Here’s some stuff you might like.
Business: “State sets 9.9% rent hike cap” is one of the more depressing headlines I’ve read in a while. You’d be excused thinking it’s from Pravda circa 1973. Nah, it’s a story from Oregon in 2019. Hopefully the state is better at determining rent prices than it is at building overpasses, but I’m not holding my breath.
Law: It’s worth reviewing the fact that the rent control law that led to the rent hike cap described above also severely restricts landlords’ ability to evict tenants. If your name is on title for residential rental property which the state is gradually turning into a public utility (we used to call this owning the property), this is a law you really do need to understand.
Politics: I try to stay away from the national political stuff here because it’s so tiring and there’s nothing any of us, realistically, can do about it. I do have something to say about the impeachment inquiry, though. I’m not going to argue whether or not Congress should impeach and remove the President; I’m more interested in what I think the impeachment process will tell us about ourselves. This is going to be a lot longer than the usual BBR fare, so if you’re short on time, skip on down to et cetera.
For those of you who obviously have too much time on your hands, we’ll start with a story.
On October 8, 1998, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. On that date, I was a year-and-a-half out of college and working on Capitol Hill in a now-retired GOP House member’s office. Because I knew literally nothing except that longish sideburns were really cool, most of my duties related to cleaning the office microwave and responding to constituent mail (yes, snail mail back then).
My junior staff colleagues and I were fixated by the lead-up to impeachment, culminating in the Starr Report. To me, the Starr Report clearly described a President who abused his power. I thought that the evidence was overwhelming and even Democrats who had mostly supported Clinton would swing to support impeachment. Most of them didn’t, and the House impeached Clinton on a mostly party-line vote and the Senate failed to muster the 2/3 vote necessary to remove him from office. Clinton left office two years later as one of the most popular presidents in history, and Al Gore was destined to ride into the sunset on a private jet en route to a climate change conference. The whole process resulted in little more than the confirmation that Democrats tend to like Democratic presidents and Republicans tend not to.
That’s because, despite all the legal-sounding language like “high crimes and misdemeanors” and “blue dress,” impeachment is a purely political process. The founders viewed it as such and it has been that way in practice on the rare occasions it’s been used. Which is to say that Members of Congress and the American people view impeachment through the same partisan lens they view everything else. Which is why all this talk of whether something is “impeachable” misses the point. If enough Members of Congress think that a president who fails to ambulate solely by cartwheel while in the White House should be removed, then he’s removed. There is no legal check on the political decision to impeach and remove or not. The only check is that the voters may not be as enamored of the cartwheel as an exclusive mode of presidential ambulation as their elected representatives and vote them out of office in the next election. Which, incidentally, is what voters did in the 1998 midterm election, just a month after the beginning of the impeachment process.
If impeachment is a political question, then we would expect Congress to behave in a manner similar to other hotly contested votes: that is, to mostly vote with their party. That’s what happened in 1998, and it’s what I think will happen this time. The House is likely to impeach President Trump because it is controlled by Democrats, and the Senate, absent some big new evidence, will refuse to remove him from office because Republicans control that chamber, and the Democrats will get nowhere near the necessary 2/3 super-majority to remove him from office.
There will be a lot of back and forth and new revelations that seem to partisans on either side to cinch their case, but at the end of the day (again, barring a truly shocking revelation different in type than what we know now) there will be almost no movement in support or opposition to the President. The 2020 election will be almost entirely about impeachment and recriminations related thereto. Should be a hoot.
Impeachment is likely to be the latest process that highlights our partisan divisions. The Clinton impeachment occurred in a country that was significantly less polarized than our current environment, and it was decided almost entirely by partisan politics. We ain’t seen nothing yet.
Et cetera: To restore your faith in humanity, here’s a picture of Weird Al in front of the last Blockbuster video store in Bend and also in the known universe.
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Have a great weekend!