I overheard a conversation during which one man — presumably a Republican and Trump fan — told a Trump critic: “You and your liberal friends are just mad because you lost the election and you don’t like Trump’s policies.”
That comment stuck in my mind; I suppose because I’ve often heard it from more prominent Trump supporters, including Republican members of Congress.
I have friends on both sides of today’s political divide and sometimes find I can sympathize with both — though never at the same issue. Nearly all of them, Republican and Democrat, are deeply disappointed when the other party gains power and they rarely agree with the other party’s policies.
But except for Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, rarely has impeachment been a serious option. Democrats despised Nixon for Vietnam but it took Watergate to prompt impeachment inquiries. Republicans despised Clinton and his wife, Hillary, for a number of cultural and political differences, but it took an illicit affair with a young White House intern and perjury to spur impeachment.
Their opponents in Congress didn’t act until the president was seen to be abusing the power of his office by violating his oath to preserve and defend the constitution and faithfully execute our laws.
Which brings me back to the overheard conversation: nearly every Democrat I know opposes Trump’s immigration policies; tax cuts; and his determination to undo any accomplishment of his predecessor, Barack Obama. But except for his reckless foreign affairs, I never hear those Democrats cite policy when they say it is imperative to deny Trump a second term.
Right or wrong, they are genuinely alarmed by the president’s behavior and autocratic impulses, the way he undercuts our democratic institutions. How, for instance, are we to respect the Department of Justice after it interfered in a case against a Trump crony decided by a citizen jury? What is more fundamental to our system than that? The President of the United States tells the world he values the word of Vladimir Putin over those of 18 U.S. intelligence agencies. He denigrates our faithful allies and abandons new ones to slaughter like the Syrian Kurds and cuddles up to murderous dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Saudi Arabian
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
If Trump were a normal president, Democrats would still wish to unseat him but they would do so over policies about which even they don’t entirely agree. They might see a reprise of 2016 when disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters refused to get behind Hillary Clinton. But they seem unusually united in an effort to defeat Trump. They fear our system of government itself is in danger and will vote for whomever is the Democratic nominee and worry about policy down the road.
Meanwhile in Kentucky, a similar but not identical situation has played out similarly. Democrat Andy Beshear defeated incumbent Republican Matt Bevin who ran behind all the down ticket Republicans. Bevin was a bit of a foretaste of Trump, Trump-lite if you prefer, attacking the press and insulting anyone who didn’t immediately agree with him on just about anything. Especially teachers.
He enjoyed Republican super majorities in both the House and Senate — although it isn’t clear how hard some worked for Bevin’s re-election — running as an incumbent in an increasingly Republican state.
Beshear, whose last name may have otherwise been a bit tiresome for some, ran an intelligent, civil campaign, telling voters the days of bullying and name calling would end with his election. It was good strategy because Beshear won while every other statewide Democrat lost.
But people didn’t so much vote Beshear IN as they voted Bevin OUT. I would bet a majority of Kentucky voters would side with Bevin over Beshear on any number of issues. But they didn’t like Bevin’s behavior and callousness or how he ran the governor’s office.
Those are the things Democrats most hate about Trump, too. Sort of like the teachers’ revolt against Bevin.
RONNIE ELLIS is the former statehouse reporter for CNHI Kentucky and writes a weekly column. Follow @cnhifrankfort on Twitter.