2019年11月13日 星期三

On Politics With Lisa Lerer: How We’re Watching Impeachment

We don't know the full impact on 2020 yet, but here's what we're looking for.
On Politics

November 14, 2019

Author Headshot

By Lisa Lerer

Politics Newsletter Writer

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I'm Lisa Lerer, your host, back from vacation just in time for a big day in Washington.

It was a historic day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the start of nationally televised impeachment hearings.

But it was also an intensely political day. For all the discussion of presidential authority, constitutional power and foreign policy, impeachment is fundamentally a political process.

That raises a question I suspect at least a few readers of our newsletter are asking: What impact will the hearings have on the 2020 campaign?

This clip of George P. Kent and William B. Taylor Jr., the two State Department officials who testified for more than five hours today, pretty much sums up my answer.

(That's from a tweet by The Washington Post's Peter Stevenson.)

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This was only Day 1. There is a long, long way to go and a lot can happen. (The timeline, including a possible Senate trial of President Trump, will most likely extend to January or February, according to what I'm hearing from Capitol Hill.)

Yet, over the next few days, we will start to get some early signals about how — and whether — the first public stage of the impeachment inquiry is resonating with voters.

Here's some of what we'll be looking for:

Is anyone watching?

We're a long way from 1973 when the Watergate hearings, replayed by PBS at night, were appointment television. More than four decades later, the network is offering a digital stream, which will be competing with a seemingly endless amount of news and entertainment programming.

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In our fragmented media world, it's hard to imagine anything like the collective experience created by Watergate.

The major broadcast networks, as well as the cable news networks, did show the hearings all day long. But I suspect most people will get their dose of impeachment spun through prime-time cable news commentary and their social media feeds.

I'll be keeping an eye out for today's television ratings, which my colleague Michael Grynbaum tells me will come out tomorrow.

Who can simplify their narrative?

"Everyone has their own impression of what truth is." That's what Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican of North Carolina, told reporters today.

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Whether you agree with Mr. Meadows's rather postmodern take, he might be right when it comes to impeachment politics. Support for impeachment surged after the Ukraine news first came out, but public opinion has largely stabilized since and the partisan divide has remained: About 83 percent of Democrats, 12 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of independents back impeachment, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling tracker.

Regardless of whether Mr. Trump is impeached or removed from office, the political fight will be won or lost based on which party can take a complicated series of events and turn them into a digestible story line that can break through in a deeply polarized country.

Will any Republicans budge?

Right now, the most likely outcome of this process seems fairly predictable: a largely party-line vote in the Democratic-controlled House to impeach the president and another one in the Republican-controlled Senate to keep him in office.

The partisan lines are so set that at least a few Republicans said earlier this week that they wouldn't even be watching the impeachment hearings. While this might be technically true, you can bet nearly all of them will at least watch the highlights.

The question is whether the House proceedings and any public reaction that follows move Senate Republicans. Keep an eye on senators like Cory Gardner of Colorado, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, all of whom face tough re-election races in fairly purple states.

Drop us a line!

We want to hear from our readers. Have a question? We'll try to answer it. Have a comment? We're all ears. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

Andrew Yang has lots of fans. Can he win over skeptics?

Sarah Rice for The New York Times

Our colleague Matt Stevens recently returned from a reporting trip following Andrew Yang's campaign in New Hampshire. We asked him to tell us about one of the stops along the way. Here's what he sent us:

As I wrote earlier this week, Andrew Yang is doing much better in the Democratic primary than just about anyone would have imagined a year ago. Not only do many people know who Mr. Yang is, they also know he is the presidential candidate who wants to give every American adult $1,000 a month.

But with even moderate success comes scrutiny and higher expectations. And if Mr. Yang wants to expand his coalition of supporters, he will have to visit more places filled with skeptical undecided voters — places like the RiverWoods retirement community in Exeter, N.H., where he campaigned last week.

No one was wearing the Yang campaign's "MATH" hat inside the room full of seniors when I popped in a few minutes before Mr. Yang's arrival. But people were busy skimming copies of Mr. Yang's campaign book — and doing some math of their own.

