Thursday, January 28, 2021

BTRTN: How To Secede Without Really Trying

Rand Paul’s latest stunt – leading a charge asserting that conducting an impeachment trial after a President has left office is “unconstitutional” -- is an appalling fabrication, the latest chapter in the Republican rejection of “objective reality.” Steve's take is that Senator Paul thinks that Republicans can treat the Constitution as an illusion, too.

Once upon a time in America, if you adamantly disagreed with something in the Constitution, you followed the formal course of action designed to change it, which is to amend it. Women won the right to vote by following this arduous process, which resulted in the 19th Amendment.

Certainly throughout our history, there have been many challenges to legislation that resulted in new and evolved interpretations of the text of the Constitution.

And, of course, there was that time that eleven Southern states took the step of seceding from the Union rather than be governed by its Constitution.

Today, however, the leaders of the Red States of America have decided that none of these three options really work for their current purposes, and have opted for an entirely different course of action when confronted with a Constitutional obligation that they find uncomfortable.

They just ignore it.

Call it passive aggression secession.

If you don’t like what the Constitution mandates, just ignore it.

It is simply the logical extension in the thought processes of a party that does not believe in objective truth or factual reality. It’s pretty much the same as pretending that COVID -19 will “magically go away,” or that there was “widespread voter fraud.”

If you don’t like reality, just pretend it doesn’t exist.

The particular farce that we encounter now is the Republican notion that it is “unconstitutional” to hold an impeachment trial after a President has left office.

What is obvious to all is that the 45 cowards in the U.S. Senate who took this position were simply trying to weasel their way out of voting on the actual issue at hand: whether or not Donald Trump committed a “high crime or misdemeanor” by inciting the January 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol that resulted five deaths and clear and present danger to the lives of the Vice President and members of Congress.

To be clear: inciting an attempted violent coup against the United States government may be the highest of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But the 45 Republican cowards in the Senate are afraid that if they vote to convict the former president, they might not get re-elected, which is of course far, far more important than any notion of living up to the oath of office they swore upon entering Congress.  

So their solution is to make up an argument that is such specious drivel that the average five-year-old can puncture it like a party balloon.

Rand Paul stood before the Senate Chamber and said this:

“If the accused is no longer President, where is the Constitutional power to impeach him? Private citizens don’t get impeached. Impeachment is for removal from office, and the accused has already left office.”

Let’s reflect for a moment on this short paragraph, because Senator Paul efficiently packed a massive amount of stupid into a tweet-sized logic turd.

First, Senator Paul, the President was impeached while he was in office.

To impeach a President is to bring charges against him -- a task solely entrusted to the House of Representatives – which results in a trial in the Senate. The House voted to impeach Donald Trump on January 13, 2021, while he was still in office. (BTW, ten Republicans voted along with all House Democrats to impeach Trump, so spare us your tired tirades that “this is partisan politics.”)

So, Senator Paul, your first sentence reveals ignorance, disingenuousness, and/or deceit. I defer to you on that choice.

However, Senator, here is a most inconvenient fact: it was the Republican and then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell who refused to call the Senate into an immediate trial while Trump was still president, declaring that he would hold off convening the trial until after Trump was out of office. Surely, Senator, you would agree that is an admission on the part of your Chamber’s leader that a trial could happen after Trump was out of office. I do not recall the phrasing of Mitch McConnell’s proposal to be “let’s hold off on the trial of the President until he is out of office so that there cannot be a trial,” although I concede that McConnell is fully capable of such weapons-grade hypocrisy.

On top of all of all of the above, there actually is a legal precedent for this precise situation: in 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached and a trial was held after he had resigned and left office. To say something cannot happen when it has already happened is called either lunacy or a Fox News exclusive.

But Paul, the leader of the charge of this particular mentally light brigade, was not done. He additionally took that position that a trial of a President after he has left office is a moot point. Here, the Senator finally achieves orbital velocity on his journey to the black hole of ignorance. He knows full well that there are two implications of an impeachment conviction: the first is removal from office, and the second is that a conviction triggers a majority vote that could prevent the convicted President from ever holding elective office again.

In the case of Donald Trump, the second reason is extremely important. The Senate is sitting in judgment of man who led a coup against our government, who incited a violent insurrection in our Capitol, who has perpetrated an enormous lie that has undercut the faith of citizens in our elections and in our democracy itself. This man should never be allowed to run for office again.  Precisely because he has already left office, it is this second aspect of conviction that is at stake in this trial.

