Profiles In Republican Cowardice
The impending impeachment of the President is likely to reveal Republicans on Capitol Hill to be the cowards we already knew they were.
Former Senator Jeff Flake, who left the Senate in no small part because he found that his public criticism of the President was not welcome in the modern Republican Party, says that he believes that there would be more than enough votes from Republican Senators to convict the President and remove him from office if the votes were confidential:
Former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake made a bold claim on Thursday when he said “at least 35” GOP senators would privately vote for President Trump’s impeachment.
Appearing at the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival, Flake, a frequent critic of the president, offered his own reaction and predicted that close to three dozen Republican senators would back impeachment.
“I heard someone say if there were a private vote there would be 30 Republican votes. That’s not true,” Flake said during a Q&A. “There would be at least 35.”
Flake appeared to be reacting to longtime GOP political consultant Mike Murphy, who appeared on MSNBC Wednesday and suggested many Republican lawmakers in the Senate would support impeachment with a “secret ballot.”
“I can tell you this … one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump,” Murphy said.
Flake retired from the Senate in 2019. He has frequently criticized Trump, as well as the Republican Party, since 2016. Earlier this year, he called on others in his party to condemn the president’s recent controversial comments about several Democratic congresswomen.
While this is speculation on the part of both Flake and Murphy, I have no reason to believe that their estimates are likely accurate or at least close to being so. Ever since the start of the Trump Administration, there have been reports from Congressional correspondents for the cable networks and major newspapers like The New York Times and Washington Post that Republican members of the House and Senate speaking off the record, along with staffers for many of those members, are far more critical of the President when they aren’t speaking on the record. Indeed, some of these same reporters have remarked that the difference between the public and private statements about the President.
The reason for this disparity is, of course, the fact that, while many traditional Republicans may still be turned off by Trump and his rhetoric, the Republican base feels exactly the opposite. Poll after poll shows that President Trump is incredibly popular among self-identified Republicans, something that Republicans in the House and Senate cannot claim. With very few exceptions, Republicans who speak out against the President, even for his most egregious behavior and rhetoric, face the likelihood of being attacked by the base, challenged in a primary by a pro-Trump candidate and, of course, attacked on Twitter by the President. That’s why, even in the face of the latest controversy regarding the President’s communications with the President of Ukraine, very few Republicans on Capitol Hill have had anything to say about it. The only two Republicans who have spoken out against it appear to be Senator Mitt Romney, who has his own base of support back home in Utah, and Senator Ben Sasse, who is in much the same position back in Nebraska. Indeed, many members have responded to requests for comment by claiming they had not read any of the relevant documents. Given the fact that three relevant documents — the summary of the President’s phone call, the whistleblower’s complaint, and the Inspector General’s letter to the Acting Director of National Intelligence — amount to just 21 pages that could easily be read inside of 15 to 20 minutes this is, an absurd excuse.
As with every other vote in the Senate, of course, the votes on Articles of Impeachment will be public votes, meaning that Senators will be required to go on the record for all the nation to see regarding their verdict. The fact that they would probably vote differently if the vote were secret, due largely to the fact that they don’t want to anger the Republican base or the President notwithstanding the fact that they apparently know that this President should be removed from office just demonstrates how cowardly they are and how much the GOP has become the party of Trump, as James Joyner and myself have both noted in the past. It’s bad enough that they are basically willing to let a guilty man who has violated his oath of office and the law go free and remain in office despite all of that. What’s worse is that they are consciously aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I’d like to say that there are enough Republicans in the Senate willing to take the risk and vote to convict if the evidence warrants it, but I’m not going to hold my breath.