When Mr. Yang took questions after delivering his stump speech, a voter asked him to explain how he would pay for his signature proposal, which he calls the "Freedom Dividend." His answer — which took him three minutes to unravel and involved at least four assumptions about new federal revenue and budget cuts — did not go over well with the voters I talked to.

"He gave a complicated answer that he needs to simplify," said John Bacon, 92, who along with his son had done some back-of-the-envelope calculations and had concluded that Mr. Yang was underestimating the cost of his proposal for a universal basic income. (Mr. Yang told the audience it would cost roughly $2.5 trillion a year.)

Indeed, Mr. Yang, 44, does not do nearly as well with older voters as he does with young ones. A Quinnipiac University poll of likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters released Monday showed him earning 12 percent support among people ages 18 to 34 and only 1 percent support among those 65 and older.

But Mr. Yang still found some support, or at least encouragement, at RiverWoods. Several voters I talked to said they had liked him on the debate stage and liked him even better in person, though they remained unsure if they would vote for him.

Even Mr. Yang's steadfast supporters realize he will face more scrutiny as his campaign continues and will need to volunteer more information about the numbers behind his plan, especially given that he presents himself as a numbers person.

"He needs to talk about the concerns people have with his dividend," said Erik Storesund, 29, who was sporting a limited-edition MATH hat with golden stitching at a Yang event in Portsmouth, N.H. "Because people are just like, 'My rent is just going to go up.'"

… Seriously

Our colleague Isabella Grullón Paz brings us this report for our bizarre item of the day:

You can order lunch delivery online, of course. But for a couple of days this week, you could also order up an illegal campaign finance donation.

That was thanks to a stunt by a group called MSCHF, which describes itself as a Brooklyn-based creative label. It tried an unusual method of sticking it to the man: It opened a shell restaurant called the Blue Donkey, registered it for orders through unwitting food delivery services and created fake menu items that were stand-ins for campaign contributions. The idea was that corporate employees could place orders using their company's lunch benefits, but instead of receiving food, they'd be donating the company's money to the presidential campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren or Andrew Yang.

Orders like blue corn nachos supposedly equated to donations to Ms. Warren; a banana split would go to the Sanders campaign; and a meatless burger was a contribution to Mr. Yang.

The experiment was short-lived. The online delivery services Seamless and Grubhub shut it down on Wednesday, 36 hours after it opened. (They did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.)

"We got the outcome we wanted," said Gabriel Whaley, the founder of MSCHF. "The whole point was, how do we connect these worlds of big corporations and Wall Street to the candidates that want to dismantle them?"

Mr. Whaley said the sham restaurant had received orders valued in the four figures, but did not disclose the exact amount. Orders for Ms. Warren were the most popular, he said.

Now comes the iffy part: getting the donations to the candidates. According to its website, MSCHF planned to "dole out the funds to our employees who can then make individual contributions, up to the individual contribution limit."

"We're trying to get this done as legally as possible," Mr. Whaley said.

The problem is, it's not legal to make campaign contributions in the name of another individual, what is known in campaign finance law as a straw donor scheme.

"A person who uses their meal benefit to place this order, knowing that the benefits are going to be used to make a political contribution, is helping to aid a straw donation because the true source of the funds are not being properly attributed," said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center. "The MSCHF employees who are making contributions in their own name using other people's money are also violating the straw donor ban."

Mr. Fischer added that corporate money was being used as campaign donations, and that MSCHF — a company itself — was using its own money to sponsor the restaurant, violating the ban on using corporate resources to facilitate campaign contributions.

"It's certainly a creative idea, but it's illegal," Mr. Fischer said.

Mr. Whaley said MSCHF was planning more election-related projects into 2020.

"Pitting big companies against the politicians that seek to dismantle them, it's our version of poetry," he said.

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Thanks for reading. On Politics is your guide to the political news cycle, delivering clarity from the chaos.

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