On impeachment, GOP and Democrats are on different planets

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) offers closing remarks at the House of Representatives debate on articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Posted: Dec 19, 2019 7:40 AM
Updated: Dec 19, 2019 7:40 AM

Wednesday was a very long day -- more than 10 hours of dueling debate by Democrats and Republicans, culminating in votes almost entirely along party lines to impeach the President on both of the two articles presented. The proceedings were mostly orderly, frequently repetitive and sometimes quite tedious. But there were some surprises. Alexander Hamilton rivaled Abraham Lincoln for the most quotations, often out of context. Representative Adam Schiff cracked some funny jokes.

On the surface, the Democrats and Republicans were describing two different realities, speaking past each other. The Democrats diagnosed a lawless, corrupt, lying president. The Republicans recounted how the president had tried to lead, and his opponents had undermined him, time and again. One side narrated Trump's villainy; the other side lamented Trump's victimhood.

At a deeper level, they were really talking about the same issue: is Donald Trump fit to serve as president?

The Democrats presented a detailed and documented case of presidential abuses, including pressuring the government of Ukraine to investigate his political rival, withholding congressionally required foreign aid without legitimate cause, and then covering it up. The Democratic speakers used documentary evidence and testimony about these misdeeds to characterize a larger pattern of presidential abuse of power, dishonesty and dereliction of duty.

The Republicans largely avoided the details of the charges against Trump. Their speeches attacked the Democrats for "hating" the president and seeking to impeach him since his first hours in office. Republican speakers tried to discredit what they repeatedly called an "unfair" and secretive impeachment process. They asserted that the Democrats were determined to unseat the president at all costs because they never "accepted his victory."

According to the Republicans, the impeachment charges were purely political -- a conspiracy against a "duly elected" president and his voters.

The rhetorical divide between these two approaches was jarring. The Democratic speakers, by and large, were analytical and detailed. They repeatedly read from the transcript of Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky when he asked for a "favor," the testimony about his demands for "dirt" on Biden and his efforts to prohibit congressional access to documents and witnesses from the Executive Branch.

Democratic speakers emphasized the rule of law, and they spoke in forceful, but measured terms. This was especially true for Representative Adam Schiff, who managed the Democratic speakers for much of day, and kept his cool despite repeated personal attacks by the other side.

The Republicans were neither measured nor analytical. Their arguments roamed back and forth from a Washington Post article that mentioned impeachment on inauguration day to current criticisms of the president from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Republican words were, for the most part, vague and aggressive. They repeated claims that the Democrats had conducted a "hoax," a "witch hunt," and a "conspiracy."

One speaker, Representative Trent Kelly, called those who testified against Trump in previous hearings "swamp creatures." A number of Republican speakers shouted and gesticulated wildly. Representative Stephen Scalise even ripped a printed page of a House rule to act out his frustration. If the Democrats sought to prosecute the president, the Republicans raged against the entire process.

No one in the House was convinced of anything new—no Republicans broke from their party in either vote, and the only Democrats who did had already announced they would—despite the many hours of presentation. The real audience was outside the chamber.

The Democrats tried to convince moderates and independents of the justice of their cause, and they appealed to history. They wanted to show that they had a strong constitutional case, and that they had pursued all viable alternatives. This was a "solemn day" they repeated time and again.

Republicans spoke to one man above all: Donald Trump. They repeated his abusive and extreme language. They defended him personally, even as they could not excuse his behavior. They paraded their loyalty. The Republican speakers wanted to soften the blow they knew the president would feel when impeached later in the day. They wanted to hold their party together under his leadership, and charge up their core supporters who followed Trump's lead.

That brings us to the final surprise. The votes to impeach Donald Trump were partisan and predictable. But they still mattered enormously because the setting was so grave, and votes on impeachment are so rare.

The Democrats took a stand to limit a president whom they found deeply threatening to American democracy. The Republicans defended him above all else. This was a historic clash over the meaning of our democracy and the appropriate role for the president. In that sense it echoed the only two other impeachment debates in American history.

In the coming months, the US Senate and the American people as a whole will have to decide what kind of governing system we want. We are at a crossroads. The argument for democracy and the rule of law is much stronger, but the case for this president retains powerful emotional resonance.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319511

Reported Deaths: 7368
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22267267
Hinds20657421
Harrison18401317
Rankin13868282
Jackson13681248
Madison10239224
Lee10052176
Jones8458167
Forrest7824153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6501150
Lamar634088
Lafayette6303121
Washington5419136
Bolivar4836133
Panola4665110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4600147
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425073
Union415677
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386487
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3368111
Alcorn324272
Scott319774
Yazoo314171
Adams305886
Itawamba305078
Copiah299666
Coahoma298484
Simpson298189
Tippah291868
Prentiss283661
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231268
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187754
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry126738
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman81916
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69432
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
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