Friday, August 24, 2018

Impeachment is on everyone’s mind, and I have been hearing a lot of talk that Dems will move that direction if they take the House. If Nancy Pelosi is Speaker, I find this highly implausible. Because, while the House could vote to impeach, there is absolute zero chance the Senate will scare up 67 votes to convict. That would make the impeachment look like an empty political gesture—as when the House voted 973 times to repeal Obamacare—and lower the bar for future Houses to impeach as a political tactic. Pelosi knows politics better than any Democrat in the country and she will see what a loser this is.

But why won’t Republican senators break with the party?—they did it in 1974 and forced Nixon’s resignation. This is the wishful thinking people engage in, failing to notice how radically the two parties have changed in the past 44 years. The GOP of 2018 is vastly different than the GOP of 1974.
Below are three election maps. They illustrate how politics changed from the post-civil war era, when the Democratic Party was rural and white and dominated by the south and the GOP was coastal and elite. The map will look instantly familiar because mapmaker Dave Leip uses red for Dems and blue for the GOP. It looks eerily like the current maps we’re familiar with, even though the parties are exactly reversed.

Now look at 1968. This was the moment the consequences of the civil rights movement reshuffled the parties. The Democrats have started to morph into that party of the upper Midwest and coasts, but their ancient bulwark in the south has gone full racist and voted Wallace—foreshadowing the realignment that we know today. Finally, we have the famous map from 2000, which forms the terrain of politics we know: the GOP as the party of the South and rural West and the Democratic Party as coastal and urban.

More importantly, the pre-60s parties were politically diverse. Both had liberal and conservative wings. These cleavages account for the famous bipartisanship old timers now wax fondly about. It was possible to work across the aisle because Dem and GOP conservatives formed a bipartisan bloc. As did Dem and GOP liberals. This was the environment in 1974 when the Nixon tapes were released. It was the dam breaking that forced GOP senators to join against Nixon. But that senate comprised many liberal members whose seats would later go to staunchly liberal Dems in very blue states.

In 2018 GOP is factional, not coalitional. There are no liberal Republicans and the members will actually be on net more conservative after the midterms. The GOP has understood since at least the 1990s that solidarity gives them unusual power, and that even as a minority party they can often dictate outcomes over the fractious Democratic Party, which does still maintain a coalition of different groups. They also know that 42% of the public will never abandon Trump for any reason. Those voters are unequally distributed and in many states and districts comprise large majorities of voters.

In 1974, Republican senators jumped ship because their skins depended on it. In 2018, GOP senators will go down with the ship because their skins depend on it. There will be no watershed moment that causes GOP Senators to recalculate their political fortunes and vote to impeach. Politics and the parties have changed. Trump may be forced to resign because of personal legal jeopardy and legal pressure against his family, but he will not be removed from office by the US Senate.

No comments: