Senate vote could offer up some surprises
At a time when politics has become less and less about governing and increasingly, well, about politics, this week is perhaps the penultimate illustration.
This week the testimony began in President Trump's impeachment inquiry, and the nation is watching as members of Congress from both sides of the aisle perform for the cameras and their bases -- think a little William Jennings Bryan, a little Perry Mason and a lot of "Veep."
Impeachment is, above all else, a political act. It's not a legal one. If Democrats vote to impeach the president, he still gets to be president, as Bill Clinton can attest.
And, with the Senate needing no fewer than 20 Republicans to decide to remove him, Trump will likely remain in office and carry on his re-election bid, maybe even strengthened by the whole endeavor.
Considering the political realities, it can feel like we already know how this movie will end: matter-of-factly and anti-climactically. And yet, it isn't outside the realm of possibilities that a Capraesque finish waits in the wings.
While former Sen. Jeff Flake, a casualty of the GOP Trump takeover, warned there could be as many as 35 Republicans in the Senate who would agree to remove Trump from office if the vote were silent, they won't have that option. Republicans who wish to put their name on Trump's ouster will have to do it publicly, knowing all the potential costs associated with their defiance.
The lack of courage among so many Republicans to stand up to Trump on anything, from even the smallest policy disagreements to egregious moral and ethical failures, portends a fait accompli from the Republican Senate.
But what if a "coalition that could" decided they'd had enough -- that this president has been a drag on their party and the country for too long, that the price of defending him wasn't going to be worth it in the long-term, that their own legacies were on the line? What would that look like?
Imagine it starting with just one. Larry Hogan Sr. was the first Republican to break with President Richard Nixon during his impeachment hearings, weakening not only the GOP firewall of support for the embattled president, but also Nixon's own defiance.
There are a number of would-be Hogan candidates to watch: Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, one of the rare Republicans who managed to criticize Trump and still get himself elected, isn't up for re-election until 2024, giving him perhaps the longest runway to make a principled stand and then wait out Trump's wrath.