Will they find support for House impeachment efforts or a disappointed Democratic base and incensed swing voters?
As Congressional members head back to their home districts for the Thanksgiving holiday break, there is likely to be much reflection on the events of the past weeks.
For instance, this week in the House, the closed door hearings- long a point of contention with House Republicans- ended and the public hearings began to much fanfare in the New York Times and Washington Post.
Witness after witness testified to their impressions of, conversations about, and recollections regarding events that have led Congress to invoke the harshest possible presidential punishment outlined by the constitution.
What is certain? Well, for one thing. No one watched.
For another, impeachment has proved just as divisive as the once impeachment-reticent Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi promised it would be. Not a single Republican in Congress broke rank to vote with Democrats for impeachment. Two Democrats voiced their opposition by voting with Republicans.
There has been very little in the way of hard evidence since that vote, and it is unlikely that Congressional Republicans heard anything during the hearings that swayed the prevalent opinion that Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President, while ill-advised, does not rise to the level of impeachment.
These impeachment hearings have demonstrated something else with certainty; Republicans and Democrats are living in two different worlds.
What Democrats insist is an open and shut case against Donald Trump, Republicans dismiss as nothing more than assumptions, presumptions, and Trump’s obvious unpopularity with more than a few career diplomats.
If Democrats didn’t know already, they should know by now that Donald Trump is one of the most prolific consumers of right-wing media this side of the Atlantic. Anything reported by RedState or Info Wars isn’t out of the running, either. Republicans have their own Mother Jones, you know.
That Trump believes the Ukraine had something to do with the origin of the Russia probe against him and his campaign really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. That he considers such matters of particular importance shouldn't be either.
But then again, if you are a Democrat, you likely think that Mother Jones is the unbiased gospel truth and people who read RedState are disaffected racist incels who’ve been brainwashed by the right-wing. On the other hand, if you are a Republican, you might think people who read MotherJones are violent loony antifas who’ve been brainwashed by celebrity culture and communist propaganda.
Herein lies the problem- for Democrats.
After an onslaught of public hearings, nonstop media coverage, and even a snappy change in terminology from the obscure “quid pro quo” to the more-straightforward charge of “bribery”, public opinion is largely unchanged on Donald Trump.
People who hated him and couldn’t wait to see him out of office one way or another still hate him and can’t wait to see him go. People who loved Donald Trump and couldn’t wait to vote for him still love him and can’t wait to vote for him.
Failing to move the needle on public opinion is one thing. Impeachment articles are still likely to be drawn up, as Democrats have left themselves little choice but to move forward with the case they have.
That Senate Majority Republicans are extremely unlikely to convict and remove Trump from office is another major hurdle for Congressional Democrats returning to their districts.
Democratic voters want Trump out; that Democrats have failed, or will fail, to remove him doesn't make the progressives in the party hate Donald Trump more. They couldn’t hate Trump any more than they already do.
The failure of Congressional Democrats to make a better case against Trump, their failure to remove him from office may prove the undoing of many fine Democratic candidates who otherwise would’ve gone on to long and illustrious careers on Capitol Hill.
Democrats from swing districts, and most particularly those Democrats who hold seats won in 2018 when Trump wasn’t on the ballot, that were lost to Republicans in 2016 when he was, are feeling the strain.
That impeachment has weakened Democrats in crucial battleground states is a serious problem for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who could easily lose her majority in 2020 if Republicans are able to capitalize on Democratic failures with regards to removing the President.
And capitalizing is exactly what Republicans are doing. The other side of the equation is what impeachment has done for Republicans.
Congressional Republicans, far from feeling nervous, are returning to their districts to meet with constituents, voters, supporters, donors and members of the press; they will shrug in unison, dismiss the Democrat’s case against Trump as not amounting to impeachment and pivot to the economy.
The robust economy, wage and income gains for the working and middle class, historically low unemployment for women, African-Americans, and Latinos is certainly a great deal easier to talk about than a complicated legal case in Congress not likely to amount to much in the way of real-world consequences.
Trump voters, and would be Trump voters, are having an equal and opposite reaction to that of liberal Democrats and the Washington Post with regards to Trump impeachment.
One Congressional Republican who stood out during the hearings for her non-nonsense questioning of key witnesses, Rep. Elise Stefanik, raised a whopping $500,000 in two-hours on the heels of her performance and praise from President Trump.
The Trump Campaign, the RNC, and other Congressional and Senate Republicans are having similar fundraising success, to put it mildly.
The Democratic National Committee, on the other hand, is in debt to the point that Democratic donors should really be starting to ask vociferously just what exactly Democrats have been doing for the last three years.
Now, Democrats from swing districts will have to explain to the folks back home why they supported another impeachment attempt that not only failed, but fired-up Trump’s base and failed to move the needle on his approval ratings.
Congressional Democrats might want to start spending less time trying to move the public needle on Donald Trump’s job and start moving the needle of public opinion on their own.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)