zaterdag 21 december 2019

How to Save the World from Financialization

How to Save the World from Financialization

December 20, 2019
Labour Party advisor and author Grace Blakeley discusses her just released book, Stolen: How to Save the world from Financialization.

Story Transcript

GREG WILPERT: Stolen: How to Save the World from Financialization. This is the title of a recently released book by Grace Blakeley. She is an economic commentator and a member of the National Policy Forum of Britain’s Labour Party. We caught up with her in Washington, DC on one of her stops on her U.S. book tour.
Her book is divided into seven chapters. The first discusses the economic history of the world before financialization took hold. Chapters two, three, and four discuss the financialization of the corporation, the household and the state. Chapter five covers the roots of the 2008 global financial crisis, and chapter six looks at the post financial crisis world. The book concludes with a set of ideas for getting beyond financialization and towards democratic socialism.
I began by asking Grace to explain what she means by financialization of the corporation.
GRACE BLAKELEY: The idea of financialization is the kind of the growth of a financial institution, so banks which lend money and investment firms, people that kind of operate in stock markets, undertake investment in various different parts of the economy. So it’s kind of the logic of lending and investing, and so those institutions themselves grow, but also, the main kind of idea is the logic of finance kind of infiltrates different areas of the economy. So different sectors become financialized. As you said, I look at the financialization of the corporation, the household and the state, and starting with the corporation.
In fact, the financialization of the corporation takes off in around the 1980s, when you get a big kind of deregulation of stock markets, and kind of deregulation of other financial institutions and investors, and that leads to, along with the removal of restrictions on capital mobility, the ability of money to kind of flow around the world, and the rise of the kind of institutional investor. So big asset managers, their own big chunks of the stock market, often based on the fact that they’re investing people’s retirement funds. So they’re buying up lots of shares, and they’re able, often, to wield quite a lot of power over these corporations.
So as institutional investors grew in the ’80s and ’90s, they started to kind of enforce this logic of shareholder value, and they were helped along by kind of corporate raiders, activist investors, the kind of baddies that you had emerge in the ’80s who would take out loads of debt, buy up corporations, strip out the assets and then sell them off on the cheap. So the kind of logic of shareholder value, which basically is the idea that the only responsibility of a corporation is to maximize value for shareholders, kind of became really dominant in the ’80s.
There was just such a discipline on shareholders to just pay out as much money as possible to do share buy backs to have in their corporate plan, a plan to make sure shareholders were getting as much money as possible. The cooperator kind of came out of existence, and you started to just see, the kind of next wave of financialization that came after that was this huge wave of mergers and acquisitions activity that led to a really monopolistic form of capitalism that we have today.
That kind of financialization, it was driven by a bunch of different events in the ’80s, but it’s now very much institutionalized, and has led to a series of problems, really, with Anglo American capitalism. The first one being there is reduced investment. So rather than kind of building factories, investing in research and development, companies will just take their earnings and distribute them to shareholders, but it’s also led to falling wages, because obviously, you’re trying to maximize profits, to try to maximize returns to shareholders, you’re trying to cut costs at the same time. So investment in the U.S. is pretty low and it’s falling, and the average worker is no better off today than they were in the late 1970s. So this is all being driven largely by the financialization of the corporation.
GREG WILPERT: The notion that the corporation has become financialized is something that many economists have observed before. Less common is the observation that the household and the state have also become financialized. I thus asked her what she means by the financialization of the household.
GRACE BLAKELEY: It’s about political economy. So it’s about politics and economics, because the problem that that financialization of the corporation created was, obviously, rising inequality. When you tend to get rising inequality, you get lower levels of spending at the bottom, which kind of tends to reduce growth and slow the economy down a little bit. So the logic of the financialization of the household was basically to replace wage growth with private debt and with private asset ownership. So deregulating the banks meant that they could issue lots of debt to households. Households could then go out and spend more money than they were earning, which kept the economy going, and it also allowed them to buy houses and buy other assets that would then increase in value because so many people were trying to buy them. So obviously, that led into the housing boom.
Really, the kind of logic of this, for those kinds of neoliberal leaders like Thatcher and Reagan who were really pushing financialization, was to create a class of kind of mini capitalists who owned a bit of property through their 401k through their house, that made them kind of have an incentive to support the status quo, even if their wages weren’t rising as much as they had before. They had this wealth, and there was an incentive to protect that wealth. So that was the kind of political underpinnings of the financialization of the household. Ultimately, of course, it leads up to the financial crisis, because you have such high levels of private debt, such high levels of inflation in the stock market and house prices, that it creates this big bubble that ultimately crashes in 2008, to the detriment, largely, of ordinary working people.
GREG WILPERT: She then went on to explain what is meant by the financialization of the state.
GRACE BLAKELEY: You would have thought before this that the state would step in and say, “Too much borrowing, the economy’s unstable, we need to regulate the financial system properly,” but really, Wall Street in the U.S., the city of London and the U.K. had its core so deep into the state at that point, in various different ways, that this regulation just didn’t come about. Actually, there was quite a lot of deregulation of the finance sector throughout the ’90s and aughts.
Obviously, in the U.S., you had the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which ultimately led up to the financial crisis. At the same time in the U.K., and to an extent, in the U.S., you had the kind of incursion of private investors into state spending, whereby rather than spending money itself, the state would have private investors undertake that spending on its behalf through public-private partnerships, private financing initiatives, these sorts of things. That kind of allowed finance to basically have a subsidy from taxpayers, as well as being less regulated and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, you kind of see all the ways in which the power of the finance sector starts to change the behavior of lots of different other actors in the economy, and ultimately, it leads up to the crisis and to the kind of stagnation that we’ve seen since then.
GREG WILPERT: I was puzzled, though, why she referred to the processes as financialization instead of neoliberalization. That is while the idea that the economy and the corporation has become financialized is not unusual, most discussions of this topic referred to the concept of neoliberalism as the overarching term for describing the phenomenon of the growing role of finance capital, of privatization, and of the increasing predominance of self-employment and the household that becomes an enterprise to itself.
GRACE BLAKELEY: For me, neoliberalism is the ideology. So it’s the set of ideas that surround this. It’s the idea that human welfare is best maximized through the freeing up of markets and that the state should play a role in creating those markets where they don’t exist, but finance, that growth is almost the result of that. It’s the economic model that emerges from the application of neoliberalism, and that tells you something about neoliberalism, which is that it’s an ideology that’s promoted by a set of interests, primarily in the financial sector, who expect to benefit from the imposition of this ideology.
So I see them as basically running alongside each other, but it’s really important that we understand the, the structural kind of factors that emerge from the imposition of neoliberalism, rather than just seeing it as an ideology that we can just attack. We need to understand the power relations that sit underneath it.
GREG WILPERT: Grace’s book does a good job of explaining how the financialization of the corporation, the household, and of the state led to the global financial crisis of 2008. Since this is a topic we have covered at The Real News on many other occasions, I decided instead to focus on how she sees the post-crisis world. After all, immediately after the crisis, there was a general belief that neoliberalism and financialization had run their course and would be replaced with something else, but this has not happened, it seems.
GRACE BLAKELEY: In the aftermath of the financial crisis, many on the left are kind of like, “Well, this proves that everything we’ve been saying for long time is right, so obviously we’re going to get socialism now,” but of course it doesn’t work that way. The ideology that was associated with the finance growth of neoliberalism was also really, really powerful. It was associated with this idea that history was over, capitalism had won, and people really did believe from the end of the ’80s through to the financial crisis that things would continue to get better and better and better. That doesn’t just get undone overnight. It takes a while to accustom yourself to the fact that things aren’t just going to go back to the way they were before, because in the depths of the crisis, it was still possible to believe that if we just did the right things and we just listened to the experts, things would go back to the way they were before the crisis and everyone would go back to having massive homes and loads of debt and whatever.
