hated him, and they hate smug city people with fancy degrees, or any degrees, or who know another language, or who like sushi, and so on. They had felt left out but now they had their champion. He was crude and nasty and he’d find a way to hurt those arrogant bastards. Everyone else, those who thought that community and cooperation and tolerance and respect for all were good things, those were the ones who were left out now. And it’s been almost four years of Donald Trump making sure that the angry and resentful remained completely angry and resentful.
But that had a side-effect. Fukuyama saw the End of History – wrongly – but now everyone can see the End of Democracy. There will be no more compromise. There won’t even be any discussion. What’s there to talk about? They hate us and want us dead. Both sides say that in one form or another. Each side seems to believe that. And no one can agree on anything, because no one thinks that would be a good thing anymore.
And that makes the impeachment of President Trump a bit pointless. It’s not going to happen. Half the country wants that. Half the country doesn’t. And no one will give an inch. Why should they? And that leads to what Chris Cillizza reports here:
A new CNN poll shows that half the country believes that President Donald Trump should be not only impeached by the House, but also removed from office by the Senate.
That result is being spun in some corners of the internet as great news for Trump, because that 50% number is unchanged from a CNN poll in mid-October, the conclusion being that the last 10 days of public impeachment hearings have not convinced more of the public that the President needs to go.
Cillizza finds that odd. A majority of the country still believes the current President of the United States should be impeached and removed from office. This is not good news at all, given the history of such things:
The peak of support for the impeachment and removal of then-President Bill Clinton in 1998 was 29% in CNN polling. That’s the highest that number ever went, despite the fact that the House Republican majority did vote to impeach late that year…
In a 2006 CNN poll, 30% of the public wanted George W. Bush impeached and removed from office; in 2014, 33% said the same of Barack Obama. Unlike Trump and Clinton, neither Bush nor Obama ever faced any sort of formal impeachment investigation or vote.
What those historical numbers tell us is that for at least the last two decades, there is roughly 30% of the country that is ready to impeach a president (usually of the party to which they do not belong) at all times.
Trump, however, is another matter:
What makes the Trump number so remarkable, then, is that 20% more of the public is now convinced not only that he should be impeached but that he should be removed from office – despite the fact that, unlike Clinton, Bush and Obama when those CNN polls were taken, Trump will face voters in a bid for a second term in less than a year’s time.
Now, it is fair to say that Democrats – if you gave them truth serum at the conclusion of last week’s public impeachment hearings – believed they had hit a home run, and that polling would reflect that. That polling so far hasn’t changed all that much is worth noting.
So that point is right – for now.
Yes, things can change, and they are changing just a bit:
Public support for impeaching President Donald Trump has tracked steadily higher over the past few weeks while a U.S. House of Representatives committee held a series of televised impeachment hearings, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
The latest poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 47% of adults in the United States felt Trump “should be impeached,” while 40% said he should not.
The result, combined with Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past several weeks, showed that the number of Americans who want to impeach the president increasingly outnumbers those who do not.
But the change is small:
Just before the hearings started on Nov. 13, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found that “net support” for impeachment, which is the difference between the number who support impeachment and the number who oppose, was 3 percentage points.
That increased to 4 points after the first week of hearings, and then to 5 points as the second week of hearings started. The latest poll shows that net support for impeachment is now at 7 points.
And of course some things cannot change at all now:
Public opinion about impeachment remains split along party lines, with about eight in 10 Democrats supportive of impeaching Trump, and eight in 10 Republicans opposed.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that seven in 10 Republicans believed the House inquiry had not been conducted fairly, and most Republicans opposed impeachment for anything short of outright lawbreaking by the president.
Four in 10 Republicans agreed that a president who uses his powers for financial gain should face an impeachment inquiry, while three in 10 said it would be justified for a president who obstructs justice or harms U.S. interests abroad.
Only two in 10 said an inquiry would be justified for a president who uses his powers for unfair political advantage over an opponent, as Trump is accused of doing.
Everyone is locked in and Kevin Drum sees this:
The crosstabs pretty much tell the story here. Roughly speaking, Democrats are 90 percent in favor of impeachment, Republicans are 90 percent against impeachment, and independents are split 50-50. As usual, Democratic and Republican leaners feel the same way as Democrats and Republicans, so the only truly undecided group is the tiny number of genuine indies in the middle. That’s maybe a tenth of the electorate or so, which means that public opinion just doesn’t have very far to move. The only way to change that is for something to become public that’s too heinous for even Fox News to paper over.
But don’t expect that. Forget impeachment. Concentrate on the election:
This is unfortunate in a rule-of-law sense, but perhaps not so much in an electoral sense. Barring some kind of spectacular meltdown, this means that Democrats can’t rely on some external force helping them out next November. They just have to win. No whining about the Electoral College; no whining about voter suppression; no whining about the unfairness of the Senate. Just figure out a way to appeal to lots of different people and win the election.
And forget the big issues too:
Most people are really self-centered. They’ll vote for the candidate who promises them specific things that will help them personally. Students? Free or reduced-cost college. Young women? Childcare. Working-class men? Unions and big infrastructure programs. Middle-class folks? More generous Obamacare. The elderly poor? Higher Social Security payments. Environmentalists? Big bucks for climate change R&D. You get the idea.
