There wasn’t a shadow of a doubt which way she would go, as I said last week, but she certainly did pull out all the stops to make it seem like there was. She told numerous reporters last week that she was undecided; she went into the belly of the Republican beast, Fox News, on Friday to make sure GOP voters back home knew she was struggling with the matter. She insisted she needed this past weekend to review all the evidence once again and meditate on it, such was her alleged ambivalence about a matter as momentous as impeachment.
In reality, by signing her name to that op-ed in September that urged her caucus to look seriously at impeaching Trump over the Ukraine business, the die was cast. She would have been a laughingstock within her caucus for beating the war drums on impeachment and then running away in terror at the moment of truth, with various other vulnerable freshmen from red districts willing to commit to impeachment. This whole production from Slotkin was kabuki.
But look at it this way: It’s the only way to go if you’re a Democrat from a Republican district with little choice but to impeach. Technically there are three options. One is to treat impeachment as a slam-dunk, in which case infuriated Republicans in your district will treat your arrogance as even more incentive to beat you next fall. The second is to go the Jeff Van Drew route and switch parties, but no one trusts a traitor and Slotkin probably couldn’t tolerate adopting parts of the GOP agenda. (That’s why she’s a Democrat in the first place, no?) That leaves option three, turning one’s impeachment decision into a big passion play in which you do everything you can to show voters from the other party how ostensibly seriously you’re taking their point of view before you disappoint them.
I am … not hopeful for her in an age as hyperpartisan as ours that Republicans in her district will go easy on her next fall just because she pretend-agonized over her vote, but this song and dance is all Slotkin could do to try to blunt the impact of her decision. So that’s what she did. From her new op-ed announcing her support for impeachment:
On abuse of power: I believe that the President illegally solicited the help of foreigners to influence the American political process. On September 19, the President’s lawyer announced proudly on live TV that he had encouraged Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. On September 22, in response to a reporter’s question, the President affirmed it. The President later went on to encourage China to “investigate” his political rival, doubling down on it when asked by reporters.
These first-person statements, on top of the raft of first- and second-hand accounts provided in sworn testimony, paint a clear picture of a president abusing the power of his office for personal political gain.
As a former CIA officer, I believe this lies at the very heart of impeachable conduct. To my colleagues and constituents considering this vote, I think it is important to ask: Should we invite foreign help into our competitive political system? Is that something we should accept from this President, or any other?
And if a President admits that he’s done it, and solicits additional help from even more capable foreign governments, then isn’t it our constitutional duty to provide a clear response to that abuse of power? Our democracy is in danger if this behavior becomes the new normal.
“Over the past few months, I’ve been told more times that I can count that the vote I’ll be casting this week will mark the end of my short political career. That may be,” she continued. Indeed it may! She’s hosting a town hall in her district this morning to defend her decision. It looks like it’ll be, uh, zesty…
And the town hall has kicked off. Slotkin walks on stage to both applause and booing pic.twitter.com/UiOOFwKqsS
— Simone Pathe (@sfpathe) December 16, 2019
…but that’s also part of Slotkin’s strategy: Face the fire. Show your Republican voters you respect them enough to look them in the eye and explain yourself instead of hiding and maybe hopefully ideally they’ll kinda sorta respect you back even if they think you’re a borderline traitor to the United States for trying to oust their hero, the president.
Speaking of reluctant Democrats, an ominous tweet from CNN’s Jim Sciutto:
Resignation is a sentiment I hear often from Democratic lawmakers about impeachment. As in “We don’t have a choice.” While making their constitutional arguments, they are clearly also aware of the political dangers.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) December 16, 2019
As I write this at 10:30 a.m. ET on Monday, Collin Peterson is still the only House Democrat who’s voting against impeachment (unless Schiff and Nadler come up with something new before the vote, which is all but unimaginable). Van Drew is now an ex-Democrat, of course. The most endangered Dems — Kendra Horn, Ben McAdams, and Joe Cunningham — are still holding their cards close to the vest but they’re the three most likely flips. If Pelosi keeps them on board somehow, it’d be a superhuman feat of caucus discipline. Given how the tepid the impeachment polling is, I don’t think she even wants them on board anymore. The obvious play to try to save their seats is to encourage them to vote no and gamble next fall on slightly less vulnerable freshmen like Slotkin being able to hold their seats.
In fact, today is an ominous milestone for Slotkin and all the other swing-district Democrats who’ll need to reluctantly endorse impeachment in the next 24 hours or so. It’s the first day since RCP began tracking impeachment polling in September that opposition to removing Trump has exceeded support:
FiveThirtyEight has been following a slightly different set of polls so they’re seeing a tiny lead for impeachment supporters over opponents, but the takeaways from both sites on the eve of the big vote is clear:
1. Support for removing Trump has never reached as high as 50 percent in the polling average
2. The polling has shifted in Trump’s direction since October, when a plurality favored removing him
3. Americans are now basically evenly split on impeachment
You could add a fourth takeaway, which isn’t backed by hard data here but is a very safe bet: If opposition is evenly split nationally, it’s firmly against impeachment in swing states and battleground districts like Slotkin’s. We’ll see how that shakes out next fall.
As your exit quotation, here’s Brian Kilmeade questioning his own network’s latest poll — which showed 50 percent in favor of removing the president — in the most polite way he could.
Brian Kilmeade is "stunned" by a Fox News poll showing that 50% of America wants Trump impeached & removed, because he "thought that things were trending away [from impeachment.]" pic.twitter.com/6w8aUX3hwL
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) December 16, 2019