Monday, January 13, 2020

Do Democrats Have a Diversity Problem in 2020?

The news on Monday that Cory Booker was suspending his 2020 presidential campaign has led to expressions of frustration within many left-of-center corners of social media over the supposed lack of diversity in the Democratic field. Booker's withdrawal follows closely on the exit of Kamala Harris and Juli├ín Castro, leaving Democrats without an African-American or Latino candidate except for former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick—a last-minute entry who has failed to attract much attention to his candidacy.

Parties and party organizations are the habitual scapegoats of American politics, and some critics are automatically inclined to leave blame for these developments at the feet of the Democratic National Committee. Booker (and Castro before him) had been excluded from both the last and the next televised debates due to popular support that failed to meet the DNC's enforced standards, which in turn made it very difficult to achieve the visibility necessary to increase such support. But, of course, a more lenient set of standards that allowed Booker and Castro to participate would also have led to the presence of multiple secondary and tertiary candidates, limited camera time for each contender, splitting debates into two nights, and other measures that people similarly love to complain about. "The DNC should let the specific candidates debate whom I think deserve it, and exclude the ones I don't want to hear from" is a popular sentiment, but it is in no way a workable policy.

Booker, Castro, and Harris are out of the race not because of a feckless or malevolent party committee, but because—like the vast majority of people who ran for president before them—they never caught on with enough activists or primary voters. It always seems unfair to many observers that Candidate A, who seems by general consensus to be perfectly qualified and reasonably appealing, gets driven out of the race while the much more polarizing Candidate B does not. But the nomination system encourages—indeed, it requires—candidates to evoke personal enthusiasm among a critical mass of party members. Being many voters' second or third choice doesn't help a contender unless he or she is also some voters' first choice.

The combination of disappointment and bafflement over the recent withdrawals of three non-white presidential candidates has been compounded by the growing prevalence among writers and thinkers on the ideological left of a political philosophy centered around social identity that defines increasing the descriptive representation of certain social groups in high-status positions (from government office to Oscar nominees) as a, if not the, primary proper objective of political activism. In this view, the failure of a handful of presidential candidates inevitably becomes a powerful symbol of a wider systemic injustice.

But out in the mass Democratic Party, the pursuit of group interest is only sometimes channeled through supporting members of the group for elective office, and most citizens are resistant to—or even offended by—assumptions that they will or should line up behind a particular candidate simply because of shared social identity. Much has been made of Joe Biden's success among black Democrats so far, persuasively explained as a combination of these voters' collective ideological moderation, political pragmatism, and affection for Biden's service under Barack Obama. But even the decidedly non-moderate and non-Obamaite Bernie Sanders was winning substantially more black support than Booker was before his withdrawal, just as Biden, Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren all easily outpolled Castro among Latino Democrats.

Mass-level Democratic voters of all races simply are not currently placing descriptive diversity above other priorities—defeating Donald Trump, achieving policy goals, ideologically recalibrating the party—to the same degree as the disproportionately audible voices of the journalistic and academic left. The historical milestone of Obama's presidency has removed some urgency, at least in the short term, from efforts to elect another non-white candidate, and perceptions that women face a greater challenge than men in winning the presidency seem to have worked to the disadvantage of the female candidates in the 2020 race—perceptions that some feminist commentators have themselves unintentionally promoted. And the remaining Democratic field is not short on demographic diversity by traditional standards: Warren remains a leading contender, two major candidates are Jewish, and one is openly gay (it is, perhaps, a testament to the recent successes of the gay rights movement that much of the trendy left doesn't celebrate Pete Buttigieg as a pathbreaking figure but instead mocks him as a square, co-opted incrementalist).

