The articles of impeachment aren’t even out of the House yet, but Senate Republicans have already made it clear that they will acquit President Trump without a real trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is even coordinating Trump’s defense with the White House. That’s the equivalent of the jury foreman sitting down with the defense attorney to talk about the verdict before the trial begins.
Meanwhile, Trump is likely to use his foregone acquittal to proclaim his innocence from the rooftops, and Republicans will argue that Democrats were so obsessed with overturning voters’ wishes that they neglected to do their job.
Of course, none of this is true. Trump’s actions are pretty much the definition of corruption: he withheld Congressional-approved funds from Ukraine to extort an investigation of Joe Biden. Republicans keep talking about how Democrats are trying to overturn the wishes of 63 million voters, neglecting to mention that the Electoral College effectively overturned the votes of 66 million voters who chose Hillary Clinton.
As for legislation, the House continues passing bills, including the Equality Act. From there they go to the Senate, where McConnell is awaiting with a shovel to bury them.
All of which reveals the real issue: Republicans have gone full Trump.
There was a point during Trump’s presidential campaign where Republicans lambasted him for being a corrupt buffoon. “Any time you ignore what could become an evil force, you wind up regretting it,” one leading Republican said in 2016 – Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is now boasting that he has no intention of being a “fair juror” at Trump’s impeachment trial.
During the presidential campaign, candidate Trump bragged, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” It turns out to have been a prescient remark. Trump has repeatedly committed offenses that would have ended the career of any other politician.
Faced with that reality, Republicans simply gave up. Now they are defending Trump with a series of garish conspiracy theories and denial of reality. Rep. Deborah Lesko said last Friday that Trump never asked the Ukraine president for an investigation into Biden, even though the White House summary of the call clearly states as much.
When you’re dealing with a party that is happy to promote the belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim, George Soros is inciting an invasion from Central America, and white supremacists are “fine people,” you’re dealing with an alternate universe. There’s no way of winning against people like that.
All that said, the Democrats are doing what they have to do. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn’t keen on impeachment proceedings for a long time, until the Ukraine scandal became such a blatant violation of Constitutional power that she had no choice.
Getting any Republicans to agree that Trump deserves to be impeached was always a nearly impossible task. Right now, the best Democrats can hope for is that history will judge them right.
The gamble Republicans are taking is that the short-term victory will hold long-term benefits. That’s a dicey proposition. Their core constituency is shrinking; older white voters are with them, but younger voters are not. The number of evangelicals–indeed, of any religious group–is shrinking.
But until the day of reckoning comes, the impeachment process confirms Republicans will follow Trump wherever he goes. That was something Democrats suspected all along. Now they know for sure.