It’s only been 10 years later, more than 10 years later, after we’ve had wage stagnation, productivity stagnation, rising inequality, ongoing housing crises, ongoing financial instability, all sorts of problems with the economy that people are starting to think, “Right, okay, things are never going to go back to the way they were before.” That’s actually a more revolutionary moment than in the midst, the depths of a crisis. In the depths of a crisis, people are scared they kind of want to cling on to stability, whereas after a long period of stagnation, people are more likely to say, “Right, I’m not going to benefit from the status quo anymore. I’m going to put my weight behind radical change.”
I think that’s the position that we’re really in today. I think it’s why we’re seeing so much political turmoil. It’s because an increasing number of people realize they have so little to gain from the status quo, especially young people. Many of them are never going to be able to buy their own houses, and even if they do, they’re kind of eeking out this precarious existence where they’re not getting paid very much, they’re paying loads of money just to survive, and they’re working really hard, ultimately, for a life that isn’t particularly satisfying, and on top of that, climate breakdown. So I really think that a lot of people are starting to say, “Enough is enough. Let’s think about some radical changes.”
GREG WILPERT: I agreed with her that the legitimacy of neoliberalism has been and continues to be questioned throughout the world. However, the structures of neoliberalism, that is the financialization aspect, remains in place. For example, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, and the financial structure of the world all continue to force their neoliberal policies on the rest of the world. I thus asked her what this means for her proposal to push for democratic socialism.
GRACE BLAKELEY: I see this project that, the kind of socialist project in general, the kind of ideas I put forward in the book, as being based on an analysis of power relations as they exist today and charting a route to get from here to there. There is absolutely no way that neoliberalism is going to crumble before our eyes and we’re going to be able to just rebuild something brilliant out of the spoils. We have to work out how best to challenge its dominance and rebuild, and basically use that strategy to rebalance power away from capital and towards labor. I don’t think that policies are going to deliver us socialism. I think people will deliver us socialism, they will deliver us socialism by demanding socialism.
So control over the state and controlling these institutions, what it primarily does is it gets out of the way of these big movements. You’ve seen the way in which the IMF, the World Bank, et cetera, have tried and failed to impose neoliberalism on a bunch of different countries. In Latin America, recently, we’ve had protests in Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, et cetera, and yet you’re starting to see that the dominance of these institutions, which has proven previously unassailable, erode. I think that’s part of a wider movement around the world, the people questioning the legitimacy of these institutions. So yes, the structures are still in place, but as more people realize that they have more to gain from challenging the status quo, as the status quo ceases to function properly, as we move into the next recession, cracks in the system are going to open up, and it’s up to us to make sure that we’re building a powerful, strong political movement in all of our different countries, in all of our different communities and all around the world, to take advantage of those cracks when they emerge to push forward.
GREG WILPERT: I then asked her about this vision for democratic socialism, what it would look like, and its broad contours.
GRACE BLAKELEY: The goal of the proposal in the book is not just to reduce the dominance of finance to get back to a nice form of capitalism. It’s ultimately delivering democratic socialism. So moving from a system of private ownership of the stuff we need to produce things and the protection of that system by the state, that’s capitalism, towards a system of socialized ownership of the stuff we need to produce things, and it’s democratic control by ordinary people, by workers, by communities. The proposals in the book are basically aimed at, going back to that strategy question, opening up cracks in the system and allowing people to move in and take advantage of those. The best way to do that under conditions of financialization is to really kind of attack the power of the finance sector.
So the kind of line in the book that I usually like is that a socialist government needs to take on the banks the way that Thatcher took on the unions or Reagan took on the unions. It’s using the power of the state to push back against your opponent and actually giving power to the people who support you. So that involves a big program of properly regulating the banks, controlling the amount of credit they can create, controlling the ability of money to flow all around the world. It also involves the creation of a new public banking system, as well as a green new deal that kind of pushes investment into areas of the economy that are going to help us greener over the long run.
It means reforming our tax system so that we’re taxing wealth, increasing taxes on the rich, and it means giving power back to working people who can then mobilize to take advantage of this. So repealing anti-union legislation, providing de-commodified stuff. Basically providing everything that we need to survive free at the point of use. So free transport, free utilities, cheap housing, all those sorts of things. Basically to enable people to organize, and also doing things like writing off or refinancing people’s debts, as well. So yeah, the plan is structured, basically, around the idea that the best way to get from here to there, there being democratic socialism, here being financialized capitalism, is to socialize ownership by taking on the finance sector and by reducing the power of private bankers, private investors over our economy, and promoting the power of ordinary people.
GREG WILPERT: Returning to the strategy question, I suggested that since her proposal for democratic socialism implies a radical disempowerment of those currently in power, any government that tries to embark in such a course would face the immediate problem of capital flight. I mentioned, as an example, the experience of Venezuela under president Hugo Chavez, whose government not only had to deal with a coup in 2002, but also with massive capital flight. Of course, Britain or the U.S. are quite different from Venezuela because their economies are far larger and more diversified. Still, capital flight could be a real problem, even for highly developed economies, because these are highly integrated into global financial system.
GRACE BLAKELEY: The case of the U.S. and the U.K. is completely and utterly different from Venezuela. Firstly, in the U.S., you have the global reserve currency. People have no choice but to hold dollars, ultimately. So they are going to have to hold dollars, they’re going to have to hold dollar denominated assets. There is no way that if you had a socialist government … You’d probably get a little bit of capital flight, but ultimately, people would realize they have to hold dollars because that’s the reserve currency in which transactions are settled. Everyone has to have them. So demand for dollar denominated assets is never going to evaporate in the same way that it could in Venezuela or other places. There’s kind of a similar situation in the U.K., because for a lot of reasons, people need to hold sterling.
Yeah, the city of London, particularly has a lot of sway in the international financial system, and a lot of people still want to hold British assets. So those two countries, and others in the rich world, still have a relative amount of autonomy, as you say, in order to be able to push back against that. It is, you’re right, not going to be enough. You would need to impose capital controls, I think, which now would be relatively easy to do if you could just add a tax on capital flows. I think you’d also need to create a public financial system over the long term so that you weren’t just relying on private banks to direct investment, you had a state, because ultimately, obviously, the only reason private banks can lend is because the state gives them the power to do that on its behalf, whereas if you had a public banking system, things would be quite different.
Really, Venezuela is a case of capital flees. The government can’t afford to service its debt anymore because it borrows in a foreign currency. The exchange rate tumbles, they can’t afford to buy anything anymore, and obviously becomes very heavily dependent on oil exports just to be able to service its debts. In the U.K., if that happened, we borrow in our own currency. The central bank owns, now, a third of British sovereign debt, so we basically control a huge amount of our own debt. There’s always going to be a relatively high amount of demand for certain British assets like treasuries. When it comes to the currency, the U.K. has had an overvalued currency for a very, very long time, which has really damaged our manufacturers and various other parts of the economy.
So rebalancing that, along with a strategy, obviously, to reduce our import dependency, that should be part of a kind of green new deal type thing. It would not be a bad thing for the economy. So there’s stuff we need to do. We need to be prepared for it. More than anything, we need to be prepared for the media impact that would surround that, because it would lead to a kind of pushback from people saying, “You’re scaring off the money.” In terms of the extent to which it would constrain our ability to act, it’s much more limited, but we have to come to terms with the fact that that is not the case for most of the global south.
So I think a big task of any socialist government in the U.S. or the U.K. would be to push back against that by providing emergency funding to socialist governments in the global south that were attempting to do some of these things, and that would ultimately start to really shift the balance of power in the international system.