Which brings us to our final point about the perverse lack of logic of Senator Paul. If the framers of the Constitution had truly intended that a trial could not be conducted after a President had left office, they would have been literally granting permission for a President to wreak bloody havoc in the final few days of his time in office, knowing that once his term expired he was free from Constitutional judgment. Even more egregious: a President could commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” for personal gain, and simply resign rather than face a Senate trial… which, according to Republicans, could not take place once the impeached president was no longer in office.

We’ve all heard the telling analogy: if the CEO of a commercial enterprise could not be tried for crimes after he left his position, he could rob millions from his company blind in his final days in office, resign, and enjoy a splendid retirement, with no worry of prosecution.

Yes, Republicans assert that to conduct an impeachment trial of a president after he has left office is “unconstitutional.” At its heart, that argument is contending that the Constitution should be interpreted to mean that there should be no accountability for “high crimes and misdemeanors” if a President simply resigns from office.

Further, Republicans now screech that the impeachment of Trump is a partisan act of retribution that flies in the face of Joe Biden’s call for “unity.” We don’t recall hearing that concern for unity when Congressional Republicans were attempting to undo the official results of a free and fair election. 

Let us be clear for the logic impaired: there is not going to be any unity until there is accountability. We are not going to “forgive and forget” that Donald Trump attempted a coup of American democracy.

All of which brings us to the essential issue: Rand Paul stood up and fabricated an illusory issue so that Senate Republicans could hide behind a bogus procedural argument rather than having to be counted as for or against the actual charges.

Come, Republican Senators, have the guts to stand up and have your vote counted on the real question before you, which is not whether it is “constitutional” to hold an impeachment trial after a President has left office.

You are being asked to judge whether Trump is innocent or guilty of the charges brought against him.  That is your Constitutional duty. Don’t run frightened from it. Face up to it.

That you are all so terrified of Donald Trump nauseates me, as the sight of grown men cowering before an amoral thug is such a pathetic image.

But it truly puzzles me as well.

If you are that frightened of losing your seat, take a look at what actually happened in the recent Nebraska election. Republican Senator Ben Sasse has been one of the most consistent and vocal critics of Donald Trump. That should have put him in deep trouble, right? Here are the facts: Trump won Nebraska by 59% to 39% over Biden, and yet Sasse beat his opponent by a bigger margin, 67% to 26%.  Why are the 45 Republican Senators cowering in fear of Trump, when Sasse has proven that you can be anti-Trump and not be thrown out of politics in a deep red state? 

Sure, we all need to be worried about the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and QAnon.

But what we really need to start thinking about is the “soft secession” that is being led by people like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, and the other Republican Senators who are demonstrating the easy way to destroy the Union.

Just ignore the Constitution.

Pretend the Constitution does not exist.

Pretend that the words in the Constitution can be treated like so many Nerf balls that have absolutely no power, no teeth, and no consequences.

In another era, on another subject, it is easy to imagine these men would be saying, “well, there really is nothing in the Constitution that empowers the Federal government to prevent us from doing whatever we want to do in our state, so we are not going to abide by any Federal laws or proclamations.”

It’s easy. Just pretend that the Constitution doesn’t say what it says.

Donald Trump had a favorite rhetorical device: he would often say that “if you don’t have a (fill in the blank), you don’t have country.”

For example, he has been quoted as saying “if you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country,” and “if you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.”

And, indeed, in the very speech he made to incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6:  “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

We can debate any of those statements.

What’s interesting, though, is that if you do a Google search, there is no evidence of Donald Trump “filling in the blank” with the one word that actually makes that sentence true.

“If we do not have a Constitution, we do not have a country.”

If Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley can stand up in the Senate and pretend that the Constitution does not say what it says, then we actually do not have a country. We have a banana republic where half the people play by the rules and half don’t.

If we are a house divided on the issue of whether the Constitution governs this nation, then we most certainly cannot stand. 

Yes, you smarmy, smug, too-clever-by-half Republican Senators, so proud of your little stunts... all you are doing is showing us how to secede without really trying. 



If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at

Thursday, January 21, 2021

BTRTN: Joe, You Had Us At "My Fellow Americans"

 Steve thinks that it is wonderful to once again have a President who is “hinged.”


