Elissa Slotkin’s decision to support impeachment wasn’t a surprise. Her district is red but not deep red, and she’d already signaled strong support for the Ukraine impeachment inquiry. She was stuck.
Joe Cunningham and Ben McAdams weren’t stuck. The former is from a deep red district in South Carolina (R+10), the latter from an even more deeply red district (R+13) in Utah. They had every electoral reason to oppose impeachment. They’re voting to impeach anyway.
Consider this a periodic reminder that no one should underestimate Pelosi’s ability to get her caucus to fall in line. We need to relearn that lesson every decade or so, it seems, but relearn it we do. News from SC:
In an interview with The Post and Courier, the Charleston Democrat said he took his time because he wanted to give Republicans a chance to present evidence in defense of Trump’s move to withhold aid to Ukraine while asking the country’s president to investigate the son of potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden.
“I’ve waited and waited and I have not found any evidence they submitted compelling at all,” Cunningham said. “At the end of day, this is simply about the rule of law, whether we’re a country with laws or not and what type of precedent we want to set for future presidents.”
“Joe Cunningham’s political career is over,” said an RNC spokesman afterward, almost certainly correctly. Meanwhile in UT:
“My duty is to the Constitution, and to our country,” McAdams said in a statement made from the Murray City Hall. “What the president did was wrong. His actions warrant accountability. I cannot turn a blind eye there by condoning this president and future presidents Republican or Democrat, to do the same. The evidence for me is clear: The president abused the power of his office by demanding a foreign government perform a personal favor. He obstructed Congress and its constitutional duty of oversight by withholding certain documents and central witnesses.”
“McAdams’ political career is over,” said a Trump spokesman in response, again almost certainly correctly. Why did he and Cunningham choose to vote yes, knowing the consequences? My guess is they figured they’d lose next fall no matter what with Trump leading the ticket and local turnout sky high, so they might as well commit seppuku in service to impeachment and earn some goodwill with Democratic Party leaders. It’s also possible that Pelosi made it known to them that she wants as close to zero defections as possible on the big vote even though she could technically afford 12 or so while still passing it. I assumed from the beginning was that she’d want everyone who voted yes on the impeachment inquiry to also vote yes on impeachment, if only to deny Republicans the talking point that the inquiry had *cost* Democrats votes within their own caucus. That imperative seemed to fade as support for impeaching Trump ticked down in polling, but maybe Pelosi’s still keen to make it happen. If only as a morale booster for the base, which is bummed that impeachment fever hasn’t caught on nationally.
Pretty expensive morale booster, given the likely outcome in Cunningham’s and McAdams’s districts next year.
As of Monday afternoon, with Jeff Van Drew having bolted the party, Collin Peterson remains the only House Dem who’s not willing to walk the plank on impeachment. Peterson told reporters today that, as with Van Drew, he’d been invited to switch to the GOP: “There have been overtures by the highest levels of the Republican party in the last couple weeks to ask if I would consider it and I told them no.” Why? Because, he said, “at this stage of my career,” having not even decided yet if he’s running for another term, he didn’t want to abandon his party. That was my guess yesterday for why he hadn’t joined Van Drew in switching — he’s not a freshman like Van Drew, he’s been in Congress since the early 90s. He’s also in his mid-70s. He’s not going to throw away a lifelong affiliation with Democrats for a few more terms in Congress at this point, particularly when he’s already going out of his way to pander to Republican voters on impeachment.
Relatedly, I think “political legacy” is also a core reason why some freshman House Dems are pushing to make Justin Amash an impeachment manager for the upcoming trial. Ed wrote earlier, correctly, that that’s mainly a play by nervous Dem centrists to show voters back home that impeachment really is bipartisan — sort of. Amash was a Republican who became an independent partly out of disgust for Trump; he remains a stalwart libertarian, not a right-winger. Having him front and center in the Senate would at least let Democrats claim that impeachment isn’t exclusively a left-wing concern. I also think, though, that some Dems admire Amash for showing nerve by leaving the party in protest knowing that doing so would certainly doom his political career. If it’s hard to get reelected as a pro-impeachment Democrat in a swing district, it’s really hard to get reelected as a party-less pro-impeachment incumbent in a red district who’s viewed as a turncoat by the right and far too right-wing by the left. Making Amash an impeachment manager would be a nod of recognition at the guts he’s shown in standing on his political principles. I wonder if he’d do it if offered.