The demographic diversity of the 2020 presidential contenders in fact compares quite favorably to the larger officeholding class in American politics, where severe proportional discrepancies in social group representation remain rampant. (For example, Harris and Booker are two of only three black senators currently in office, and Patrick is one of only two elected black governors in the modern history of the nation.) On this issue, as on many others, the presidency receives excessive attention from American culture at the expense of the rest of the political system. But there is surely a distinction worth making between voters freely choosing across lines of group membership not to support a particular candidate or set of candidates in a large and wide-ranging field, as has occurred so far in 2020, and the more formidable social inequities in electoral politics that continue to shape the composition of the larger pool of political leadership in America.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: Liberals Got an Impeachment, Moderates Got It Their Way

As Republicans have recently become very fond of pointing out, some liberals have been contemplating the impeachment of Donald Trump since the day he was elected president. This wish is now about to be granted. The contents of Robert Mueller's report didn't convince enough Democratic members of Congress that Trump should face impeachment proceedings, but the uncovering of the Ukraine scandal months later proved more persuasive. Trump is now poised to be the third president in history, and second in the modern era, to be impeached by the House of Representatives once final votes are taken on the floor of the House next week.

The key players on impeachment have always been a group of moderate Democrats who represent the pivotal voting bloc in the House, many of them newly elected in 2018 from districts carried or narrowly lost by Trump two years before. When these members opposed impeaching Trump, House speaker Nancy Pelosi gave them public cover, repeatedly arguing that an impeachment that lacked bipartisan support would be a mistake and even quipping that Trump was "just not worth" impeaching. But when a band of leading moderate freshmen responded to Trump's September admission that he discussed Joe Biden with the president of Ukraine by endorsing an impeachment inquiry, Pelosi reversed her position within a matter of hours, immediately setting a process in motion that led to the upcoming vote.

The anti-Trump left would get its impeachment after all, as it turned out, but the specific arrangements would continue to reflect moderate preferences and demands. The House Intelligence Committee would take the lead in fact-finding, rather than the more colorfully combative Judiciary Committee. The articles of impeachment would focus on Ukraine, not other arguably impeachable offenses committed in other subject areas. And the House's business would be wrapped up by the holiday recess, avoiding the risk of popular fatigue that might arise from a lengthier process.

Now that an impeachment vote is imminent, some liberal commentators are expressing dissatisfaction, calling for a slower timetable and a wider scope of investigation. These arguments are tinged with an unmistakable sense of disappointment that the proceedings so far have neither shaken congressional Republicans' defense of Trump nor reduced the president's support in the wider electorate. But a change in course at this stage would almost certainly provoke defection from moderate Democrats worried about looking too partisan. And it's hard to imagine that impeachment would become more popular, or Trump would become less popular, once increasing numbers of congressional Democrats started to peel away.

Pelosi has managed her diverse party caucus with customary skill; while Democratic leaders expect a small number of members to vote no, a number of key moderates from competitive districts are beginning to signal their support, indicating that her approach has resulted in a broadly unified party. But as the process in the House winds down in advance of an anti-climactic acquittal in the Senate, it has somewhat ironically illustrated the validity of a point that Pelosi was fond of making back when she was arguing the other side of the impeachment debate: a merely partisan vote to impeach, whatever its substantive merits, cannot be expected to inflict much political damage on its target. Impeachment carries such historical weight and constitutional resonance that it initially seems like a uniquely potent weapon that will feel exhilarating to wield against a detested opponent. In today's political climate, however, it can easily turn into just one more battle in an ongoing war that is already conducted at a perpetual level of near-maximum intensity.

Some liberals are likely to express frustration that impeachment is wrapping up without causing the president more political pain. But moderates are worried that they would only be risking their own re-election by prolonging the process, and Pelosi has made it clear all along that she's looking out for the perceived interests of the most electorally vulnerable sector of her caucus. And if three months of public disclosures and hearings didn't make a dent in Trump's popularity, it's hardly surprising that these members are now ready to move on.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: Will Impeachment Affect the Democratic Presidential Race?

When the impeachment of Donald Trump became a likely event in September, it became fashionable to speculate how Trump's re-election fortunes might be affected: would the process hurt Trump by generating damaging disclosures and negative publicity, or would he benefit from a popular backlash and highly-mobilized Republican base? I suggested at the time that impeachment wasn't likely to matter much in the 2020 general election, and the evidence so far is consistent with that expectation. Trump's job approval rating has barely moved since the beginning of the impeachment push—or, really, since the end of the government shutdown last winter.

A more unsettled question is whether impeachment has had, or will have, any effect on the Democratic primary race. Since all serious Democratic contenders agree that Trump's impeachment is merited, any effect would need to be more indirect—but there are three plausible ways it could occur. First, the connection of Joe Biden and his son Hunter to the Ukraine affair could be expected to influence Democratic voters' perceptions of Biden: either positively (as Democrats might rally around Biden in partisan solidarity or view him as Trump's personally most-feared opponent) or negatively (if they became troubled by Hunter Biden's role in the story and began to worry that it would dent his father's electability). Second, the attention that the news media and American public would inevitably divert to impeachment could deprive Democratic candidates of valuable popular visibility during the key months preceding the first nomination events in Iowa and New Hampshire. Third, the fact that so many of the Democratic candidates in 2020 are members of the Senate means that they will be forced to choose between attending the trial early next year (assuming that articles of impeachment are indeed approved by the House, as seems certain) and joining their rivals on the campaign trail.

On the first question, it's not yet clear whether Biden's popularity has changed much since the Ukraine story broke. The Economist's polling analysis indicates that Biden's share of support in national polls has remained steady since the end of the summer, although his lead has fluctuated due to the rise and subsequent decline of Elizabeth Warren. But in Iowa, Biden does seem to be losing some strength: first Warren and more recently Pete Buttigieg have pulled ahead of him in the RealClearPolitics polling average since the end of September. Of course, it's possible—even probable—that this decline has little to do with impeachment. But, at the least, there is no sign of a pro-Biden rally phenomenon among Democratic voters.

The second question is harder to answer, since it requires considering a counterfactual timeline where impeachment does not occur. In that scenario, it's likely that the Democratic contest would be a more prominent national story, which might in turn have made it a bit easier for candidates who aren't already well-known to have gained some upward momentum. The surprising withdrawal of Kamala Harris earlier this week underlines the unusual lack of volatility in the race so far—and, in particular, the inability of anyone in the large field of contenders other than Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders to consistently attract significant support from Democratic voters.

Normally, a contested presidential nomination is the top political story in the fall before an election year. But we are not in normal times. It's a safe bet that Trump would have continued to dominate news coverage of politics, as he has ever since he began his campaign in the summer of 2015, whether or not he was facing an impeachment inquiry. Any candidate needing a late surge—Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro—will find it hard to attract the necessary media hype as Congress moves toward a well-publicized impeachment vote and probable trial over the remaining weeks before Iowa and New Hampshire. But there's also no particular reason to believe that such a surge would have happened absent impeachment, given Trump's continued public ubiquity and how little success these candidates have found so far.

The final question pertains to events that have yet to occur. Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate leadership will assuredly not schedule a potential impeachment trial in order to maximize the convenience of the multiple Democratic senators who remain active presidential candidates. But it's hard to see how much mischief McConnell could cause—will these senators indeed feel compelled to attend every impeachment session in person?—and there isn't much political logic to Republicans' intentionally trying to disadvantage Warren and Sanders, whom conventional wisdom suggests the GOP would rather face in 2020 than Biden or Buttigieg. Sitting senators will also have the unique opportunity to make stem-winding floor speeches on behalf of conviction that will undoubtedly receive extensive publicity and attract considerable attention from Democratic voters.

All in all, it's not especially likely that impeachment will be a decisive factor in the Democratic presidential race. Nomination politics can be full of complications and unpredictability, so conclusions must be made cautiously and provisionally. But observers looking for the political consequences of impeachment should probably start their search elsewhere.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: The Most Important Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Speaks

There are nine Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, but only three of them have received extensive media attention during the public hearing phase of the committee's impeachment inquiry. The first is Devin Nunes, the ranking member and former chairman, who has led the Republican questioning of witnesses and complaints about the process. The second is Jim Jordan, temporarily added to the committee for the hearings, who has specialized in boisterous defenses of the president. And the third is Elise Stefanik, who attracted notice for claiming that she had been "silenced" by Adam Schiff for talking out of turn last week—an incident that both Stefanik and her Democratic opponent in next year's election immediately mined for fundraising success.

Yet the most important Republican participant wasn't any of these more visible, publicity-seeking members. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas conducted himself in a soft-spoken manner during the hearings and mostly avoided making extensive comments to the media. But because Hurd is himself a former intelligence officer, represents a normally Democratic-leaning district, has been critical of Trump in the past, and is retiring from Congress next year, he was always the most plausible candidate on the Republican side to endorse the position that the president may have committed an impeachable offense—and thus to lend an element of bipartisan support to the process as it proceeds.

