October 2, 2019


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's fate is now tied to that of President Donald Trump's and her handling of imminent impeachment proceedings.

Pelosi needs to coordinate all of the committee investigations, bring forth plausible articles of impeachment, and then deliver the votes of 318 of 235 Democratic House members, yet I bet she paradoxically does not want the president tried and removed by the U.S. Senate. After all, having Trump on the 2020 ballot will spike Democratic turnout and preserve her current 235-197 Democratic House majority. And she also needs Trump to lose in order to keep her job, as a Democrat in the White House would need somebody like Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to deliver their majorities for the new president's agenda. It's a total catch-22.

A paradox is a statement or development contrary to common belief, and 2020's paradoxes are virtually endless. If impeachment flops because the evidence is feeble, Pelosi will get the blame. If the House does a convincing job, then it is possible that the Senate might convict, and Trump would be off the 2020 ballot. That is not farfetched, as a slew of Republican senators, including Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), could vote to convict ... but only if there are, as the Constitution requires, "high crimes and misdemeanors." Does the Ukraine transcript, and Trump's entire accumulated and calculated verbal stupidities rise to that threshold? Or are there lies and a cover-up? Or will it be the Mueller Report all over again and it won't go anywhere? Democrats have to get it right quickly.

If 13 Republicans vote to convict, Trump is gone, Mike Pence is president, and abject electoral disaster in 2020, 2022 and 2024 is avoided. No Republican from a competitive state who is up in 2020 wants to be a Trump savior, nor does any senator up in 2022 or 2024.

There is growing Republican paranoia at all levels. Practical Republican politicians, the type who win local, state and congressional office, DO NOT want a second Trump term. There will be very few Republicans left standing by 2024. Impeachment will be the defining issue of 2020, and the congressional removal process that will last well into 2020 will be compounded by the daily drama of White House revolving door policies. Trump fatigue is obvious, particularly among anti- and non-Trump voters, and in the media. Yet the "Trump Nation," which numbers 40 to 45 percent of the popular vote, loves the guy. He angers the elites and the special interests that anger them, and he does it with such regularity and panache that his supporters forget who he has offended, and remember only that he is offensive in a way they like. Conversely, his detractors find his occupancy of the presidency and very existence offensive. They have been in denial since 2016, and revel in their victim hood.

Which brings up two more paradoxes. First, if Democrats nominate a presidential candidate who is too leftist, enabling Trump to win, but win House and Senate majorities, the U.S. government during 2021-24 will be a battling, bickering legislative gridlock, and Trump by executive order will continue to roll back cherished liberal laws. Democrats will fixate on reasons to impeach. There will be ideological and generational change in the House, with the growing democratic socialist crowd eager to seize leadership. Pelosi, who will be age 80 in 2021, and majority leader Steny Hoyer, who will be 81, will be dumped.

Secondly, Republicans can solve their immediate problem by DUMPING Trump at their August 2020 national convention. To be sure, the "Trump Nation" will turn out and be a majority in the 2020 Republican presidential primaries, and announced anti-Trump aspirants Joe Walsh, Mark Sanford and William Weld are laughable. But if Trump is impeached, or if Trump's credibility is so damaged that re-election as reflected by the polls is not a possibility, the party will not commit political suicide, especially if it will put somebody like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders in the presidency. That situation has arisen occasionally in the past.

1976: Amid the Watergate scandal and the Democrats' 1974 congressional sweep, Gerald Ford's presidential poll numbers were subterranean, especially after he pardoned Richard Nixon, who had resigned before impeachment began but still faced criminal felony charges. (As an aside, if Pence became president, he would face a similar predicament.) Jimmy Carter (D) was the new fresh face, the economy was faltering, and Ford looked like a certain loser. Ronald Reagan got into the race as a non-Nixon, conservative alternative, beat Ford in south and west primaries, including North Carolina and Texas, and barely lost at the convention as party regulars stuck with Ford. Fate was kind to Reagan, clearing the way for 1980.

