Impeachment is shaping up as unpredictably explosive, but not in the way imagined.
There are lots of things that we do know about the present impeachment of Donald Trump — and we know that there are even more areas that remain unknown.
Quietly, the approval ratings of Trump have been rising to pre-impeachment levels and are nearing a RealClearPolitics average of 45. Support for impeaching Trump and/or removing him is not increasing as the House Democrats expected. It is essentially static, or slowly eroding, depending on how polls phrase such questions.
Apparently, an exhausted public did not see “Ukrainian” impeachment as a one-off national crisis akin to the Nixon inquiry and the Clinton impeachment and trial that merited national attention. The impeachment vote instead is being confirmed in the public mind as part of a now boring three-year impeachment psychodrama (from impeachment 1.0, the Logan Act, the emoluments clause, the 25th Amendment, and Michael Avenatti/Stormy Daniels comedies to Robert Mueller’s “dream team” and “all-stars”). The progressive logic of the current jump-the-shark monotony is to become even more monotonous, the way that a driller leans ever harder on his dull and chipping bit as his bore becomes static.
The Democrats believed that all of these efforts would be like small cuts, each one perhaps minor but all combining to bleed Trump out. But now we know, given polling data and the strong Trump economy, that the long odyssey to impeachment has had almost no effect on Trump’s popularity, other than losing him 3–4 points for a few weeks as periodic media “bombshells” went off.
The reality may be the very opposite of what Democrats planned. The more the Left tries to abort the Trump presidency before the election, the more it bleeds from each of its own inflicted nicks. As an example, Rachel Maddow’s reputation has not been enhanced by her neurotic assertions that Trump’s tax returns would soon appear, or that the Steele dossier was steadily gaining credibility, or that yet another tell-tale Russian colluder had emerged from under another American bed.
The past three years of Trump mania did not induce a recession, despite last summer’s sudden hysteria that “recession” was on the horizon. It is hard to envision a looming recession when real wages of workers continue to rise, unemployment is at historic lows, U.S. energy production is at record highs, inflation is low, interest rates are manageable, and growth is moderate but steady. We collectively have an appointment with the staggering national debt and stock-market exuberance, but probably not until after 2020. And the Left has completely nullified that issue by proposing trillions of dollars in new spending.
For now, the Democrats in extremis have redefined impeachment for the first time in American history as a Sword of Damocles, now permanently hanging by a horse’s hair over Trump’s head. Impeachment is being reinvented as way of presidential life that will supposedly impale Trump one day or at least constrain him, as occasional additional writs are added on, as the polls, media, and Democratic fancy dictate. Nancy Pelosi has rewritten the U.S. Constitution after reading a few op-eds by Trump-hating academics. Most Americans accept that if the Republican Congress had tried the same with Barack Obama (at a time when just wearing an Obama mask got a rodeo clown fired for life from a state fair), we would have had a revolution.
Most presidents need 50 percent approval ratings in the lead-up to a reelection bid to win another four years. But Trump, who won the election without 50 percent approval, may not. He is polling now not far from where Obama was while on his trajectory to reelection in 2012, and his approval is about what it was at the time of his own election victory in 2016.
The Left remains scared that the polls, which seemed accurate in the midterm elections when Trump was not on the ballot, may not be accurate in 2020. The flawed analytics on election eve 2016 remain a terrifying specter. Democrats fear that few who voted for Trump in 2020 will defect and that some who did not vote for Trump will approve of the economy and change their minds this November. All irony is lost on the Left that their four-year-long climate of MAGA intolerance and contempt for the deplorables, irredeemables, clingers, crazies, the so-called toothless, and Joe Biden’s dregs may well have polluted their own polls.
It is not just anger at the Left or a wish to avoid confrontations that camouflages Trump support. The existential hatred of Donald Trump is such that average Americans may not wish to accurately express their support even anonymously to pollsters either by phone or on computers. There are recent widespread (and increasingly legitimate) fears of electronic data mining and the compilation of information that might later be used against respondents (what was once considered quite paranoid is no longer so, given revelations about the ethos of Silicon Valley). Plenty of Americans don’t think it’s wise to honestly answer, whether in a phone conversation or by text, an anonymous pollster asking about opinions on Trump.
In addition, the odium among the Left is so pernicious and so ubiquitous that the surveyors themselves may pollute the very taking of polls. Pollsters know that massaging polls creates momentum for media stories about Trump’s “unpopularity” and the “erosion” in his support. Thus in theory a few true believers could warp, within limits, their own data, in service to a noble cause. When the Hill/Harris and the USA/Suffolk polls have a two-point gap between Trump’s approval and disapproval, while Politico has him down 15 points, something seems to the public haywire somewhere.
No one knows the effect that the Horowitz report, following the Mueller-investigation dud, is having on the credibility of the mainstream media — so far, the great force multiplier of the abort-Trump Left. It may be that we are nearing the point at which “bombshells” and “walls are closing in” are little more than soap bubbles. Certainly, the public was lied to about the “Steele dossier” and the “Schiff memo,” to the point that the media may soon be not a catalyst but a retardant of the Left, a smelly albatross around its collective neck. The Durham investigations are not yet in, and the fate of Brennan, Clapper, Comey, and McCabe may make Horowitz’s damning report seem tame. What would happen if paid TV analysts got indicted after predicting that everyone who was innocent would go to jail?
We are living in bizarre times — the rhetoric of Trump hatred is nearing its logical end, and scant further popular animus can be expressed beyond smashing his face, shooting him, burning him up, or blowing up the White House, and no further political venom voiced than urging progressives to surround Trump officials and harass them at restaurants and stores.
Many who voted for Trump were quite aware that Trump’s rhetoric often bothered them. They now weigh that discomfort against his achievements and the shrill Democratic alternative — and find the latter far scarier. Few on the left ever contemplate the effect on the general public of the 24/7, 360-degree pure hatred of Trump on network and cable news, public TV and radio, and late-night TV talk shows, as well as print media. The silent disdain many people have for the progressive media nexus is especially potent when the haters so often fit a stereotypical profile in the public mind: counterfeit elite as defined by education, zip codes, careers, or supposed cultural influence; smug in their parrot-like group-speak and accustomed to deference.
This paradox was brought home to me not long ago when I asked an unlikely Trump minority supporter why in the world he would vote against his family’s and community’s political heritage. He answered at once, with simply, “I hate the people who hate him.”
Translated, I think that means we often are missing a cultural element to Trump Agonistes, exacerbated by the latest toxic impeachment episode.
Again, millions of Americans actually leave Trump per se out of their voting equations. They do not give him full credit for a remarkable economy and an unorthodox foreign policy that is addressing China, Iran, and the Middle East in a way many once advocated but few seriously believed would ever be enacted.
Instead, voters are exhausted by his haters and their crazy agendas. They grow enraged over how the Mueller and Horowitz investigatory reports have disproved all the daily media, celebrity, and political assertions. And they are upset about the larger culture of the anti-Trump Left, from the fundamentals of open borders and identity politics to the trivia of transgendered athletes, Colin Kaepernickism, and the open-border, Green New Deal socialism. An auto worker who votes as a true-blue union Democrat but likes Trump’s trade policies, a no-nonsense farmer who worries about farm exports but likes deregulation, and a teacher who votes a liberal slate but has no way to control his classroom may not seem like Trump voters, but some such voters are terrified by the cultural trajectory of what the Trump-hating Left has in store for them all.
For a majority, refined and arrogant progressive mendaciousness voiced in condescending nasal tones has become far more repugnant than all-American hype in a Queens accent.
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