U.S. Is Against the Free Market When They Can't Make Money

‘They’ll soon demand we stop breathing’: Moscow slams Nord Stream 2 sanctions, says US hinders economic growth

Democrats Invoke Russiagate to Advance Bill Lobbied for by Big Oil

Democrats Invoke Russiagate to 

Advance Bill Lobbied for by Big Oil

By: Steve Horn | December 20, 2019
Two bills that would allow the United States to expand its fossil fuel infrastructure in the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries have advanced to the the Senate—and Democrats backing them have invoked “Russiagate” to push them through. 
One of those bills, the European Energy Security and Diversification Act passed in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on December 11 and calls for $1 billion to go toward pushing energy projects in the EU. Immediately preceding that, another related bill called the Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act also passed through the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and co-author of the European Energy Security and Diversification Act, praised his bill’s passage through committee.
“This is a piece of legislation that seeks to redress what has been an asymmetry in the way in which we try to combat Russia’s attempts to curry favor in the region with its oil and gas,” Murphy, a frequent participant in the cable news circuit as a commentator on the “Russiagate” issue, said in a press release. “And I think that this, frankly, is the best way ultimately to hurt Putin where it matters. If we are able to help make countries truly energy independent of Russia’s energy largesse, then it effectuates so many U.S. national security goals in the region.”
But the Real News’ review of lobbying disclosure forms by some of those lobbying for the bill, show that they have business interests in Russia.  
The European Energy Security and Diversification Act has enjoyed the lobbying supportof the American Petroleum Institute (API), the influence peddling voice of the oil and gas industry. API member companies include BP, Chevron, Shell Oil and ExxonMobil—companies with deep oil and gas ties in Russia. BP owns a 19.75% share of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil production giant. And BP’s CEO, Bob Dudley, sits on Rosneft’s Board of Directors. Exxon is a frequent joint venture partner with Rosneft. Both Chevron and Shell Oil also have extensive operations across the oil and gas supply chain in Russia, with Shell acting as a financier of the Nordstream 2 pipeline, the subject of recent U.S. sanctions against Russia.
Despite these deep ties to Russia by those lobbying for the bill, House Democrats and Republicans stirred up Russiagate fears while they expressed their support for the legislation.
“Europe imports nearly 40% of its natural gas from Russia,”  U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney III (R-FL) said on the House floor before the body voted on the legislation. “Some EU countries source as much as 100% of their gas from Moscow, which has weaponized its energy dominance in the region to coerce, intimidate and influence the political decisions of countries that depend on it for their energy.”
“We saw again last weekend with the summary of the Mueller report coming forward, just underscoring once again, the attack that was made on our country by Russia,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA). “Russia is seeking…to create a wedge with the greatest asset we have. That asset is the coalition we hae with our European allies…One of the ways Russia is continuing to break up this western coalition and cause great damage is not just attacks they had in the U.S., but also wielding energy as a weapon to break up this great coalition we have.”
The bill calls for the United States’ assistance if it is a “natural gas infrastructure, such as interconnectors, storage facilities, liquefied natural gas import facilities” or if it centers around “the improvement, rehabilitation, or construction of natural gas, coal, or other electricity generation facilities to increase the efficiency and reliability of electricity production.” 
That assistance could include “using the diplomatic and political influence and expertise of the Department of State” to “resolve any inpendements” that may exist in getting an energy project open for business. Put another way, the U.S. government could use influence-peddling techniques to push a fossil fuels agenda throughout the EU. 
The bill further aims to prioritize linking energy systems of multiple countries together in the region and must be on the European Commission list as top priority projects for EU countries. The European Commission recently listed 55 different gas projects on its priority list, which received criticism from climate advocates
Two environmental groups, Food & Water Watch and Friends of the Earth, lobbied in opposition to the bill. Kate DeAngelis, a senior international policy analyst for Friends of the Earth, told The Real News that the group was attacked for its efforts.
“It was incredibly difficult to lobby on the bill because of the widespread support from the Dems,” said DeAngelis. “Most of the offices that were supportive or leaning toward supporting didn’t respond to our request for meetings. We were even accused of being pro-Russia. We explained that we were not pro-Russia, but that we are anti-fossil fuels.”
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) had also attempted to amend the words “including fossil fuel” out of the legislation during committee deliberations on the legislation, but the amendment failed to pass. He further attempted to pass an amendment requiring that the energy the U.S. promotes within EU countries is “non-fossil fuel based” and “truly renewable.” It also failed to get the votes needed for passage.
Another bill, the Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act, has also passed through the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It calls for the U.S. government “to promote energy security in Europe by working with the European Union” and “to develop liberalized energy markets that provide diversified energy sources, suppliers, and routes.” 
Once again, Russia was the rationale behind support of the legislation and API, Chevron and Exxon lobbied in support of it.
“Russia continues to use its energy resources as a weapon to intimidate, influence and coerce our allies. Freeing Europe from Russian energy dependence will strengthen both our allies and our NATO alliance,” U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the author of the bill, said in a press release after the bill passed through the Committee on Foreign Relations. “This bill gives us an opportunity to supply Europe with an alternative to Russian gas and increase Europe’s energy security.”
Barrasso took $10,000 in campaign contributions from Chevron, $7,500 from API and $5,000 from ExxonMobil during his successful 2018 re-election campaign cycle.
Despite these tough on Russia sentiments, the same companies with a large business footprint in Russia—ExxonMobil, Chevron and API—all lobbied for the bill. ExxonMobil, beyond its Russia operations and long-standing ties to the country, is also in the midst of building an LNG export terminal called Golden Pass LNG in Texas, a joint venture with Qatar Petroleum.
Friends of the Earth’s DeAngelis said that at the end of the day, money talks in Congress—and in Russia—despite the anti-Russia rhetoric.
“Exxon, BP, Chevron and API’s involvement in this bill just demonstrate how fossil fuel interests have a hold on much of the Congress,” she said. “They mask their demands in different ways, but their goal is always to increase their profits at the expense of the environment and communities around the world.”

Steve Horn Headshot

Steve Horn

Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based climate reporter and producer for The Real News Network. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and works as the Escondido reporter for The Coast News Group’s Inland Edition in northern San Diego County. He worked from 2011-2018 as an investigative reporter for the…

Trump’s Impeachment Is The Weakest In U.S. History

4 Reasons Trump’s Impeachment Is The Weakest In U.S. History

Critics of Trump note that no crime is necessary to impeach the president. While that’s true, it speaks to how weak the Democrats’ case against Trump is.

