No one I know enjoys being caught in a traffic jam, especially the
kind that happens in so many urban rush hours these days, so
Democrats might need to prepare themselves for a period of
such frustration ahead --- perhaps one which will last until their
national convention in Milwaukee in late July next year.
The traffic jam, ironically, is of their own contrivance --- political
road repair (impeachment) too close to the rush hour (their own
nomination contest) which has too many cars (candidates) on the
2020 campaign highway.
It is becoming clear that U.S. house Democrats are going through
with an actual impeachment vote. They must be convinced they
have sufficient votes to pass it --- and to send it to the U.S. senate
for trial where 67 votes will be required to convict and remove the
president from office. (At least 20 or more Republican
senators would have to vote to convict --- which would amount,
in most cases, to mass political suicide.)
Democrats have a majority in the U.S. house now, but their
majority margin in made up of first-term Democrats who won
their seats in 2018 in congressional districts carried by Donald
Trump in 2016. Those Democrats, about 30 of them, will have to
face voters again next year --- and indications currently are that
Trump voters in many of those districts are angry about the
Democrats control the U.S.house, and they have imposed entire
control of the impeachment proceedings. On the other hand,
Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, control the U.S.
senate --- and thus control the timing of a senate impeachment
We are now near the end of the first week of December. If they
choose, Democrats could impeach the president just before
Christmas. If that happens, Senator McConnell is likely to
begin the senate trial in at the end of January, or even later.
A five-to-seven week trial, the likely duration, would then occur
at the same time as the usually heaviest campaigning for the
Iowa caucus, New Hampshire primary and the delegate-rich
Super Tuesday primaries. Most of the leading Democratic
presidential candidates are sitting U.S. senators (Elizabeth
Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and
Michael Bennet) and they can be required by senate rules to sit
in their senate seats during the entire trial. They would not be
able to do much, if any, campaigning during the most critical
period. Only Joe Biden among the frontrunnners could
campaign, as could Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg,
Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Tulsi Gabbard --- each of
whom could then win delegates who otherwise would go to
one of the candidates who is a U.S. senator, but is locked into
the senate trial.
Even if the final rules don’t compel senators to attend, any
Democratic senator running for president who skipped the
trial to campaign would be widely criticized for neglecting their
constitutional duty, especially since all or most of them would
be expected to vote to convict.
This likely would have two extremely negative consequences for
the Democrats. First, media preoccupation and voter attention
would almost certainly be drawn to the trial, overshadowing
even those Democratic candidates able to campaign in Iowa,
New Hampshire, and the many Super Tuesday states. Second,
this could also likely enable many of the non-frontrunners to
win enough delegates to take the nomination to the late July
Democratic convention in Milwaukee without a winner.
If that happens, a bitter convention battle is assured. The
Democrats could wake up then at the beginning of August
with a nominee --- but far less campaign funds than they
would need for the general election only three months away,
and a likely bitterly divided party.
Meanwhile, President Trump will have survived the senate
trial, spent very little of the huge campaign war chest he is
already accumulating, and will have most of his party’s
voters energized to vote for him in November. Furthermore,
the trial itself, as perhaps the impeachment inquiry is doing,
could produce a backlash among key independent and
undecided voters on election day.
Thus, a political traffic jam like no other in U.S. political
history could occur. Like weather forecasting, it’s always
speculative to make political predictions. We also haven’t
seen an open national political convention for a long time.
But we do know that when you block a busy roadway, or
narrow it to fewer lanes, during rush hour, there will be a
very big jam.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.