What a busy week it has been so far! Sunday night was the Superbowl, which featured a dramatic come-from-behind victory by the Kansas City Chiefs. I was reading that evening and only checked on the game when about ten minutes were left, and San Francisco was leading 21-10. I got to see the last three touchdowns and the shorter version of the Bill Murray/Groundhog Day/Jeep commercial, so I feel my evening was well-spent.
Monday night the voters of Iowa conducted a caucus. When the results of the Democratic caucus were finally released on Wednesday, they included a few surprises but no real indication of who the nominee will be. Regarding the delay in releasing the results—evidently caused by a flaw in the ap they were using—one spokesperson for the White House quipped, “and these are the people who want to run our health care system.”
Tuesday night was President Trump’s State of the Union report to Congress. The event was marked by rudeness among the Democratic Senators and Representatives, who sat sulking and pouting through much of the speech. Their disdain for the President was capped when the Speaker of the House tore in half her copy of the President’s speech in half as soon as he was finished. Having voted to impeach the President, the Democrats were clearly continuing the theme of “not my President,” ignoring the fact that the President won the November 2016 election according to the rules set by the United States Constitution.
Wednesday the Senate voted to acquit the President rather than removing him from office. The vote was conducted almost purely among party lines. Several Republican Senators reported that they did not approve of the President’s behavior; they added that the charges against him were not significant enough to warrant removal from office. Democrats replied that, in the absence of evidence and witnesses, President Trump did not face a true trial in the Senate. The results have been predictable since the charges leading to impeachment were first filed last year. Once again, the Constitution shaped the events; no one violated the Constitution in acquitting the President.
All these events (except, I guess, the Superbowl) reveal a nation that is deeply divided and virtually at war within itself. The split is not yet as violent as that which led to a four-year Civil War in the 1860s. The division might even be less turbulent than that of the late 1960s and early 1970s—the era of Vietnam, Watergate, and Civil Rights. The United States has survived troubled times in the past, and the current sense of crisis will also pass. Christians can and should pray that citizens of the United States learn again how to respect one another despite political differences, how to talk to one another without resorting to attacks and insults, how to listen to one another and hear one another, and how to find compromises when and where they are possible.
Meanwhile, the Democrats have badly hurt themselves heading into the Presidential and Congressional elections. They have energized President Trump’s base of support while failing to change anyone’s mind about him. They have probably reduced their chances of retaining control of the House of Representatives, let alone of gaining control of the Senate. If the caucuses and primary elections lead to the nomination of one of the more liberal candidates, President Trump will have an easy campaign for reelection; all he needs to ask is, “How will you pay for free college for everyone? How will you pay for universal health care?” So long as people representing the Democratic Party continue to speak of socialism, redistributing wealth, and government control, they will continue to lose support of the voters and will fail to win elections.
During his first term, President Nixon seemed terribly unpopular. The media focused on his shortcomings without noting his accomplishments. Potential Democratic candidates led in the opinion polls throughout 1970 and 1971. But when the Democrats nominated George McGovern as their candidate, voters found him to be too liberal for the country, and Nixon won the election, carrying forty-nine of the fifty states. In his second term, though, Nixon faced a Democratic Congress determined to stymie his initiatives and weaken his power. The mistakes of Watergate, magnified by inaccurate reporting across the media, began a process of impeachment that ended when Nixon resigned. Looking at the politically-motivated impeachments of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, one wonders whether Nixon might have survived a vote in the Senate after all.
Many things can still happen over the coming weeks and months to shape the election in November. At this time, though, I am no longer wondering whether President Trump will be reelected. I suspect he will. My biggest question is whether Republicans will maintain a majority in the Senate and regain a majority in the House. I think they might. It will be interesting to watch… very interesting…. J.