At the conclusion of today's hearing, however, Hurd made it clear that he will not be voting to impeach Trump. He expressed dissatisfaction with the president's handling of Ukraine, but framed it as a case of "bumbling" rather than more serious impropriety and joined in his Republican colleagues' criticisms of the Democrat-led inquiry process. If Democrats can't succeed in winning Hurd's vote, it seems likely that the entire House GOP will remain united in opposition to future articles of impeachment.

Most mainstream media coverage has portrayed the past two weeks of hearings as very damaging for Trump and vindicating for his Democratic critics. Witnesses like Bill Taylor, Alexander Vindman, Marie Yovanovitch, and Fiona Hill have been treated as highly impressive and credible figures, and the evidence that they have laid out seems, to many journalists, to be both convincing and damning. House Republicans' inability to settle on a single line of defense, and their occasional lack of interest in even questioning witnesses, were also interpreted by media observers as signals that the facts are not on the side of the president.

But public opinion on impeachment has not moved beyond a near-even split between supporters and opponents, and, as Jonathan Bernstein notes, the procedural terrain for Democrats becomes less and less friendly from this point forward. The upcoming debate over articles of impeachment will undoubtedly become a highly partisan food fight both in the House Judiciary Committee and on the floor. Any Senate trial will be organized by the Republican leadership to include an aggressive focus on Joe Biden and his son while intentionally inconveniencing several of Biden's main Democratic rivals, who as sitting senators will be forced to choose to be absent either from the proceedings or from the campaign trail.

In many ways, the Ukraine affair is shaping up to follow the same pattern as innumerable other incidents over the past several years: an explosive, even unprecedented set of events and factual disclosures that yet change few minds on either side of a solidifying partisan divide. Some critics have suggested that Democrats are making a mistake by moving so quickly toward impeachment. But it seems clear that, whatever other benefits might have been gained from a slower process, a spontaneous emergence of bipartisanship would not have been among them. If Will Hurd isn't even wavering after the past two weeks of testimony, how many Republicans would ever have jumped?

November Democratic Debate Recap: Lovefest or Snoozefest?

The Democratic debate Wednesday night was mostly devoid of sharp exchanges between candidates, with the partial exception of a few moments involving also-ran Tulsi Gabbard. To some observers, it was a pleasant and substantive affair; to others—especially reporters searching for a headline—it was a boring anticlimax to a long day dominated by the impeachment hearings in Washington.

The amicable climate was partially due to the MSNBC moderators, who mostly declined to ask questions intended to provoke conflict between specific candidates. Some corners of lefty Twitter credited this dynamic to the fact that all four moderators were women. But female moderators in previous debates have not been reluctant to set candidates against each other; a more likely explanation lies in MSNBC's own house style (personified by Rachel Maddow, the network's biggest star), which sells itself as floating cerebrally above anything that smacks of a mere made-for-TV stunt. Most candidates may also see attacks in a large field as strategically risky unless they can be directed at an easy target like Gabbard.

Biden, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg are all doing well enough in the polls—whether in Iowa, nationally, or both—that debate performances aren't critical for their candidacies at this stage in the race (pundits never seem to think Biden does well in these events, but it doesn't seem to be hurting him with voters), and Gabbard, Yang, and Steyer aren't serious contenders for the nomination. That leaves Harris, Booker, and Klobuchar in the position of needing some kind of breakthrough as the days tick down, and all three seemed to have prepared for Wednesday's debate with an eye toward making a memorable impression with viewers. Notably, each of them made an explicit strategic case for themselves as nominees.

The problem is that they are all, to an extent, in competition with each other to attract media and activist attention during a crucial pre-Iowa stretch in which impeachment, not the Democratic primary race, will be the chief national political story. Journalists will probably agree that they all performed well, but none of them is likely to gain the kind of post-debate bounce that Harris got over the summer but couldn't sustain thereafter. For all three, their best path to the nomination remains a better-than-expected showing in Iowa that carries into the succeeding states. But while it's still early, it's not as early as it used to be, and their hopes increasingly depend on a major stumble by one or more of the front-runners.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Education Is Hurting Republicans in the Suburbs: New Op-Ed in the New York Times

I have a new piece over at the New York Times today explaining how Republican leaders' recent education policies are hurting them at the polls among suburban voters as they play to a conservative base that is growing older, more rural, and less well-educated. Could Republicans reclaim the education issue and win back the suburbs? It's happened before...