I did not want to watch the inauguration of Joe Biden.

Don’t get me wrong: like so many Americans who had worked, prayed, and donated to make this day happen, I could not wait for this day to arrive.

And yet when it came, I was afraid to turn on the television.

I’ll say it: I was terrified that at just the moment we thought America would execute its most profound course correction in over a century and a half, I would witness frenzied QAnon delusionists camouflaged in National Guard gear turn assault rifles on the shining stars of America’s Democratic leadership gathered at the Capitol Building.

This would have represented the culmination of three long-standing terrors: that our government had become so hopelessly incompetent that it could no longer be relied upon to protect our leaders, that the violent mob that stormed the Capitol was just a prelude to the guns of a new Fort Sumter blazing on the Capitol steps, and that our government had been so infiltrated by treasonous agents that we could no longer be sure who we could trust.

Finally, at 11:00 a.m., I stiffened my resolve and turned on the television.

For me, the emotional dam that had been building for four years first cracked – who would have thought? – when Lady Gaga sang our National Anthem. It was one of the rare times in my life – probably not since an Olympic hockey game – that my own National Anthem stirred me in the way that La Marseillaise moved the French nationals in Rick’s Café Américain. But listening to a woman who had risen to fame by embracing the otherness of people who were “born that way,” seeing her turn and salute the flag flying over a building had been brutally assaulted by insurrectionists only two weeks before, and hearing her thunder that the “banner yet waves”… It all moved the patriot in me in a way I have not felt in, oh, I want to say precisely four years. Pretty much to the minute. 

Then, Kamala Harris was sworn in as the Vice President of the United States, and we could practically feel the powerful swing of the moral arc of the universe as it took a sharp turn toward justice.

A few short minutes later, Joe Biden raised his right hand, and I, sitting home alone, sheltered in place, could have sworn I heard the thunder of a million voices joining my own in a primal scream of relief and release. Ding, dong, the witch is dead!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Joe Biden, for giving us our day of national catharsis. If all you did yesterday was simply avoid saying the words “hydroxychloroquine,” “bigly,” and “fake news,” I would have had the best night’s sleep I’ve had since, well, you were Vice President.

But Mr. President, you did so, so, so much more than just that.

Joe, you had us at “My fellow Americans.”

Joe Biden’s inaugural address was exceptionally well crafted and delivered with sober emotional urgency rather than soaring rhetorical flair. From the get-go, it was clear that this President had a deep reverence for the profound symbolism of the peaceful transfer of power, even echoing the classic opening line of John F. Kennedy’s brilliant inaugural address.

Kennedy: We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom--symbolizing an end as well as a beginning--signifying renewal as well as change.

Biden: Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause… the cause of democracy.

But Biden did not delay in facing the fierce urgency of now. Within the first two minutes, he reminded his audience of the violent attempted coup just two weeks before. Seeing him quickly toggle from the lofty principles of our history to the horrific reality of our current national crises was reassuring. We suddenly remembered what is what like to have a President who is capable of rising to the demands of the office, rather than trying to dumb down problems so that they appeared solvable by a moron.  

Clear-headed assessments of our challenges, plain-spoken wisdom about how they must be faced. After four years in a pre-adolescent pig-pen of ignorance and a sewer of corruption, the transformation sent us soaring.

As fully expected, the overwhelming takeaway from Joe Biden’s inaugural address was his message of unity, idealistic words from a genuine, empathetic, and decent human being. Biden devoted an extraordinary percentage of his inaugural speech to this concept, and we all so want to believe that a good and decent man appealing to the better angels of our nature can, by the force of his will, return our nation to the unity of purpose and common good that we once knew.  

But in our era of radical polarization, such appeals for unity can seem very naïve. We already know that Mitch McConnell will do everything in his power to undermine Biden. “Better angels” in Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley? These two scumbags deserve a fully dedicated circle in Dante’s Inferno.

Kumbayas about how we all have to live and work together adhering to norms of civility, manners, and respect is gliding on the superficial surface of “unity,” and yes, Joe Biden was guilty of that for portions of his address. But fortunately, Joe Biden chose this occasion to dig a bit deeper on the subject of “unity” than he would do in his usual stump speech.

Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC drew our attention to Biden’s new and far more achievable definition of “unity:”

“Through civil war, the great depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us have come together to carry all of us forward.”

Enough of us,” O’Donnell noted, is not “all of us.” Just enough. We don’t need the half of the Republican Party that still soaks in the putrid brine of conspiracy theories. With control of the House, the Senate, and the White House, we already have “enough” to get a great deal accomplished. Add in the small but perhaps growing percentage of Republicans who are weary of the McConnell obstructionism, Trump corruption, and Cruz control, and you can make real progress.  

There was another difference in Biden’s appeal for unity that I found inspiring.

Back in the campaign, Biden tended to talk about what we should be united for… you know, freedom, opportunity, justice, ending the pandemic. Who could disagree?

Yesterday, he spoke about the harder part of “unity:” what we must be united against. What elements in our own society represent clear and present dangers to our freedom and our democracy?

Biden spoke emphatically that he will not tolerate the violent mob tactics of the insurrectionists:

“And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground. It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.”

Just as importantly, Biden identified the pillar of democracy that is perhaps under the most ferocious attack of all: truth itself. 

“Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies. Lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and a responsibility as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”

Indeed – and perhaps I read too much into this – when Biden was summarizing the challenges that America faces, he appeared to place the issues of insurrection and blatant deceit at the top of a list that included the coronavirus, racism, and climate change:

“Folks, this is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America's role in the world. Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways, but the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we've had.”

All of these challenges face the Biden administration, all must be confronted, and all are at “DefCon One” priority due to the ineptitude, cynicism, and corruption of the disgraced Republican administration.

But Biden may have signaled his belief that our biggest concern must be the violent aggression of organizations like QAnon and the Proud Boys – organizations that Donald Trump fed with the red meat of his charges of election fraud. After what we witnessed in Washington earlier this month, we must accept that the decade ahead could very well be one of routine vigilante violence and attempted assassination. This is what we must be unified against. Joe Biden gets it.

Similarly, Biden was remarkably direct about the poisonous impact of profligate lying on a democracy. We must take on -- as a government, and as a people – the amoral corruption of the truth that happens nightly at Fox News, Facebook, and Russian-backed disinformation campaigns. We could see in the span of hours how Donald Trump’s influence was instantly constricted when he lost his twitter feed. What can we learn from this?

Perhaps we stage a national boycott of every company that advertises on Fox News. Perhaps we band together and publish a list of every company that donated a penny to any of the Republicans who voted against the ratification of the Electoral College, and announce that we will no longer purchase their goods and services.  We, the people, have leverage to attack, punish, weaken, and cripple organizations that profit from lies. This is an urgent task to preserve our democracy. Joe Biden gets it. 

But for now, let’s take a deep breath, and then exhale.

We all know the truth: Donald Trump came this close to ending democracy in the United States of America, and had he been re-elected, he most certainly would have succeeded.

Today we can celebrate the fact that reality – with all of its ugly, difficult, smelly, unsightly blemishes and odors – is back.

And, finally, we have a President who is willing to take it on.

Hope you enjoyed yesterday.

Because we have an enormous amount of work to do starting today.

We, your fellow Americans, stand united behind you, President Joe Biden. 

Lead us forward.


If you would like to be on the Born To Run The Numbers email list notifying you of each new post, please write us at

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

BTRTN: A Look Back at the Trump Years

Steve and Tom offer a retrospective on the past four years.

On this, the final full day of the Trump presidency, we thought about doing some mega-summary of these four years with grand thoughts of what it all meant.  But, frankly, we could not bring ourselves to immerse ourselves anew in all the mire. 

So we came up with what we think is a better idea.  We decided to republish each of our five favorite pieces (plus two pieces from guests) from the Trump era with the goal of providing our “real time” observations on an astonishing and often horrifying era in our nation’s history.  This “as it was” view makes for some interesting reading given the perspective of what we now know.  We hope you enjoy this approach and have a re-read of some of them. 

From Steve:  My first instinct was to pick my favorite headlines, like  “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?,” “When You Wish Upon a Tsar,” “Biden Go Seek,” “Welcome to Syco-Fantasy Island,” “The Golden Goebbels Awards,” “Here Comes My COVID-19th Nervous Breakdown,” and “The Reign of Stain is Plain in Ukraine.”  On reflection, however, I decided to choose the ones that seemed to touch on the most important events and themes of the past four years.


1.      The depravity of Donald Trump is on hideous display in his racism, and in the manner in which he has embraced white supremacists in order to lock down a ferociously loyal political constituency. Trump’s actions and political calculations based on race – later on full view in his treatment of BLM protestors --  was discussed in the aftermath of Charlottesville:


“Charlottesville’s Web: We Finally See #RealDonaldTrump” (8/17/17)


2.      Early in the Trump administration, I wrote about the shooting spree in Las Vegas that resulted in 60 deaths and 411 injuries, predicting that for all the shock and revulsion at the mass-murder, absolutely nothing would be done about it.  


“BTRTN: What Happened in Vegas Will Stay in Vegas” (10/4/17)


3.      Trump’s foolhardy reaction to the outbreak of the pandemic and his abdication of responsibility for dealing it exacerbated the toll by hundreds of thousands of lives. I likened Trump’s approach to the pandemic to the war in Vietnam… which, of course, Trump also ducked.


“BTRTN: Donald Trump is Finally in Vietnam” (4/5/20)


4.      Democrats are appallingly bad at talking about the economy, utterly failing to point out that as a matter of historical record going back a century, Democrats do a better job managing the economy than Republicans. I enjoyed setting the record straight:


“BTRTN: Bigfoot, Unicorns, and Superior Republican Stewardship of the Economy” (5/10/20)


5.      In my view, the most despicable of Donald Trump’s desecrations, delusions, and derelictions has been the deceit, propaganda, and symbiotic relationship with right-wing media that has ruptured America’s common understanding of reality itself.


“BTRTN:  What Do We Do When What Divides Us Is Actually Bigger Than What Unites Us?” (6/9/20) 

From Tom:  Among the several hundred pieces I have written over these four years are 48 BTRTN “Month in Reviews.”  Many of those months (and it seemed like all of them), I concluded, were “Trump’s worst month ever.”  But I was wrong each and every time.  Trump’s worst month was his 49th, and last month, this one, January, 2021, and I will write about it in 13 days.  But I decided not to subject you again to that endless diaspora of awful months.  Instead, I chose five pieces that represent the “beginning” of something – be it the Trump presidency, the Democratic campaigns or the onset of COVID-19.  Each offers a look ahead at what might happen – not exactly predictions, but some sense of where each might lead.  Enjoy!


6.     I was asked this question a shocking number of times in the first few weeks of the Trump presidency.  Modesty does not prevent me from drawing your attention to the section on impeachment.


“BTRTN:  The Odds of Trump Not Lasting Four Years” (2/22/17)


7.     This one looked at the entire potential Democratic presidential field, all 55 of them, with a pithy assessment of their candidacies.  It was written after the 2018 midterm elections, before anyone had announced their intentions (except for John Delaney).

“BTRTN: 55 Ways the Dems Might Go in 2020: The Exhaustive List of Potential Nominees” (11/29/18)


8.     As the 55 winnowed down to those who actually threw their hat in the ring, Steve and Tom did a classic “point/counterpoint” on who we favored for the nomination.  And history might well show that we each supported a future President.


“BTRTN: Who Are We Supporting for the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination?”  (11/10/19)


9.     You will recall the Biden campaign got off to a dismal start, with well-down-the-list finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, and also lost Nevada to Bernie Sanders by a whopping margin.  That set up South Carolina, and my preview gave a look at what might happen there and beyond to Super Tuesday.


“BTRTN South Carolina Preview: Can a Funny Thing Happen on the Way to Bernie’s Coronation?” (2/28/20)


10.  I put politics aside as the coronavirus started its early grisly progression.  At the time I wrote this article, there were just over 2,000 cases in the United States (we have over 22 million now) and 49 people had died.  I took a look at what the likely escalation might mean and how we should have been responding to the pandemic.


“BTRTN: Why the Coronavirus Numbers Scare Me” (3/14/20)


We’ve also had a number a guest authors on the site over the past four years, and as a bonus, we add these two pieces from two of them to our Trump Era retrospective:


11.   Tom’s wife Wendy is an occasional contributor to BTRTN, when the spirit moves her.  This piece from last summer, when she became a contact tracer for New York State, was one of our most widely read of the year.


“BTRTN: I Am a Contact Tracer” (7/12/20)


12.   Williams College history professor Charles B, Dew teaches a course on the history of the South.  This moving piece was written a few months before the killing of George Floyd reanimated the Black Lives Matter movement.


