Which is leaving Democrats asking: Can we make them pay for this?
The answer is anything but certain. But let’s consider how vigorously Republicans are meeting the task before them.
To begin, nearly all of them have endorsed the idea that when the president sent Rudolph W. Giuliani to strong-arm Ukraine into digging up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden, then did some of the strong-arming himself on a call with the Ukrainian president, it was only because Trump cares so much about fighting corruption. Donald Trump.
And they are positively outraged at the actions of Biden’s son Hunter. For example, notable self-made businessman Eric Trump tweeted his scorn at the amount Hunter Biden was paid for sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Because if there’s anyone who can’t stand somebody making a lot of money for no reason other than being the son of a famous and influential person, it’s Eric Trump.
You’ll recall how Republicans expressed their passionate belief that Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email system was a crime on par with the Cambodian genocide, yet the fact that Trump administration officials have used personal phones and communicated via text and apps like WhatsApp finds them oddly indulgent.
“Based on what I’ve seen, I have no concerns,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) of the Freedom Caucus. One of Clinton’s angriest critics at the time was a Kansas congressman named Mike Pompeo, who has apparently mellowed with age on this question.
Then there’s Republicans’ newfound opposition to congressional oversight of the White House, which at earlier times they found far more important to the country’s interests. Administration resistance to requests for documents and testimony used to be the height of tyranny and a threat to the very fabric of the republic. When Bill Clinton was president, then-Rep. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was emphatic that refusing such requests should be grounds for impeachment. Later, then-Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who was the chair of the House Oversight Committee, thundered that “the notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are the party in power or not in power is wrong.”
Once the White House made clear that their impeachment strategy was to declare the entire inquiry illegitimate and refuse any and all requests for testimony and documents, who did they hire to make their case for them? Gowdy, who will surely bring his unique style of barely contained rage and yelling to the defense of the president.
There are some Republicans who take to the task with vigor, but you might notice that the ones who do tend to come from conservative districts and states and thus have few worries about reelection. For their constituents, intellectual consistency could not be less important; the question is whether you’re standing by Trump and sticking it to the libs.
But the Republicans with less certain electoral futures are sweating. Here, for instance, is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hitting Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who is up for reelection next year in a swing state:
Trump has made such seemingly obvious questions more complicated for Republicans who are even a little bit vulnerable. It isn’t only that Trump commits so many indefensible misdeeds, but also that their party has an ideology of total war. There is literally nothing Trump could do that wouldn’t immediately be defended by conservative media and his most passionate congressional advocates. That creates pressure on Republicans who still have a glimmer of shame to toe his line even if it risks alienating some voters in the middle.
Nevertheless, it’s far from certain that Democrats can make Republican hypocrisy and lack of principle an issue in itself. It’s a kind of meta-argument that could go over many voters’ heads. On the other hand, Republicans have undergone a level of intellectual corruption (though whether they had any intellectual integrity to begin with is a matter we could argue about) that perhaps surpasses anything we’ve seen yet.
Some might get away with it. But more than a few are going to have a hard time figuring out how to be a Republican in this day and age and not be a hypocrite, and between now and the 2020 elections, you can be certain Trump isn’t going to make this any easier.