Susan Estrich: In the meantime, the real deal

Susan Estrich: Republicans used to claim ownership of values in politics. Trump cost them that. Their vote to save him will be their ultimate surrender. They will save him, and then he will let them drown.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
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What should be a momentous announcement seems more like the opening gong of a bad reality show we've been living inside of for going on three seasons.

Trump really did it this time. Again. And we already know the ending.
The House Judiciary Committee will draft articles of impeachment.
Then speeches.
The House Judiciary Committee will send the articles to the floor on a party-line vote, where — after more speeches — they will be approved on a party-line vote.

The president will be impeached.
The Senate will fight about the trial. How soon? How long? How long will it take to agree on how soon it will be? There are no new facts. The witnesses have spoken. There is no defense, which is why the Republicans will fight about everything else.
Barring a rebirth of the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, the Senate will eventually vote along partisan lines to acquit President Donald Trump of the House's "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" charge.
But in the meantime, Democrats will be selecting a presidential nominee, and two of the top four — Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — will be hard-pressed to explain why they aren't in Washington, D.C., for such an occasion.

The problem isn't being there for the vote. Everybody will be. It's all the stuff that has to get fought out in advance, all the speeches that people will expect of a Harvard Law professor, of all things, even if she's not on the Judiciary Committee. The networks will be in Washington covering these momentous events. Senators will fight for mics. Hearings will go for hours.
Meanwhile, the folks who are going to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire will not be in D.C. They'll be in Iowa and New Hampshire along with the troubled Biden campaign and the tireless, boundless energy of Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The Biden-Buttigieg contrast is the best thing that could happen to Mayor Pete right now. Mayor Pete is the New Generation. But he's also, in the current crowd, a "moderate" who is a lot less scary than either Warren or Sanders to baby boomers worried about electability. I'm not sure what it proves that a happily married, openly gay mayor from South Bend, Indiana, seems like a better shot than either of the senators or the former vice president he is running against, but there it is.
And if Sanders and Warren are at least partially sidelined in D.C., Buttigieg practically has Iowa and New Hampshire to himself. Joe Biden does two or three events a day. And he needs money, which you don't collect in Des Moines and Manchester, which means flying west at night whenever you can and then taking red-eyes back east. It's grueling. That's where youth and discipline give Pete a huge advantage. This is retail politics, and while it's shaped by national trends, Iowa tends to like underdogs and not to like establishment moderates like Biden. Add the fact that Pete's supporters exude enthusiasm while Biden's seem unable to use the telephone to give their advice to their candidate, preferring The New York Times instead. Sometimes that happens because the advisers have despaired of convincing the candidate that his political obituary could easily be written mere weeks from now. Sometimes it happens because the blame game is already being played in full force. In either!
case, it doesn't help Biden at all.
The best part about the Mayor Pete phenom is that he actually turns out to be as good as you dared to hope he would be. Most Americans have no idea — yet — who he is. Sure, Trump will try to define him with his twisted jabs — the way he does everybody.

The thing is Mayor Pete is the Real Deal. He is the most old-fashioned 21st-century candidate the Midwest could produce. He understands me, and he gets my kids, and — may she rest in peace — he would have the patience for my mother.


Republicans used to claim ownership of values in politics. Trump cost them that. Their vote to save him will be their ultimate surrender. They will save him, and then he will let them drown.

Susan Estrich can be reached at

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