BTRTN: Our Current Crisis: Lessons Unlearned (4/8/20)

Having now picked the articles that were our favorites of the Trump years, let us now say what actually is our favorite thing about BTRTN: our wonderful readers.  We cannot tell you how gratifying it is when you write comments to us, share our work, and even when the sharp-eyed proofreaders among you are moved to point out embarrassing typos. 

We are ever grateful for your encouragement, support, and now we turn our eyes forward to what will most certainly be a challenging period in American history, but one that will be guided by leaders with knowledge, courage, integrity, and a very, very firm grip on reality.  Joe Biden and Kamala Harris got elected thanks in part to the hard work of many of you. Let’s continue to do that work in order to help them succeed.  As John F. Kennedy said sixty years ago tomorrow: 

“With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”

Sunday, January 17, 2021

BTRTN: The Seventeen GOP Senators Who Could Convict Trump

Tom assesses each GOP Senator’s likelihood to support a Trump conviction in the impeachment trial.

With all the epic tragedy, drama, fear, despair and promise colliding at once in Washington, DC these days, there is some good old-fashioned nose counting underway.  And it is a doozie of a count: which Republican Senators might vote to convict ex-President Donald Trump at the climax of the upcoming Senate impeachment trial?

We don’t know when that trial will occur.  Most likely it will begin as soon as the Monday after Joe Biden is inaugurated, but it might be delayed for some time or, in theory, the articles might not ever be sent to the Senate at all.  Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and the Biden Administration are all discussing how to proceed, with the Democrats trying to find a way to triangulate three enormous demands:  approval of Biden’s Cabinet, jumpstarting his COVID management agenda, and conducting the Senate impeachment trial of Trump.  While some Democrats are arguing that a delay in the trial would be advantageous as even more Trump-damning information may emerge, it seems more likely that the “strike while the iron is hot” contingent will carry the day, and some split-duty schedule is followed.

The Senate is far more likely to convict Trump this time around for any number of reasons.  After all, the Senators were, along with their House colleagues, the target of the insurrection and felt the violence and the threat firsthand.  And a conviction carries the sweet carrot of offering a means of keeping Trump from ever holding office again (via a separate vote that would follow a conviction).  A few GOP Senators view this as a moral imperative, others seek to rid the GOP of Trump forever and move on, and still others want to remove Trump as a formidable direct competitor for the 2024 GOP nomination. 

The evidence is clear and persuasive.  There is video of Trump inciting the mob, in incendiary language, exhorting them to march to the Capitol while the Senate and House jointly deliberated certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election.  The election fraud claims that Trump has peddled for months – the “stolen” election that forms the basis of the mob’s anger -- have been demonstrated to be false countless times.  Trump’s obstruction of the peaceful transition, a bedrock of our democracy, could hardly be better documented.  This included a private phone call to the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, bullying him to “find” the votes needed for Trump to surpass Biden – all captured by the resourceful Raffensperger, who wisely taped the call and released it to the press.

But the most important distinguishing factor this time around may very well be Mitch McConnell, who supported the House impeachment process this time after adamantly opposing it the last.  McConnell has made it abundantly clear that he is open-minded (though undecided) on the matter of conviction.  His ultimate decision could tip the balance one way or the other, as other fence-sitters may follow his lead.

None of this means Trump will be convicted.  It's just that the odds are far higher than last year, when the GOP, save Romney, was in lockstep opposition.

But who among the 50 GOP Senators might join the sure-to-be-united Democratic 50 member caucus?  To achieve conviction, at least 17 GOP Senators must join the Democrats to achieve the required two-thirds conviction threshold.

We see the GOP Senators falling into three groups:  1) the few almost certain to convict, 2) the ones who are open to conviction but are almost surely watching what Mitch McConnell decides, and 3) the vast majority who are either on the record as opposing impeachment or almost certainly are in that group.

As it happens, the first two groups add up to exactly 17.  That does not leave much margin for error, but never forget that McConnell knows how to count votes, and there is little chance he is going to be on the losing side.

Among the factors to consider are which Senators have been critical of Trump in the past; whether they are up for reelection in 2022 and thus must pay careful attention to the Trump supporters; whether they have aspirations for the 2024 GOP nomination; how damning they have been about Trump’s behavior in the insurrection; and whether they supported Trump’s efforts to upend the election.

