This week the House of Representatives continued their impeachment investigation of President Trump. While most of the Democrats have come on board, House and Senate Republicans have largely remained silent and refused to turn on Trump as new revelations seem to come out not daily, but hourly.
Over at the White House, Trump has launched an all out attack, some say in the style of a despot dictator, against anyone who stands up against him or even questions him.
Democrats, both in Washington and throughout the country, are wondering when Republicans will join them in protecting our Democracy and turn on Trump. So far, very few have in Washington although there has been evidence of some voter blocks beginning to remove themselves from Trump’s grasp.
538 columnist Lee Drutman believes that although few GOPers in Washington have spoken out, it is possible that they will. If it happens, it will not happen in ‘drips and drabs’ as they say, but pretty much all at once.
So now begins the reading of the tea leaves and the careful scrutiny of every Republican senator’s statements (or silence). Will Republicans finally break with Trump? We may not know until it happens. But be forewarned — if it does happen, it will likely take us by surprise. After all, political science has shown us that big political changes often come suddenly, after long periods of stasis. Looking back, it seems like of course the Soviet Union was bound to collapse. But up until the moment it did — and remember, it fell all at once — almost nobody predicted it.
Drutman continues by explaining exactly why so few have defected so far:
Collectively, Republicans want to keep Trump popular so they can keep winning elections. In our era of increasingly nationalized politics, most Republicans can’t run independently of the president, even if they want to. Perhaps recognizing this, many have instead tied themselves more closely to him. Trump defines the Republican Party brand as president.
But wait, there’s more …
How does this all factor into the politics of impeachment, exactly? Well, the basic logic is the same — right now, Republicans in Congress aren’t willing to stand up to Trump, so there’s no sign that someone’s willing to be the first to go. Without a bold leader, there are no bold followers. But without the promise of bold followers, there are no bold leaders.
And when he talks about the “1st to go” he isn’t referring to the typical “rebels” in the GOP like Susan Collins from Maine or Mitt Romney. What it will take, Drutman argues, is the stalwart, rank n file conservatives to stand up. Members who actually tend to influence others in the GOP vs being cheered by Democrats when they occasionally say no to one of the POTUS’s demands.
It’s rank-and-file Republican senators up for reelection in solidly red states, like Bill Cassidy from Louisiana or Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma, whom you should watch. If they waver, that will signal that Trump’s days are numbered.
In addition to the fall of the USSR, Drutman uses the Arab Spring as an example of how political movements happen virtually overnight and rise up like a tidal wave. He also could use a more domestic example, that of Richard Nixon. Almost no Republicans supported the impeachment effort until the evidence was so overwhelming that denying it would have meant the collapse of the party in their view.
We seem to be approaching such a moment once again.
In his conclusion, the columnist says that we will all probably look back and see that moment as something that was inevitable, but until it happens, we won’t see it coming:
If there is a Republican cascade against Trump, in retrospect, it will look inevitable, as if the steady drip of revelations and testimony was always destined to reach that final dramatic tipping point.
Since the Ukraine scandal broke, it seems Americans are moving towards support of impeachment with some polls jumping 10 points in favor of impeachment. How much more it will take to “tip the scales” is anyone’s guess.
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