It's different for Trump going into 2020: He's the president, he's got resources, polls don't show him totally unelectable yet, there is no credible Republican alternative, and he has not been impeached. Even if that changed by next summer, Trump would still have the delegates - unless, of course, Pence was president.

1932: The Great Depression, and Herbert Hoover's (R) inept response, meant a Democratic takeover was a certainty. Instead of pouring government cash into the economy, a tactic now known as "priming the pump," or Keynesian economics, Hoover cut the federal budget. Tens of thousands of businesses collapsed. Republicans wanted to dump Hoover and recall his popular predecessor, Calvin Coolidge - who refused. So the party went down with Hoover, who lost big to Franklin Roosevelt (D). Trump's economy is booming, so he is no Hoover going into 2020.

1968: Lyndon Johnson's (D) Vietnam War policies made his re-election untenable, especially after he started drafting college students. It meant it was time to take to the streets. Johnson bailed but the party's establishment picked Hubert Humphrey. If Trump involuntarily bailed, the party would pick Pence, who is to Trump what Humphrey was to Johnson. There are sizeable numbers of anti-Trumpsters in the streets, but they are protesting immigration and environmental policies, not the possibility of dying in a foreign land. The "movement" is solidifying the anti-Trump base, not growing it...and it is also solidifying the pro-Trump base.

1952: Harry Truman (D) succeeded FDR in 1945, won in a 1948 upset, but confronted a toxic environment in 1952. Republicans coalesced behind WWII General Dwight Eisenhower, and lambasted Truman for "corruption, communism and Korea." Truman didn't run, and Democrats tried to re-brand themselves with liberal Adlai Stevenson. Truman quit because of intractable world and national problems, not intractable, self-generated personal problems. Luckily for Trump, there are no war heroes to beat in 2020.

1912: Teddy Roosevelt's (R) "progressive" ideas on conservation, ethics, consumer protection and income taxation were ahead of his time, and were eventually enacted. He retired in 1908 and passed the presidency along to his presumed protŽgŽ, William Howard Taft (R), who regressed to stand-pat non-activism. Roosevelt ran for his old job in 1912 after reforms had created presidential primaries, all of which Roosevelt won. But party bosses stuck with Taft, Roosevelt ran as an independent, and Woodrow Wilson (D) won with a minority. Unfortunately for Trump, no big-spending liberal is running in 2020 as an independent, thereby dividing the anti-Trump vote.

U.S. HOUSE: Democrats netted 40 seats in 2018, including almost 20 in unlikely upsets in 2016 pro-Trump districts like first district in South Carolina, fifth district in Oklahoma, sixth district in Georgia, 14th district in Illinois, fourth district in Utah, second district in New Mexico, and third district in Kansas, plus others in Florida, Texas, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Democrats are close to maxing-out, with delegation majorities of 11-1 in New Jersey, 46-7 in California, 9-0 in Massachusetts and 21-6 in New York. They have also pushed themselves to 13-5 in Illinois, 9-9 in Pennsylvania, 7-7 in Michigan, 7-4 in Virginia, 13-14 in Florida and 13-23 in Texas.

Republicans need to net 21 seats in 2020 to regain the majority, and there are 17 announced Republican retirees for 2020, with only 5 Democrats.

Illinois could be pivotal. Democrats Lauren Underwood (D-14) and Sean Casten (D-6) ousted Republican incumbents in 2018, and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan came close to beating incumbent Rodney Davis (R) in the Champaign-Urbana-Decatur 13th District. She is running again, and Republicans will be competitive elsewhere: State senators Sue Rezin and Jim Oberweis seek to oppose Underwood, and Jeanne Ives, who almost beat Governor Bruce Rauner in the 2018 Republican primary, and Rauner lieutenant governor Evelyn Sanguinetti are seeking to oppose Casten. The East Saint Louis open seat of retiring John Shimkus (R-15) looks safe.

An impeachment vote could be hazardous to a few House Democrats, but probably not to Underwood and Casten. Projections are that, absent a Trump implosion, Republicans will pick up 6-10 seats, and that there will be more democratic socialists in the House.

Send an e-mail to russ@russstewart.com or visit his website at www.russstewart.com.