Suddenly, the quest for the Democrats to retake the Senate this year may not be quite as Quixotic as it once seemed. The map is still tilted heavily towards the GOP, they only have 8 Senators running for reelection this year, and the Democrats have that many alone running in states that Trump won in 2016. But the election of Doug Jones in Alabama narrowed the gap to two seats instead of three, and also proved that in the era of Trump, no place is truly safe anymore, and there are suddenly signs that there may be the first cracks in the dike of GOP Presidential unity in the Senate.
Up until now, GOP Senate criticism of Trump has been sparse and predictable. John McCain looks at Trump the same way he looked at the valet at the Hanoi Hilton, Trump is an affront to everything he fought and suffered for. Lindsey Graham has a good reason to be pissed at Glorious Bleater, McCain is his long time BFF, and besides, Graham is likely still trying to learn all of the features on the new phone he had to get after he nine ironed his old one when Trump gave out his number at a rally. And forgive me for not handing out medals of honor to Bob Corker and Jeff Flake for slapping at Trump on their way out of the door. That’s kind of like a defeated fighter straining against his handlers, pointing and screaming at the winner “I woulda kicked your ass if it wasn’t for that lucky shot!”
Ben Sasse the GOP Senator from Nebraska is different. Sasse has largely been measured, and any criticism he has had for Trump has been muted. Sasse has been setting himself up as the quiet, serious face of “traditional” conservatism, a prerequisite for a future White House run, and a role Arizona’s Jeff Flake coveted for himself until it turned out that his own constituents hated his guts. When Ben Sasse comes out in response to Trump’s childish trade war threats with China by saying “I hope the President is just blowing off steam again (italics mine),” calls the tariffs “The dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” and explains to the Toddler in Chief that the idea of punitive action is to make the other guy suffer, and not the American farmer, that’s refreshing.
But there are a couple of reasons for GOP Senators to start worrying a little bit more about the “Trump Effect.” And start worrying right now. Even if they manage to hold onto their slim majority in the Senate, it may turn out to be a very lonely place to be next year. Every time that the Tangerine Twitler opens his mouth, or flexes his stubby thumbs, he increases the possibility of the Democrats taking back the House in November, and not by just a couple of votes either. This would leave them facing two years of House bills that provide popular things, like a clean DACA fix, and rescinding the corporate giveaway tax cuts, with a petulant two year old in the White House, nagging at them for not nuking the filibuster when they had the chance.. This is not a good place to find yourself if you’re a Republican in an increasingly Trump hostile environment. But there’s an even bigger reason for them to start worrying about next year.
2020 is going to be the yang to 2018’s yin. The Democrats are only going to have to defend a handful of incumbents, and the GOP will be in the mid 20’s. Up until now, the Senate has not even had to think seriously about impeachment, simply because the GOP controlled House will never initiate proceedings. But if the Democrats retake the House, that will change in 2019.
One of the first orders of business for the Democratic led House will be to draft articles of impeachment. He is already guilty of dereliction of duty for his persistent inaction in ordering steps to ensure as much as possible the sanctity of the 2018 midterms.Robert Mueller wouldn’t even need to “interview” Trump about his intent if his report on obstruction of justice was inclined to clear Trump. The Democrats will not lack for charges for their articles of impeachment, possibly including violating the emoluments clause. And remember, articles of impeachment don’t have to pass judicial muster, it isn’t a legal proceeding, it’s a purely political exercise.
If the Democrats win back the Senate, there will be a trial. If the GOP holds the Senate, and the Democratic House votes articles of impeachment, Mitch McConnell is going to be under more pressure than a pinto at a monster truck rally. Either way you look at it, it will likely take anywhere from 18-22 Republican Senators to vote with a unified Democratic caucus to impeach. But there are going to be more Senators on the GOP side than that running for reelection in 2020, and if a US-China trade war brings inflation and job losses, and the stock market goes cliff diving, their positions could become untenable.
One more thing to think about. In the House, we have seen a mass exodus of GOP incumbents heading for the exits, many of them in normally “safe” districts, getting a sniff of the smoke from the looming Armageddon. If the Democrats mop the floor with the GOP in the House, and if Trump’s popularity continues to wear cement Nike’s, and the GOP base continues to wither like a leaf in November, we could see a similar plague of GOP Senate retirement announcements in 2019. And as departing souls like Flake, Corker, and Dent have shown, there’s nothing more liberating than not having to suck up to the boss anymore. It all comes down to November, if that goes right, 2019 could get real interesting, real quick.