We begin today with the Texas Observer’s Justin Miller observations of the immediate aftermath of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s acquittal in the Texas state Senate impeachment trial Saturday.
After the final votes were taken, Dan Patrick—who presided over the trial as judge—didn’t waste a second letting his true feelings be known after being largely silent over the preceding three months.
He unleashed a tirade against the House and its Speaker Dade Phelan for the rushed and half-cocked process for impeaching Paxton in the first place. Patrick promised that he would push to pass constitutional amendments in the next session that would reform the state’s impeachment laws. Prior to the trial, Patrick’s campaign received $3 million from the pro-Paxton PAC Defend Texas Liberty.
“The speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of a statewide official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before,” Patrick said. [...]
While Paxton is back in power, his troubles aren’t over. Next month, he’ll finally go to trial on the state securities fraud charges for which he was indicted nearly a decade ago. Then, there’s the federal investigation into him for the very same allegations that brought his impeachment.
Mark Jones writes for the Houston Chronicle that Paxton’s acquittal was all about political calculation.
Paxton’s acquittal underscores a truism in Texas politics today: political power flows through the Republican Party primary in March and May rather than through the November general election. As a result, Republican elected officials, such as these 18 Republican state senators, the governor and the lieutenant governor, are far more attuned to the preferences and priorities of the 1 to 3 million Texans who vote in Republican primary elections than to the preferences and priorities of the state’s 18 million registered voters, or to the evidence that was presented during the impeachment trial.
A Texas Politics Project poll in August showed that, even before the trial began, 47 percent of Texas registered voters believed Ken Paxton took actions that justified removing him from office, compared to 18 percent who believed they did not justify removal and 35 percent who were unsure.
However, Texans who identify as Republican were more mixed in regard to Paxton’s fate in the survey, with 24 percent in favor of removal, 32 percent against and 43 percent unsure. Furthermore, many of the most visible and dynamic activist groups and individuals within the Republican Party mounted a robust and effective campaign, with an assist from Donald Trump, to mobilize the GOP’s activist base to pressure the 18 senators and other Republican elected officials to support acquittal. And, while there was some modest counter-pressure from other Republican groups and elites to convict, or to at least not discard conviction out of hand, it was much more subdued and not nearly as passionate.
Molly Jong-Fast of Vanity Fair writes about the U.S. House caucus of the bullied.
Now, let’s pause and take a moment to remember the last time Republicans impeached a Democratic president. The year was 1998, and a certain House Speaker named Newt Gingrich had decided to impeach a certain president named Bill Clinton over a blow job. (Sure, officially, the charges were perjury and obstruction.) But later that year, during the midterm elections, the GOP’s “out-of-power momentum” was nowhere to be found, having lost the House five seats and gaining zero in the Senate. The impeachment blowback was swift; it was the first midterm since 1934 in which the president’s party actually gained seats in the lower chamber.
Fast-forward to today, and obviously, McCarthy doesn’t seem to have learned anything from that. Why, might you ask? Probably because his lord and savior, Donald J. Trump, wants Biden out of office. And if there’s anything we’ve learned about this cowardly Republican Party, it’s that Donald J. Trump always gets what he wants. “Why aren’t they impeaching Biden?” Trump asked during
an Iowa town hall in July. “They impeach me, they indict me, and the Republicans just don’t fight the way,” he echoed
during a late-July rally in Erie. “They’re supposed to fight.” [...]
Even Republicans who used to have a modicum of common sense seem sick with the impeachment bug. Take Colorado’s Ken Buck, who was previously anti-impeachment, who told NBC’s Sahil Kapur that an impeachment inquiry was “a good idea.” Buck has recently been threatened by the possibility of a primary challenge—and has also been a frequent target of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s. “I really don’t see how we can have a member of the Judiciary that is flat out refusing to impeach,” she recently said of Buck. “It seems like, can he even be trusted to do his job at this point?” If Buck and McCarthy can be bullied into being pro impeachment by Republicans like Gaetz and Greene, could they also be bullied into allowing a government shutdown?
British political commentator Eliot Wilson writes for The Hill that the sheer pace of impeachments, threats of impeachments, and filing for impeachments indicates that impeachment, itself, has become a partisan weapon indicating instability in government.