Let’s give a thumbnail profile of each Senator by group:

Almost Certain to Convict (5)

·        Mitt Romney, Utah.  The 2012 GOP presidential nominee has become the conscience of the right, often critiquing Trump and the only GOP vote to impeach in 2019.  Plus he is solid in Utah, where Trump is not terribly popular, and is not up for reelection until 2024. 

·        Lisa Murkowski, Alaska.  The longstanding thorn in Trump’s side has all but announced she is going to vote to convict. 

·        Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania.  Toomey has announced he will not run for reelection in 2022.  Like other Republicans before him who were on the verge of leaving office (see:  Jeff Flake), Toomey has broken with Trump and has been openly supportive of impeachment. 

·        Susan Collins, Maine.  Collins just won a surprisingly easy reelection in Maine over a well-funded opponent.  She has long been lampooned for her “concern” with Trump, and vilified for her view that Trump had “learned his lesson’ in the Mueller investigation.  It is time for her to shore up support from center-left Mainers and translate that concern into a conviction vote. 

·        Ben Sasse, Nebraska.  Sasse has been unsparing of his critiques of Trump throughout the transition, and at times before then, and just won reelection, so he is a near certain conviction vote. 

Open to Impeachment and Possibly Waiting for McConnell (12)

We’ve listed these Senators roughly in order of the likelihood they will support impeachment, with all of them more or less contingent on McConnell’s decision.

·        Mitch McConnell, Kentucky.  The Senate Leader just won his reelection and is concerned about regaining the Senate in 2022, and believes ridding the GOP of Trump is central to its future.  He openly supported impeachment and has said he is on the fence about conviction.  It is all up to him; if he votes to convict, enough GOP Senators will surely follow to get to 17.  If he does not, it could be just the five above joining the Democrats. 

·        John Thune, South Dakota.  Thune, the GOP Senate’s number two as Minority Whip, will surely follow McConnell. His claim to anti-Trump fame was memorably calling Trump’s efforts to overturn the Senate’s certification process “would go down like a shot dog.” 

·        Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia.  She has indicated that Trump “owns” the insurrection and that his actions were “inexcusable.”  And she was just reelected, so she will not face a threat for six years. 

·        John Cornyn, Texas.  Cornyn just won reelection, and is widely known to hold Trump in utter contempt, and has broken with him on a few issues, notably the Wall, COVID and foreign policy.  He knows Texas is turning purple and Trump has to be ejected as part of a GOP reinvention for him to survive there.

·        Thom Tillis, North Carolina.  Tillis just won a second-term in a close one in a purple state, and he’ll need a conviction vote to win again in 2026 in his state. 

·        Richard Burr, North Carolina.  Burr has decided that he will not run for reelection in 2022.  Like Toomey, he thus faces no electoral consequences for a conviction vote.  He ran the Senate Intelligence Committee with surprising dignity in the Trump years. 

·        Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma.  The Chair of the Armed Services Committee – succeeding John McCain – was furious over Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act.  Trump was unhappy with the lack of provisions relating to social media and protections for military bases named for Confederate generals – and Inhofe was incensed Trump would veto legislation that had passed routinely for 60 consecutive years.  He was just reelected and amply protected if he chooses to vote to convict. 

·        Mike Lee, Utah.  Lee was surprisingly forceful in opposing Trump’s attempts to upend the certification process, especially since he has been a long-time ally of one of the ringleaders of the movement, Ted Cruz. 

·        Rob Portman, Ohio.  Portman passes for a moderate these days in the GOP, and occasionally exhibits modest pangs of conscience with respect to Trump.  He will likely convict with McConnell providing him cover, but it will be a tough one since he is up for reelection in 2022. 

·        Chuck Grassley, Iowa.   The GOP Senate’s elder statesmen (at age 89) has been highly critical of Trump’s actions with respect to the insurrection, declaring that Trump has already disqualified himself.  But he is up for reelection in 2022, and, despite his age, just may do it.  And Iowa is becoming redder every election. 

·        Deb Fischer, Nebraska.  Fischer is the quieter of the Nebraska Senators relative to Ben Sasse, but she issued a strong statement in support of the Biden certification, has been silent on the impeachment and thus appears to be open to the Senate process. 

·        Tom Cotton, Arkansas.  Cotton, a deeply conservative Trump supporter, has 2024 presidential aspirations and already he has chosen a different path than his neighbor and fellow potential contender, Josh Hawley.  Cotton chose to oppose Hawley in the certification battle, supporting Biden, and he may play his hand all the way with a conviction vote, which also helps him to clear the 2024 field of Trump.   It’s a huge gamble for the young Arkansas Senator. 