Sunday, November 17, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: Why Can't Republicans Agree on What Happened with Ukraine?

According to a durable truism of American politics, Republicans find it much easier than Democrats to unite around a single political message. Not all nuggets of conventional wisdom are reliably accurate, but this one has substantial truth behind it: the collective self-definition of the Republican Party as the agent of an ideological movement makes it easier for Republicans to employ a common set of rhetorical themes, while the more coalitional Democrats are routinely speaking to multiple audiences at once. As one satirical headline from The Onion put it, "Democrats Unveil 324 Million New Slogans to Appeal to Each U.S. Resident Individually."

When it comes to the current impeachment inquiry, however, it's the Democrats who are collectively presenting a single theory of the case and the Republicans who are trying, so far unsuccessfully, to find consensus on an alternative argument. The events of this week illustrate the extent of this challenge, and the main sources from which Republican difficulties spring.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee came to Friday's public testimony of former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch with a clear message for the day's session: that Adam Schiff was a liar running an unfairly partisan inquiry. To this end, they took turns reading into the record previous public statements by Schiff that he would seek testimony from the whistleblower whose actions alerted Congress to the Ukraine affair. (Democrats have been abandoning these promises lately as they have found other witnesses willing to corroborate many of the claims in the whistleblower's original complaint.) Republicans also executed a procedural set piece—one of those almost-clever public stunts of which both parties are excessively fond when relegated to the minority—in which Rep. Elise Stefanik began speaking out of order, provoking Schiff to interrupt and deny her recognition; Stefanik and her colleagues then claimed that Schiff was abusing his authority in order to silence the only Republican woman on the committee.

The assumption behind this particular exercise was that Yovanovitch's testimony would not in itself be deemed particularly newsworthy by the press (she had no direct contact with the president, and her deposition in closed session had already been released), leaving partisan sparks on the committee to represent reporters' biggest takeaway from the day's proceedings. But President Trump foiled this strategy almost immediately by launching personal Twitter attacks on Yovanovitch that were soon echoed by his son Donald Trump Jr., stepping all over congressional Republicans' decision to treat her as a well-meaning but ephemeral public servant who was being misused by the real villains, the Democrats. Once Schiff read the president's words to Yovanovitch and invited her to reply, it was clear what the day's biggest media story would be. Republicans, normally reluctant to criticize Trump in public, didn't bother in this case to hide their frustration with his behavior.

Is impeachment a partisan witch hunt using career bureaucrats as dupes, or is it a deep state conspiracy in which they too are implicated? Is Ukraine a loyal ally deserving of the American military assistance that the Trump administration ultimately authorized in September, or did it treacherously intervene in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton? Did the temporary withholding of aid have nothing whatsoever to do with Joe and Hunter Biden, or was it a proper point of leverage to force Ukraine to crack down on the kind of corruption that the Bidens supposedly personify? Were Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland freelancing without Trump's knowledge or approval, or were they carrying out a plan masterminded by the president? Are the executive's constitutional powers so vast in the realm of foreign policy that no presidential act involving another nation could possibly be an impeachable offense?

It's increasingly clear that there is no common set of answers to these questions that both the White House and the congressional GOP can agree on—and stick to. Part of the problem is that Trump is willing to give up a lot of valuable factual ground as long as the normative defense of his actions remains absolute: celebrate him for committing murder and he'll thank you, but woe to the person who mildly criticizes him for jaywalking. Trump's inability to identify strategically counterproductive arguments on his own behalf has already caused him damage on the Ukraine affair. After all, the precipitating event that gave House Democrats a numerical majority supporting the pursuit of impeachment was Trump freely acknowledging to reporters that he had mentioned the Bidens in his July phone call with the Ukranian president.

