The Biggest Surprise For Us Out Of Trump’s Impeachment Trial
Update: Interesting: we’re still watching C-SPAN, but they’ve changed their call-in system! Now instead of asking viewers to call different numbers based on their political affiliation, they’re asking them to call different numbers based on the time zone they’re in!
Yes, former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s leaked revelation (but not by him, he insists!) that Trump’s conduct wasn’t “perfect” is quite a blockbuster, but that hasn’t touched the trial directly. At least not yet. Especially with Trump’s defense team proceeding largely as if the new info didn’t even exist: that Bolton writes in an upcoming book Trump did indeed tie military aid to Ukraine to a Biden investigation.
What caught our attention — other than the fact that Trump’s folks, who are supposed to be such computer whizzes did a much poorer job presenting visual and audio support for their case than Democrats did last week: one of his lawyers at least, seemed to have access to a single perplexing template with silhouettes of a group of people over which to superimpose all of their graphics — was something not explicitly part of the trial itself.
We watch the proceedings over on C-SPAN because we really dislike seeing and hearing from a panel of what Trump correctly characterizes as “8 people you never heard of” anytime there’s a break, regardless of where you turn.
What C-SPAN does instead during breaks is take phone calls from its viewers, and while there’s some interaction with a host, it’s very minimal. Ostensibly to avoid confusion, C-SPAN asks Democrats, Republicans, and “Others” (whom its hosts more commonly refer to on the air as Independents), to call in to separate telephone numbers.
Thing is, at least among Americans who actively call in to C-SPAN, at least over last week and the beginning of this week, almost everybody who self-identifies as an Independent, turns out to be a Trump supporter.
One fellow, who identified himself as an Independent, took C-SPAN to task for being too cowardly to turn its cameras around to show Democrats slacking off during Trump’s lawyers’ arguments (of course, Republicans were doing the same thing last week). Also of course, the Senate controls its own cameras, not C-SPAN. C-SPAN in fact asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for permission to get a camera or two of their own into the impeachment trial, specifically to get reaction shots (quite possibly of the type the “Independent” on the phone was talking about). McConnell said no.
According to Gallup, as of this month 45% of voters in the U.S. self-identify as Independents. That’s close to the highest percentage ever. Conveniently, Democrats and Republicans are equally split 27%-27%. Which isn’t convenient for Democrats: they’ve historically had an edge in party registration, even in years when Republicans have won the Presidency. And the 27% who are Republicans are almost singular in their support for Trump (as he continually likes to point out), and who will almost certainly vote. The same can’t be said of the 27% of Americans who are avowed Democrats, who at best are like herding cats.
Which means we’re looking at an eventuality that may be very similar to the last Presidential election: due to an uneven split among Independents, and the greater weight of the electoral vs. popular vote, a Democratic candidate might have to be polling about 10 points ahead on Election Day in order to win by a slim margin. (None of the Democratic candidates has that kind of lead over Trump in a head-to-head match-up right now. Hillary Clinton actually did, up until then-FBI Director James Comey came out and announced a second email investigation, just a few days before the election. But we know better than to go any further down that path.)
At least, as we said, if Independents are accurately represented by those calling in to C-SPAN any time the Senate takes a break.