Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Also, damned if John Bolton doesn’t release more evidence against Trump. What a day. All but two Republicans voted against having witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial. Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins joined the Democrats’ vote, but it seemed to be for theater and nothing else. In other words, the 51-49 vote being as close as it was is virtually meaningless. What’s meaningful is what future the Republicans have paved for themselves, and it doesn’t look good.
But first, a quick analysis. Had Republicans voted for more witnesses, former National Security Advisor John Bolton would have surely been called upon to testify. His testimony would have been damaging to Trump, if the trickle of information from his forthcoming book is to be believed. Republicans thus had a choice: let Bolton have some airtime to throw punches at Trump, or vote against all witnesses and make the whole trial look like a ruse. Evidently, their cost-benefit analysis led them to the latter, and that choice doesn’t come without consequences.
A whopping twenty-three Republican Senators will be defending their seats this election cycle, compared to the twelve Democrats need to defend. As of now, there are four tossup seats: in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Democrats would need to win each of these and the ten remaining seats that are up for grabs and lean blue. If you asked me last week if the Dems stood a chance at getting to the majority, I’d have said no, but after today’s Senate vote, I’m not so sure.
By voting against witnesses, the Republicans in the Senate have effectively said two things to independent and swing voters (swing voters being Obama to Trump voters): (1) We don’t care about the truth, and (2) We don’t care about what our constituents want. Most Americans wanted witnesses to be called. As The Washington Post points out, Americans may not want the same witnesses called—i.e., Democrats want Bolton, Republicans want someone to speak against the Bidens or similar. That is indeed true, but probably only to an extent.
Many voters are registered as independent — 28% to be exact – and these voters are the ones who Republican Senators need to play for. With so many Americans wanting more witnesses, inevitably a good amount are these precious independent voters. The Senators in the tossup states will be effectively chosen by a very small number of independent and swing voters. It’s the same problem in the Electoral College system writ large, which is to say that this entire election will come down to a very small handful of swing states.
Today, Republican Senators made a powerful move to alienate independent voters. It will haunt them in 2020, and acquitting Trump with a skimpy trial will only make it worse. None of this is to even mention how many special elections skewed to Democrats when they weren’t supposed to. Prepare for a second blue wave in 2020. The tides are turning.