If you’re watching the impeachment hearings, you’ve seen the Democrats eliciting testimony which unequivocally shows that President Trump withheld congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion in exchange for investigations into the Bidens and “Crowdstrike.” There is no evidence that the Bidens did anything illegal or corrupt. There is evidence that “Crowdstrike” is a debunked conspiracy theory promoting the idea that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton as opposed to the Russians interfering to help Trump (which is confirmed by all of our intelligence agencies and the Mueller Report).
At first blush, you might think this kind of Republican propaganda isn’t going to work. However, it could. Post-hearings, the pundits who say the Republicans were speaking to an audience of one, Trump, are wrong. They are speaking to Trump’s 40 percent base and the swing voters in Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, essentially 15 percent of voters who will decide the 2020 presidential election in the Electoral College. Trump and the Republicans understand this is his only path to victory. They also understand they have Fox News on their side.
Trump’s 40 percent coalition consists of white supremacists, evangelicals, and mostly white voters with these kinds of attitudes: “Democrats are trying to throw as much crap against him as they can. Trump is not guilty of anything.” These hearings are not going to alter their support of the president regardless.
Ultimately, the impeachment hearings will have more of an impact on the 2020 election than anything else. Trump will be impeached (there is more than enough hard evidence). The Senate will not convict him. The swing voters who are watching the hearings will ultimately vote him in or out of office. For the most part, this quote represents their attitude: “I’m prepared to keep open the possibility that the investigation might reveal wrongdoing by Trump that would make impeachment legitimate.”
The Democrats on the Committee need to be: cognizant of the swing voters, how Fox News characterizes the hearings, and the importance of countering Republican propaganda aimed at both Trump’s base and the swing voters.
Fox was the most popular network for watching the first day of impeachment hearings, with 57 percent more viewers than CNN. When Adam Schiff, chair of the Intelligence Committee, was on the screen, Fox’s graphic read: “Trump has repeatedly implied that Schiff has committed treason.” While Ambassador Taylor was testifying, the graphic read:” President Trump Dismissed Taylor as a “Never Trumper.”
Legally, treason is “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.” Republishing Trump’s defamatory statement is not only propaganda, it is legally actionable. There has been no evidence that Ambassador Taylor is a “Never Trumper.” In fact, when asked if he was during the hearing, he responded in the negative.
Propaganda, to be effective requires repetition of a theme, like a steady drumbeat. The Republican drumbeat includes no objectivity or fairness in the media’s Russia stories”; Ukraine meddled against Trump in the 2016 election; the Democrats colluded with the whistleblower; the Biden’s engaged in corrupt activities in Ukraine. None of this has any basis in fact.
There needs to be a real time response to this propaganda by the Democrats during the hearings. The first Democrat to question a witness after these falsehoods are uttered should correct them. Not to do so aids and abets the propaganda.
Our country is tragically divided along political lines. Disparaging fact-based career diplomats, with patriotic motives, only exacerbates the divide. There is no doubt that the Democrats need to hold these hearings, and, in my view, impeach this president. In the process, they must rebut the Republican propaganda or risk losing the swing votes they will need to win the 2020 election.