If you’ve been puzzled about what the Republicans are doing in the impeachment hearings, join the club. Half the time, it seems like their questions hurt their case. The other half of the time, they just don’t make sense. Witnesses are left scratching their heads as Republicans present one absurd conspiracy theory after another is presented.
If you were confused by questions about former DNC contractor Alexandra Chalupa or Paul Manafort’s black ledger, you’re not alone. The witnesses themselves didn’t know what Devin Nunes and Republican attorney Steve Castor were asking about.
If you’re like me and watched at least some portion of the hearings you were left with the impression that Trump is in trouble. The evidence is incontrovertible. As his $1 million donor Gordon Sondland testified, “Was there a quid pro quo? . . . the answer is yes.”
Seems pretty cut and dried. Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill grew so frustrated with the glut of red herrings that she called out Republicans, “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
Additionally, the hearings have been a ratings bonanza. They delivered Fox News its highest ratings of 2019. About 15 million people watched the hearings live. That’s nearly as many people as regularly watch The Masked Singer, the current number one show.
Even Fox’s Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, have enjoyed record ratings for shows addressing the impeachment hearings. At the same time, they pooh-poohed the hearings with Hannity saying, “If you’re like most Americans, you didn’t watch today’s impeachment charade. Here’s the big takeaway: another huge dud. Americans are tuning out in a big way.”
The most frequent questions I get from fellow Liberals is “how can the Republicans continue to defend him?” or “how are they going to deal with the latest revelations?”
But it turns out that the Republican response to the impeachment hearings has been very different from that of my Liberal friends. After Sondland delivered his searing testimony, all based upon first-hand knowledge, Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) tweeted “The impeachment hoax continues to unravel, day by day, minute by minute. #DemsGotNothing.”
Wait . . . what???
It would appear that the Republicans aren’t watching the same hearings as the rest of the world. As it turns out Republicans are not participating in the hearings the same way Democrats are. They don’t care about the actual hearings themselves. In an article by Ryan Broderick of BuzzFeed News, their focus is on getting sound bites they can promote on Fox News or Facebook or 4chan.
Consider the following exchange. When Lieutenent Colonel Alexander Vindman testified, by far one of the most credible witnesses to appear before Congress in recent years, Nunes challenged him to reveal the identity of the whistleblower. Vindman refused, prompting Nunes to lash out “you can plead the Fifth, but you’re here to answer questions and you’re here under subpoena.”
Now to an attorney, that statement makes no sense. The Fifth amendment protects people from being forced to incriminate themselves. Given that Vindman was testifying willingly, and that he had first-hand knowledge, he is clearly not the whistleblower, and if he was, why not reveal it? So there is no point in pleading the Fifth since he is not at risk of incriminating himself.
But Nunes knows that pleading the Fifth, especially under subpoena, is viewed by the public as tantamount to an admission of guilt. So despite the fact that the exchange had absolutely no legal value, it gave Republicans a sound bite of Nunes challenging Vindman to answer or plead the Fifth, and Vindman then refusing to answer.
This exchange was barely acknowledged by the mainstream media since it was so irrelevant. But I’m sure it played well on 4chan, whatever that is. It’s the stuff of George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984.” Truth is lies and ignorance is truth.
By now we should be aware of how many Trump supporters buy into completely fabricated realities, like those perpetuated as part of the QAnon conspiracy theory. QAnon argues Trump is a genius, everybody else just can’t see it because he is operating at a level so far above us. Talk about artistic license. And they keep predicting events that never happen.
Despite all this, some Trump supporters keep believing the fantasy their leaders spin. Many of Trump’s die-hard supporters have struggled economically, and they have been repeatedly disappointed by both parties’ promises of help. At least this alternate reality in which their dear leader will rescue all true Americans from the “Other” gives them something to believe in.
But the Devin Nuneses, Jim Jordans, Mitch McConnells, and Tucker Carlsons of the GOP are exploiting their supporters’ desperate need for something to believe in. While they are working to create this fictional reality to keep their supporters on board, they are raiding the cookie jar by reducing their taxes and enriching themselves and their friends to the detriment of everyone else. The purpose behind the GOP’s fictional narrative is to turn their supporters’ attention away from the theft of our democracy that is taking place right under their noses. It’s an epic “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” moment.
. . . they are raiding the cookie jar by reducing their taxes and enriching themselves and their friends to the detriment of everyone else.
Unfortunately, about forty percent of Americans have bought into this fictional narrative. They are so invested in this lie that no amount of information will convince them otherwise, and the cynics in the Republican party, Fox News and Facebook will continue to deliver to them the alternate facts they need to persist in their beliefs. As a result, in the short term, there is no point trying to convince them of reality.
In the long-term, after Trump is gone — which is, by the way, inevitable — these folks will still be hurting and looking for something to believe in. As Liberals, we need to create an actual reality they can believe in. If we do that, then the subversion of our democracy by the Republicans and their oligarchic friends will ultimately fail.