Next month marks 25 years since the House of Representatives approved a resolution authorizing the Judiciary Committee to examine potential grounds for Clinton’s impeachment. Since then, however, impeachment has started to become a quotidian and partisan weapon. President Trump made history by being impeached twice, in 2019 and 2021, while the loose cannon that is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed articles of impeachment against President Biden the day after his inauguration. The notion was aired again after the fall of Kabul in August 2021, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy just launched an impeachment inquiry related to Biden’s relationship with his wayward son, Hunter.
This is symptomatic of a breakdown of faith in the political system. This breakdown has happened gradually, and some will point to Watergate and Nixon as the origin point, but the arrival of Donald Trump catalyzed the process. His banishment of truth and facts from any political importance was a transformation: it reduced the venerable institutions of the United States to mere context, the backdrop to an utterly transactional style of politics.
Under those circumstances—the declaration that no holds were barred, that winning was the only thing that mattered—impeachment becomes just another weapon. It is foolish, weak and frankly naïve to hold it in any special regard, an instrument for grave emergencies. Everything is an emergency, and yet everything is ephemeral. So if a party thinks it can gain advantage over its enemies by reaching for articles of impeachment, then it will do so, because that is what you do to win.
I agree with Wilson’s conclusion that impeachments have become simply another tool of political partisanship but I would place blame at the feet of Newt Gingrich or Gerald Ford.
It’s also why I was in favor of Speaker Nancy Pelosi taking “impeachment off the table” during the 110th Congress.
Jeanne Whalen and Lauren Kaori Gurley of The Washington Post reports that UAW leaders have returned to the bargaining table but remain far apart from an agreement with the Big Three automakers.
The union and companies remain far apart on pay and benefits in their weeks-long contract negotiations, with the union demanding a 36 percent wage increase over four years. On Saturday, Stellantis, the parent company of Jeep and Chrysler, said it is offering a 21 percent cumulative wage increase over the course of a new contract, a proposal it made Thursday, before the strike started. Ford and GM have offered raises of 20 percent.
The UAW continues to keep its strike plans secret. When asked Friday night whether it might strike at more plants, UAW President Shawn Fain said that depended on the outcome of negotiations. [...]
The UAW president has called the companies’ wage offers inadequate after years of sharp inflation and fat corporate profits. He also points to the large pay increases the auto CEOs received during the course of the autoworkers’ just-expired contract, which was signed in 2019.
Sarah Kessler, Ephrat Livni, and Michael J. de la Merced of The New York Times write about the A.I. concerns that underlie many of the unions that have been or are on strike.
Unions aren’t just fighting for an inflation-beating wage boost. They also are campaigning for job security at a time when workers increasingly fear that shifts to new technologies, like electric vehicles and artificial intelligence, threaten their job, and tech bosses themselves say this gloomy outlook is inevitable. [...]
Concern over disruptive technologies are seen on the picket lines. The Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, fear studios are embracing A.I. tools to generate scripts or copy the performances of actors. “If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble,” Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA, warned in July. “We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.”
The U.A.W., meanwhile, is concerned that the industry’s shift to electric vehicles will require fewer workers, and that many of the jobs needed will be in battery factories, most of which are not unionized.
Giving workers a voice in the use of technology has taken on new urgency, said Thomas Kochan, an emeritus professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management, who has been studying the future of work since the 1980s: “Generative A.I. in particular has just exploded on the scene in a way that’s going to make this one of the most controversial and one of the most important workplace issues of our time.”
Finally today, Dominic Rushe of the Guardian thinks that it’s not simply political partisanship causing widespread pessimism about the American economy.
Americans are deeply divided on the economy. The Harris poll shows over half (53%) of Americans believe the economy is getting worse. Some 72% of Republicans share that view compared with 32% of Democrats. But the unhappiness runs deep on both sides. Only a third of Democrats believe that the economy is getting better.
Even when Americans say they are doing OK financially, they believe the economy is in trouble. According to the Federal Reserve’s annual survey of economic wellbeing, 73% of households said that they were “at least doing OK financially” at the end of 2022. In 2019, that figure was 75% of households. But back then, 50% said the national economy was good or excellent. By 2022, that number had fallen to just 18%. [...]
Partisanship explains much of the seeming disconnect between economic data and sentiment. But not all of it. Large forces are reshaping the US economy and may explain the nation’s vertigo.
Many low-wage workers, have been living with that fear of falling for a long time.
Have the best possible day everyone!