Democrats don’t have to propose gigantic, universal programs that cost a fortune. They just need to propose targeted programs that will bring in votes from the middle-class groups they need.
That’s practical, but Rick Brown considers that dead wrong:
We need to push back on this idea that maybe we should just skip the impeachment, and let the upcoming elections decide the impeachment question.
The problem with that is that elections and impeachments are not the same thing, and serve two totally different purposes.
Elections ask the people to choose who (and also who’s vision) they want to run the country, whereas impeachment asks the government to determine whether the president committed any “crime” or “crimes” against the country, and should be removed from office because of it. Just as a priest who sexually molests a child should be fired and reported to the police, even if the Bishop likes the guy’s work, a president who commits a serious breach of law or rule should lose the job and shouldn’t even be allowed to run for future office, no matter what the voters think. (And by the way, part of the impeachment process includes an option allowing the Senators to vote to bar him from serving in any elected office in the future.)
And the evidence in this case continues to mount:
The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled its first impeachment hearing for Dec. 4, as Democrats released transcripts Tuesday of the depositions of two more Trump administration officials.
The depositions of Mark Sandy, an Office of Management and Budget official, and Philip Reeker, the diplomat in charge of U.S. policy for Europe, were released hours after Trump said he would “love” for several senior administration officials to testify in the impeachment inquiry. He then argued that the White House was preventing them from doing so to protect the institution of the presidency.
Later Tuesday, Trump headlined a campaign rally in Florida, where he renewed his attacks against Democrats and what he described as their “impeachment witch hunt.”
That line is wearing thin, and even if Trump will never lose even one voter in his base, it was time to cover one’s ass:
Donald Trump denied directing Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine to look for dirt on his political rivals, in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
“No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview streamed on the internet on Tuesday.
Giuliani has said publicly that he conducted an investigation “concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption” on Trump’s behalf. Asked by O’Reilly what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump said “you have to ask that to Rudy.” “Rudy has other clients, other than me,” Trump said. “He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years.”
In short, Rudy does what he does. Trump said that he had and now has had nothing to do with that any of that, which is curious:
Giuliani is under investigation by federal prosecutors related to his activities in Ukraine. Trump’s effort to force Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to open investigations that could be damaging to his political rivals including former Vice President Joe Biden is the subject of the House impeachment inquiry.
Witnesses in the inquiry have testified that Giuliani directed a shadow U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine aimed at securing the investigations Trump desired.
That’s not helpful, but Trump can still make sure that democracy doesn’t work:
President Trump on Tuesday raged against the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, lobbed attacks at his adversaries in the Washington establishment and angrily defended his health during an unfettered, raucous rally that marked his return to Florida as a formal resident.
Hours after the House invited the administration to present its defense next week in the impeachment investigation, the president railed against House investigators for being “very sick and corrupt people” unwilling to give him a fair chance to defend himself.
“The failed Washington establishment is trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you,” he told the roaring crowd, offering a key election battleground a fiery preview of what is probably going to be his foremost defense after a series of career officials testified that he had engaged in a pressure campaign to force Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
No one should listen to anyone but him:
Mr. Trump also defended his decision this month to absolve three service members of war crimes, arguing that he had “stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state.”
No soldier should obey his commanding officer ever again. All commanding officers are “deep state” operatives out to ruin America, and then he rambled a bit:
He took particular offense with coverage of his recent visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and speculation about his health, describing unverified reports that he had “a massive, unbelievable heart attack.” He described at length the process of getting examined by doctors and being asked to “take off your shirt, sir, and show us that gorgeous chest.”
But he didn’t rip off his shirt right then and there, to show everyone his gorgeous chest, settling for this instead:
“Hey, if I wasn’t feeling great, I wouldn’t be ranting and raving to 21,000, 22,000 people,” he told the crowd, which broke into boisterous applause. Buoyed by a deafening soundtrack, the crowd frequently bellowed “four more years” and waved “Keep America Great!” signs.
And then he drifted:
During the nearly 90-minute speech, Mr. Trump frequently toggled between promoting his administration’s accomplishments and airing his grievances with his Washington adversaries. Tossing a few “Make America Great Again” hats into the crowd at the beginning of the rally, he treated the attendees as confidants. Mr. Trump wrapped them into the “fight to take our country back” and waxed nostalgic about his 2016 victory, his inaugural parade and the days when the news media did not scrutinize his every move.
“Can I be honest, in front of these fakers back there?” Mr. Trump asked the crowd, which responded with a variety of gestures in the direction of the media pen. He painted a world in which he and the audience united once more in 2020 to fight back against a number of adversaries, including those who wanted to stop saying “Happy Thanksgiving.” (It was unclear who those people were and what they wanted to say instead.)
Even as he reminisced about his victories over the Bush and Clinton dynasties, he would pivot mid-thought to lament the distortion of his “perfect phone call” with Ukraine’s president and the “very sick and corrupt people” investigating his administration. But, he assured the crowd, they would ultimately be unsuccessful.
“A lot of bad things are happening to them – you see what’s happening in the polls?” he said.
He hasn’t seen what’s happening in the polls. A majority of the country still believes that this particular President of the United States should be impeached and removed from office. But maybe that does matter. There really is nothing that’s too heinous for even Fox News to paper over. And this democracy is over.