President Donald Trump joined Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson in the club of impeached presidents Wednesday night. Like the other two, Trump will be acquitted by the Senate once the articles of impeachment are delivered.
The case for Trump’s impeachment is the weakest of the three. If we include Richard Nixon, who resigned on his way to impeachment, it’s the weakest of the four. Here’s why.
1. No Actual Crime
Previous impeachments at least had a crime. Andrew Johnson was the first U.S. president to be impeached. He faced 11 articles of impeachment, mostly built around his violation of the Tenure of Office Act of 1867. That act limited the power of presidents to fire employees in Senate-approved positions without the consent of the Senate. While the law was blatantly unconstitutional, Johnson did violate it by getting rid of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.
Clinton was impeached for actual crimes that would get the rest of us in a whole lot of trouble. He was impeached for lying to a grand jury about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, false statements he’d made in an earlier deposition, and false statements he allowed his attorney to make about witness tampering. He was also impeached for obstructing justice in a case filed against him by encouraging Lewinsky to make a false statement and give false testimony, by hiding gifts he’d given to her, getting her a job in exchange for favorable testimony, attempted witness tampering with his secretary, and making false and misleading statements to jurors.
Nixon would have been impeached for obstructing an investigation into the unlawful break-in by his Committee to Re-Elect the President at the Watergate building and using the IRS and other agencies to violate others’ privacy.
By contrast, President Trump was not impeached for any recognizable crime. Critics of Trump note that no crime is necessary to impeach the president. While that’s true, it speaks to how weak the Democrats’ case against Trump is.
2. Punishing Trump for Exercising Constitutional Privileges
Trump is being impeached for abusing his power and for obstructing Congress. The first charge relates to complaints with how Trump handled foreign policy with Ukraine. In a friendly phone call with the Ukraine president, Trump asked for help investigating corruption issues in the country. Since some of the corruption touched on the family of Joe Biden, Democrats say Trump abused his power since Biden may be his 2020 election opponent.
Biden was the Obama administration’s point man in Ukraine when his son, Hunter, who had no expertise in the region or industry, was being paid $80,000 a month to sit on the board of an energy concern there. Setting aside that charge, the second charge is more troubling.
Democrats say that Trump’s decision to exercise his constitutional privilege to protect executive communication means he should be removed from office. That’s their second charge — obstruction of Congress. Many presidents have battled with Congress over their executive privilege and what it covers, but the idea that the debate is cause for impeachment is remarkably weak. If President Trump had defied a court order to turn over documents, that would make for a stronger case. But that hasn’t happened.
3. Bipartisan Opposition Instead of Bipartisan Support
Previous impeachments had bipartisan support. In Trump’s case, not a single Republican supported impeachment and several Democrats declined to support it. This is a remarkable turn of events from the time that impeachment first began to be lobbied for. The media and others in the resistance pushed impeachment within hours of Trump’s inauguration.
The initial plan was to spin up a special counsel that would deliver a report on collusion with Russia to steal the election. That dream fizzled with the inability to find a single American, much less anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign, who had done so. But at its onset, the plan allegedly had Republican support. Now, no Republicans are joining Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. Jerry Nadler in their impeachment goals.
The plan was clearly to start with limited Republican support and grow from there. Instead, there was no growth in the ranks of Republican support. And while high percentages of Americans have told pollsters for months that they would like the Bad Orange Man impeached, there was no movement in those polls toward more support. Even more surprisingly, Trump’s approval ratings went up. This shows us that the bipartisan growth and momentum that was needed isn’t happening.
4. Failure to Do the Work
Previous impeachments and impeachment efforts required a great deal of work from congressional and other investigators. Some spent years investigating matters before bringing them to Congress.
In this case, impeachment was built entirely around a late July phone call with Ukraine’s president. The original impeachment effort was to say that the phone call violated campaign finance law. That charge morphed into claims of bribery, extortion, and obstruction of justice. By the time two articles of impeachment were drafted, it was clear that the case had lost focus.
After the vote, some Democrats suggested that the House could keep investigating the matter. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi herself signaled a lack of confidence in her members’ work when she said that the House might not even send the articles over to the Senate for a trial. She claimed that was because of how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to run the trial, but he said he would use the same rules that were used in the Clinton trial.
House members also coordinated with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on how the Senate trial should go. He told television cameras that he would like to call witnesses to further investigate the underlying matter. This would only be necessary if the House didn’t bother to complete their investigation because they were rushing.
Democrats hope to tarnish Trump heading into 2020. While they have done their best, what they’ve mostly provided is the weakest impeachment case in U.S. history.