Last week, Politico took the first turn in reporting that the Mueller bubble had collapsed. It’s the New York Times’ turn this week, largely plowing the same ground that Sarah Ferris did. In town hall after town hall, House Democrats are hearing a lot about policy from their constituents, and nearly dead silence on either the Mueller report or impeachment:
The hundred-odd students who gathered on the hilltop campus of Concordia University here on a sunny Thursday morning had a lot of questions for Representative Katie Porter on abortion, immigration, voting rights and the 2020 primary races.
But as their fluorescent question cards were plucked one by one from a raffle drum, not one mentioned the topic burning up Washington: the report of Robert S. Mueller III.
The voters in Miami who came out early Wednesday to see a freshman Democrat, Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, at Flava’s restaurant lobbed only a single question about it amid queries about clean drinking water and fresh produce. When Representative Mike Levin, another freshman Democrat, faced his constituents in the beach town of Carlsbad, Calif., he found himself politely disagreeing with those who worried that a possible impeachment could jeopardize Democrats’ chances in 2020.
And in South Philadelphia, “Medicare for all,” not President Trump, was the hot topic Wednesday night when four House Democrats answered constituents’ questions at Tindley Temple United Methodist Church.
On the list of priorities, it’s “not a top half-dozen,” Porter told the Times. “It may be down at the Number 12 spot.”
This reads as a surprise piece, a contradiction of received wisdom, when it should be nothing of the sort. Even before Robert Mueller finished his investigation, support for pushing impeachment ran in the low 40s at best this year, with majorities opposed except for Democrats. Since William Barr’s letter on the Mueller report got released, it’s dropped into the mid-30s in most polls, including Friday’s WaPo/ABC poll, where support ran stronger than in other polling series.
This makes sense, too. It became clear last year that the Russia-collusion hypothesis would not survive, and if Trump didn’t cheat to win the election, there’s no reason to overturn it. A number of politicos and media outlets want to rehabilitate their own reputations by playing up potential acts of obstruction, but voters aren’t biting on that either. As The Nation’s Aaron Maté wrote earlier today (and which I linked earlier as well), that’s the price of disillusionment:
In the end, Mueller’s report shows that the Trump-Russia collusion narrative embraced and evangelized by the US political and media establishments to be a work of fiction. The American public was presented with a far different picture from what was expected, because leading pundits, outlets, and politicians ignored the countervailing facts and promoted maximalist interpretations of others. Anonymous officials also leaked explosive yet uncorroborated claims, leaving behind many stories that were subsequently discredited, retracted, or remain unconfirmed to this day.
It is too early to assess the damage that influential Russiagate promoters have done to their own reputations; to public confidence in our democratic system and media; and to the prospects of defeating Trump, who always stood to benefit if the all-consuming conspiracy theory ultimately collapsed. The scale of the wreckage, confirmed by Mueller’s report, may prove to be the ultimate Russiagate scandal.
Perhaps this late recognition of that collapse by the New York Times signals that they will shift focus to other issues. Too bad they didn’t do so from the start. If House Democrats keep ignoring their constituents to flagellate this undeniably deceased equine, there will likely be significantly fewer of them returning in 2021 to do anything else.