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“3 Strikes, You’re Out!” Strike 2: Impeachment

The notion of “3 strikes” is based on the old baseball slogan, “3 strikes, you’re out!”  In 1994, the federal government, along with other law-enforcement entities, rechristened 3-strikes to cover habitual-offender laws, drastically increasing prison sentences – including mandatory life sentences – for people convicted of a third serious crime.

In the age of Trump, “3 strikes” is taking on a new meaning:

Strike 1:  the Mueller report

Strike 2:  Trump’s impeachment

Strike 3:  the 2020 election

The outcome of this new “3 strikes” will recall the old baseball meaning “You’re out!”  And the Democrats will likely be the loser.

***

Strike 1: the Mueller report

In May 2017, Robert Mueller began an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections and the possible links between Trump associates and Russian operatives.  On April 18, 2019, he issued a redacted public version that runs 448 pages in two volumes.  The investigation’s underlying question was whether the president obstructed justice.

Three of the investigation’s most damning findings were:

(i) the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer to discuss receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton;

(ii) Trump, Jr., had direct contact with WikiLeaks during the period the site was publishing Clinton campaign emails; and

(iii) Trump called for Russia to find and publish Clinton’s emails.

In his follow-up Congressional testimony, Mueller stuck to restating the statements made in the report. He gave short answers and refused to consider impeachment.  Nevertheless, the Mueller investigation led to indictments of 34 individuals and three entities on nearly 200 separate criminal charges, most notably Paul Manafort, who chaired Trump’s presidential campaign during the summer of 2016.

Prior to the Mueller report’s release, the Trump administration orchestrated a successful disinformation campaign led by Attorney General William Barr.  In his four-page summary and news conference, Barr effectively neutralized the report’s findings, turning it into a non-event.

Strike 1 was scored by Trump and his allies.

Strike 2: Trump’s impeachment

Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 18, 2019.  He was impeached on two counts.  The first accuses him of abuse of power, with a vote of 230 for and 197 opposed; the second accused the president of obstructing Congress, with a vote of 229-198.

Congressional investigations and hearings questioned a number of State Department officials, Constitutional lawyers and others.  They detailed specific actions by Trump – and the Trump administration — exploiting his presidential power with regard to the Ukraine’s military needs to further his personal, electoral goals. Investigators also revealed how Trump and major figures in his administration refused to honor Congressional subpoenas to testify or provide requested documents.

Two decades earlier, Bill Clinton, the country’s 42nd President, was impeached on December 19, 1998.  He was charged with four articles:

(i) perjury before a grand jury;

(ii) perjury with regard to the Paula Jones case;

(iii) obstruction of Congress; and

(iv) abuse of power.

Votes for the four articles were: (i) perjury — approved with a vote of 228–206; (ii) perjury with regard to the Paula Jones — defeated with a vote of 205 to 229; (iii) obstruction of Congress – approved, 221–212; and (iv) abuse of power, defeated 285 opposed (including 81 Republicans) to 148 in support.

In the impeachment procedures against Clinton and Trump, the House votes were almost entirely along party lines. However, the Senate hearings concerning the Clinton impeachment is remarkable for revealing the period’s very different political culture. The trial began in February 1999 and its outcome was not predictable even though the Senate consisted of 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats.  Often forgotten, the 106th Senate voted as follows: Concerning Article #1, 45 Senators voted to convict while 55 voted for acquittal; 45 Republican Senators voted to convict while 45 Democrats and 10 Republicans voted for acquittal.  Concerning Article #2, 50 Senators voted to convict while 50 voted for acquittal; 50 Republicans voted for conviction while 45 Democrats and 5 Republicans voted for acquittal.

Today’s 116th Congressional Senate consists of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents. The current Senate is far more ideologically polarized than that which Clinton faced in 1999.  Unless something unexpected occurs to upset the aggressive conservative support for Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate will likely acquit Trump of impeachment charges.

Strike 2 will likely be scored by Trump and his Republican Senate allies.

Strike 3: the 2020 election 

Is the fix in for the 2020 Democratic Party president candidate? As was transparently revealed in the 2016 election, the Democratic Party machine – the DNC — not only pushed Mrs. Clinton, a rather weak and ineffective candidate, but failed to aggressively organize in the half-dozen critical states the gave Trump the victory in the Electoral College.

In the face of umpteen presidential candidate debates, the Democrats seem to be floundering.  The split between “progressives” and “moderates” is a replay of 2016 debate as to the future of not only the party but the nation.  Bernie Sanders and (partially) Elizabeth Warren challenge the moderates unquestioned corporatist identification. One after another of the hopefuls have dropped out due to lack of money, yet the entry of money-bags Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg make the financial issues more obvious.  In American capitalist democracy, one buys the nomination as well as the election.

Sadly, no Democratic candidate has stepped forward to not only lead the motley crew of would-be candidates but to effectively take on Trump.  It seems more than likely that voters unhappy with Trump will be left with Joe Biden, a candidate who inspires the comfort and confidence of an old sweater.

Strike 3 may well see Trump reelected.  Anti-Trump voters – including young voters inspired by Sanders’ call for democratic socialism, suburban white women and people-of-color – may well sit out the 2020 election.

***

In the age of Trump, the Democrats are facing a “3 strikes” end-game and a real “you’re out!” possibility.

Strike 1:  Democrats failed to effectively exploit the political significance of the Mueller report;

Strike 2:  House Democrats impeached Trump, but Senate Republicans will likely acquit him;

Strike 3:  the 2020 election is an open question – Trump will likely exploit his impeachment to strengthen the loyalty of his base; and the Democrats?

With 3 strikes, “You’re out!,” the Democrats will likely be the historic loser and all Americans will suffer.

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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