A Difficult Time to Be a RepublicanSeptember 28, 2019
Publicly predicting Donald Trump’s impeachment started for me on April 5, 2018. That’s when I wrote: “Trump 2020 could be the first presidential reelection campaign to fight impeachment.” In a piece headlined “Trump 2020 Campaign Forecast: 99 Percent Chance of Thunder and Lightning," it was my No. 3 reason for the anticipated turmoil:
"Conceivably, President Trump could concurrently campaign for reelection while fighting impeachment. Those circumstances would define a 'nation divided,' subjecting our democracy to the ultimate 'stress test.' One can only imagine the record-breaking television ratings the 'Trump Impeachment Show' would garner for a sad melodrama that our nation’s enemies would try to exploit."
However, writing as a longtime loyal Republican who voted for Trump, I thought the prospect of the president running for reelection under such highly contentious circumstances would be abhorrent to and for my party. Surely, Republicans would insist that Trump resign if he were impeached but not convicted by the GOP-controlled Senate.
My continued fascination with this potential scenario prompted a piece I wrote on Sept. 21, 2018, headlined "Will Trump's Reelection Campaign Collide with Impeachment?"
A year later, with “Ukraine-gate” exploding as I write this, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
Now the issues raised in that September 2018 piece have taken on new meaning and increased relevance. Furthermore, Pelosi’s action has resulted in my receiving nonstop texts and emails from the Trump campaign and allied GOP organizations with messages that parrot and operationalize the strategic concepts stated in the quoted passages below.
First, I had cited veteran GOP strategist Roger Stone’s comment from back in April 2018 when he answered my question on camera (asked via Mark McKinnon for "Circus") about Trump running for reelection if impeached:
“Stone, provocative as usual, mentioned that he believed President Trump would run for reelection even if impeachment proceedings were ongoing and that Trump would turn impeachment into a campaign advantage.”
The second quote I used was from a Sept. 12, 2018, report in Axios:
"He [Trump] has already told confidants how he would run for reelection in 2020 if impeached (but not removed) by playing the victim card.
“A source who’s discussed the midterms with Trump said: ‘He has repeated to folks that, if the Democrats impeach him, it would be a victory, politically, because it would be a complete overreach and he could exploit it and run against it in 2020.’”
Since Tuesday, I have been watching the predicted message strategy appear on my electronic devices: Turn impeachment into a campaign advantage; play the victim card; exploit the circumstances, all geared to raising money — very successfully, with $13 million flowing into GOP coffers since Pelosi’s announcement.
Here are some highlights from my inbox:
- “We’re 5X matching every Patriot who will stand with the President,” screams the first text after Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry. (Which subtly means that if I don’t stand with the president and donate, I am not a “Patriot,” and therefore must be a socialist commie creep.)
- “Impeachment Alert: Democrats announced that they’re launching another WITCHHUNT! Rush anything you can to defend President Trump.”
The next day, the “Impeachment Defense Team” concept was born:
- “Breaking news! Nancy wants to impeach: Pres. Trump needs you on his Impeachment Defense Team. We’re sending him each donor in 1 hour. Reply YES to donate $100.”
Then a day later, I was scolded:
- “Why aren’t you standing with Pres. Trump? He needs you on his Impeachment Defense Team, Myra. All gifts 2X matched. Reply YES to donate $100.”
- “We are rushing to defend the President against the Left’s impeachment plot.”
- “The Left will do anything to remove our President from power.”
- “Impeachment? Witch Hunt!!”
- “This is a total HATCHET JOB by the Democrats to overturn the 2016 Election!”
- “President Trump: Nancy wants to impeach me for nothing! Disgusting! Join my Impeachment Defense Team. For next hour all gifts are doubled. Reply YES to donate $100.”
STOP!! Here is why I am troubled: The messages bombarding my inbox assume that as a Republican, I will overlook and excuse Trump’s “Ukraine-gate” behavior no matter how egregious and potentially impeachable.
Sorry, but I resent that assumption. I am proud to be an American who values the Constitution, separation of powers, and well-being of our nation before my party. Most important, facts matter, and I look forward to reading all of them without Republican rose-colored glasses.
For the record, I am no longer fascinated by Trump running for reelection while fighting impeachment. Instead, I am terrified because no one can predict the answers to these questions:
- Will Republican elected leaders and voters stand with President Trump no matter what, even if the evidence proves he violated his oath of office?
- Is our nation careening towards a monumental constitutional crisis that will plunge our nation into an “uncivil war”?
- Does President Trump present a national security risk?
Those questions hammer home why this is a difficult time for me to be a Republican who cares about how Trump’s behavior sets a precedent for future presidents. Are there other Republicans who feel the same but are afraid to speak out?
Finally, a new answer to my old question (“Will Trump’s reelection campaign collide with impeachment?”): No, because I have great faith that my party will do what is right for our nation.
To that end, Sen. Lindsey Graham, here is a question for you: WWJMD?
(Translation: What would John McCain do?)
And I am confident that McCain’s answer would include citing the name of Sen. Howard Baker.