Republicans' inability to settle on a single overaching defense that fits the uncontested facts of the case isn't likely to shake the loyalties of Trump supporters in the conservative media universe and the mass electorate. But it still makes a difference. Attentive elites in government and in the mainstream media are paying close attention to the impeachment process, and are sensitive to the quality of evidence and debate on both sides. So far, the prevailing view holds that Trump was, at least, up to something fishy with respect to Ukraine that justifies serious congressional examination. This judgment has noticeably colored press coverage and commentary; several journalists opined that the past week was one of the worst of Trump's entire presidency in part because of the effectiveness of the public hearings that began on Wednesday.

The media's reaction to Elise Stefanik's behavior on Friday was especially telling. Up until now, Stefanik has enjoyed a status as a bit of a press darling; as one of the few young Republican women in high-level political office and as a relative ideological moderate, she has regularly received positive coverage as the media-anointed face of a more "modern" Republican Party of the future (a role previously filled by figures like Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, and Nikki Haley). If the Washington community saw the Democrats' march toward impeachment as a stretch on the merits or a loser on the politics, journalists would have treated Stefanik's gamed-out attack on Schiff as a savvy maneuver or the raising of a fair procedural point, rather than as an attempted distraction by an ambitious Republican merely trying to ingratiate herself with a Trump-dominated party.

There are plenty of understandable reasons why the White House has prevented many potential witnesses from participating in the congressional investigation, and—given what we know—it may well be that Trump's political interests would not, on the whole, be served by honest testimony under oath by his subordinates. Yet one cost to this blockade policy is that there will be few witnesses in these open hearings with the motivation to mount a defense of the president built on their own authority as members of his administration and firsthand participants in the development of Ukraine policy. This unfilled space places even more weight on congressional Republicans, who must advance exculpatory arguments themselves rather than allow them to arise from the testimony of sympathetic executive branch officials. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, then, that the pro-Trump case so far is lacking the ideal amount of internal coherence.

Friday, November 08, 2019

This Week in Impeachment: The End of the Beginning and the Beginning of the End

This week was the quietest, politically speaking, since Nancy Pelosi's announcement on September 24 that the House of Representatives was moving toward impeachment of the president. The most notable development was Adam Schiff's disclosure on Wednesday that the House was moving from private interviews to public hearings beginning next week, scheduling American ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch to testify in open session.

This announcement signals that the fact-finding component of the House investigation is mostly completed. Taylor and Yovanovitch have already met with the committees leading the inquiry in closed session, and these depositions were recently released to the public. Their repeat appearances next week in the presence of reporters and television cameras will generate media publicity, but the public hearings attended by witnesses who already met with the committees are unlikely to uncover any major new facts that were not already brought to light by the skilled professional staff who led the questioning in private. There are other figures who might have further information about the Ukraine matter who are ignoring House subpoenas to testify, from John Bolton to Mick Mulvaney, but Pelosi and Schiff seem to have decided that they are unwilling to wait for the federal judiciary to sort out the validity of these refusals before proceeding.

It may seem premature for the House to already move into the next phase of the impeachment process. But despite the charged partisan conflict over impeachment, most of the factual record upon which it is based is not really in serious dispute. Democrats seem convinced that they've already seen enough to impeach the president. Republicans continue to oppose impeachment, but the defense is starting to shift under the weight of the evidence already presented from a blanket denial that there was a quid pro quo with the Ukrainian government to a position that said quid pro quo was either an acceptable and unremarkable tool of American foreign policy, or that it was possibly troubling but not an impeachment-level offense. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that some congressional Republicans may attempt to defend Trump from impeachment by acknowledging that improper acts occurred, but that they were committed by underlings without the president's direction or knowledge.

The impeachment process may not have yet reached its halfway point in terms of the congressional calendar; especially given the upcoming holiday recesses, it's tough to see how it won't spill over into 2020 if the Senate has to conduct a trial. But the broad political outlines have become clear. Except for a handful of scattered critics, Republicans remain publicly loyal to the president (even if they are frequently critical, even furious, when off the record). Democratic support for impeachment appears at least equally solid; nothing in the results of Tuesday's off-year elections will cause Democratic leaders to worry about an emerging popular backlash. The upcoming public hearings and debates will be full of partisan fireworks, but few minds are likely to change from now on unless a new bombshell revelation appears from an unexpected source. It seems that we've already reached the end of the beginning—and the beginning of the end.