New York Times Checks In On 'Swing Voters'. Yes They Still Love Trump!
As the House moves forward with an impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump, pundits and "experts" have pointed out the many risks for Democrats. Peter Trubowitz, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, reminded us that Republicans "in 1998 lost the House after impeaching Bill Clinton." That depends on how you define the word "after." Republicans lost some seats but kept the House and gained the presidency in 2000. They didn't lose the House until 2006. A similar outcome for Democrats isn't a "risk," it's a boon.
Now deleted tweetTwitter
The New York Times took the impeachment question to the public. It interviewed two dozen voters across the country -- roughly the turnout for a special election. Times reporters found them "elated and wary, unsure and already exhausted." Before Trump, they were inspired. Now they're sad and tired. The article itself is like a 1970s sci-fi film set in the future: There are no black people present. The Republicans they spoke with have stuck with Trump through Russia, Stormy, and "Access Hollywood." They even forgave his brief career as a rap artist. They were generally "unmoved by the possibility that Mr. Trump committed impeachable crimes."
"I think it is an absolute joke," said Reggie Dickerson, 54, a pipe fitter and timber worker who lives in Eastern Kentucky.
Dickerson isn't actually a new voice on the subject. He was first interviewed for a piece about Trump's loyal base back in 2017. He's a registered Democrat who voted for Trump to "upset the fruit basket." He believes Barack Obama "destroyed our way of life." He blames the former president for the Iranian flag he saw hanging in a car repair shop and the overall existence of immigrants. He's unlikely to ever vote for another Democrat again, no matter how old, white, and male the nominee is.
The Times quoted Dickerson in an article about the Kentucky governor's race that ran in June. It seems like they should try to quote new people, especially if as reporter Sabrina Tavernise suggested in a now deleted tweet, the intent is to the speak to "swing" voters. None of these Trump supporters are tossing their keys into the electoral bowl.
Donna Burgraff is a registered independent from Andersonville, Tennessee. She's presented as having voted for Obama in 2008 before "swinging to Trump." The Times doesn't bother to tell us if the "independent" Burgraff voted for George W. Bush or Mitt Romney. It would help to know if Obama's historic election was the actual outlier and she's otherwise a reliable Republican voter. She was quoted in a Times article about supposed Obama/Trump voters in May. An associate professor of education at Ohio University, Burgraff claimed she finds Trump "boorish" and all but admitted he's sexist and racist. She voted for him anyway and has no regrets because his tax scam put an extra $400 a month in her paycheck. She also voted to re-elect Republican Brad Wenstrup during last year's blue wave midterms. She is probably voting the straight Republican ticket in 2020. Why are we talking to her? And why in God's name is the Times talking to someone like Trisha Hope?
Trisha Hope, who has been to 23 Make America Great Again rallies around the country and compiled a collection of Mr. Trump's tweets in a book, said that she saw "nothing improper" in the publicly released version of the call, and that the formal move toward impeachment had strengthened her support.
The woman's been to 23 MAGA rallies! But she doesn't own all the bootleg recordings so the Times considers her just a casual fan. Hope will likely be at Trump's side in his underground bunker long after Melania and Ivanka have bailed. These folks are all straight from what Hillary Clinton correctly called Trump's "basket of deplorables." Calling them "swing voters" is a flat-out lie. Trump would approve.
Tavernise's "whoops, I didn't mean actual swing voters when I said swing voters" response isn't helpful. The Times still spoke to Trump fanatics like Trisha Hope. She has a scrapbook of his tweets. We think her views are fairly well fixed. Even if there are "normal" Trump voters out there who might consider abandoning him, the Times is screwing up the reporting that would help them make the change.
I don't like to appeal to the authority of dead white guys who rode slaves to the office but a major point of impeachment was to put a check against a demagogue. Despots are often popular with the masses. The impeachment process prevents Congress from having to assassinate power-mad leaders on the Senate steps. What the public -- even actual swing voters -- thinks about impeachment shouldn't matter. What matters is how many impeachable offenses Trump has committed (hint: it's a lot). Our leaders need to actually lead. Not hop to the will of voters who are mostly uninformed and likely to remain so for as long as Dean Baquet is running the Times.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle.