Last week was jam-packed with political happenings! Nearly every day featured a major political event or decision.
Monday, Feb. 3, was the Iowa Democratic caucus that was supposed to provide lots of high-tech data about the leading Democratic candidates. It flopped, embarrassing the Iowa Democratic Party. When numbers finally did arrive, Mayor Pete Buttigieg led the race with 26.7 percent, followed by Bernie Sanders with 25.4 percent. Then Elizabeth Warren won third place with 18.3 percent. Joe Biden came in fourth (“a gut punch” according to him) with only 15.9 percent. Amy Klobuchar got 12.1 percent. Michael Bloomberg chose not to run because he got into the race late.
Since there was no clear dominant candidate, Bloomberg decided to increase spending on campaign ads in states that he is registered in. President Trump was jubilant about the Iowa primary, tweeting that the Iowa caucus data was “an unmitigated disaster” and “the sloppiest train wreck in history”.
Tuesday, Feb. 4, President Trump gave his State of the Union address. His nearly 90-minute speech was well orchestrated, using people in the audience as props. Many of them were African-Americans, a group Trump would like to vote for him in November. It’s very unlikely, given the racist comments he has made.
Trump touted his accomplishments since he took office three years ago. His emphasis was on the strong economy for which he took most of the credit because of his policies. In actuality, presidents have very little control over the economy, except to act as cheerleaders. Congress makes new laws that affect the economy, and the Federal Reserve, an independent federal agency, decides interest rates and reserve requirements (how much money must be kept in bank reserves savings to pay off debts).
Trump publicly awarded conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, something that had never been done before. It’s an example of politicizing the honor, especially when given to such a controversial figure as Limbaugh. It was sure to have angered Democrats and pleased Trump’s base, not to mention overturning his attempts to ingratiate himself with African Americans.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi publicly tore up his speech after he finished, silently reminding Democrats and Republicans alike that Trump had been impeached, a stain on his presidency that Pelosi believes will dog him in the November election.
Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Senate voted 52-48 and 53-47 to acquit Trump of the two articles of impeachment. It was strictly a party-line vote with only Mitt Romney, an LDS senator from Utah, breaking with his party and voting for one article of impeachment—abuse of power. (67 votes are needed to remove a president from office.) Trump immediately criticized Romney. Another critic stated he thought Romney should be kicked out of the Republican Party. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell disagreed, knowing he would be needing Romney’s support in future votes. McConnell avoided answering media questions about whether he felt the House charges against Trump were valid.
Friday, Feb. 7, was when the top seven Democrats held another debate, this time in New Hampshire. Amy Klobuchar was given the win by one analyst, while Biden lowered expectations for the upcoming New Hampshire vote. Michael Bloomberg will participate in the next debate because of rule changes. Friday also saw President Trump fire two of his White House employees who testified against him in the House impeachment testimony: Lt Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert of the NSA, and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
What can we learn from last week? Here’s my take:
1. The nation is more divided than ever after Trump’s acquittal.
2. It’s likely there will be no clear winner before the Democratic Convention in mid-July unless Michael Bloomberg’s money and advertisements make a major difference.
3. Joe Biden seems to be fading as a candidate.
4. President Trump, after his impeachment acquittal, wants vindication against any who dared to challenge him.
5. Trump expects slavish loyalty from his employees but is not loyal in return. The only thing that has kept President Trump in line is potential alienation from his base. As Anonymous noted in his/her book, “A Warning”, if Trump wins re-election in November, he will no longer care about pleasing his base and there will no check on his actions.
6. The Republican Party is now the party of Trump. Loyalty to him trumps oath keeping and concern for the good of the nation.