Almost Certain to Acquit (33) 

These Senators have either announced their intention to oppose conviction or almost certainly will acquit Trump.

·        Lindsey Graham, South Carolina.  The longtime Trump apologist and BFF has taken the mantel for leading the pro-Trump charge in the Senate, informally whipping votes to acquit. 

·        Rand Paul, Kentucky.  Paul is always a wild-card but he is more or less on the record opposing conviction, convinced that one-third of the current GOP will leave the party if the Senate convicts Trump. 

·        Ron Johnson, Wisconsin.  Johnson has been such a vocal and visible Trump supporter it would be shocking if he did not vote to acquit him (even though he did switch his certification views after the insurrection and supported certifying Biden).  Johnson is up for reelection in 2022 and will not risk a split with Trump voters now. 

·        Marco Rubio, Florida.  One might think Rubio would be itching to get Trump out of the 2024 field, but he has publicly stated his opposition to impeachment and one would assume would be opposed to conviction. 

·        Rick Scott, Florida.  Scott is using the now-conventional GOP line of opposing impeachment (and one would assume conviction) based on the need for “national unity.” 

·        Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee.  Although she switched her announced certification vote (from opposition to support) after the insurrection, Blackburn is a very vocal and colorful Trump supporter and will certainly vote against conviction. 

·        Jodi Ernst, Iowa.  Ernst just went through a difficult reelection in a state that is turning from purple to red.  Six years from now she will not want a conviction vote on her record. 

·        Tim Scott, South Carolina.  Scott expressed strong public aversion to impeachment and likely would feel the same about a Senate conviction. 

·        The Anti-Certification Six.  The six Senators who stuck with their pre-riot anti-certification stances and voted against certifying Biden have essentially already acquitted him and, having pushed their chips on Trump to the center of the table in that manner, it would be shocking if they did otherwise.  How they could march back into that room after fearing for their lives at the hands of a Trump-incited mob – which was well known at the time – is beyond the pale.  Eight other Senators who had announced support for decertification changed their minds after the events of the day. 

o   Josh Hawley, Missouri.  The ringleader and enabler of the anti-certification movement, the ultimate ambition-at-any-cost conservative with an eye toward capturing the Trump wing in his own 2024 presidential bid. 

o   Ted Cruz, Texas.  He quickly signed on with Hawley and was his wingman, for essentially the exact same reasons. 

o   Tommy Tuberville, Alabama.  Trump and Giuliani were still calling the newly elected former Auburn football coach at 7 PM on January 6, begging him to challenge more states so the certification process could be delayed further, thus giving Trump more time to change the minds of state legislators. 

o   John Kennedy, Louisiana.  The rumpled conservative has become a darling of the Trumpsters. 

o   Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi.  The low profile Senator was a surprise “yes” vote against Biden’s certification since she was not on the original list of 14 supporters. 

o   Roger Marshall, Kansas.  No daylight has ever emanated between Marshall and Trump. 

The rest of the Senators in this bucket are low-profile Trump supporters from deep red western and southern states who have never broken with Trump or uttered a critical word about him.  All but one are white men, and most are older (their average age is 66).  They are the bland faces who represent the heart of Trump world, and they march in lockstep in Trump’s parade.  If they have never once broken with Trump before – not even in the last few weeks, when so many others have done so for the first time -- it is unlikely they will suddenly find a conscience during the Senate trial.  We’ve noted which of them indicated public opposition to certification, but changed their minds and supported it after the insurrection. As you peruse the list, ask yourself how many of them are completely unknown to you.  Don't be surprised if it is most or all of the list.

·        John Barasso, Wyoming.

·        Roy Blunt, Missouri

·        John Boozman, Arkansas.

·        Mike Braun, Indiana.  Supported not certifying Trump but changed mind after insurrection.

·        Bill Cassidy, Louisiana.

·        Kevin Cramer, North Dakota.

·        Mike Crapo, Idaho.

·        Steve Daines, Montana.  Supported not certifying Trump but changed mind after insurrection.

·        Bill Hagerty, Tennessee.  Supported not certifying Trump but changed mind after insurrection.

·        John Hoeven, North Dakota.

·        James Lankford, Oklahoma.  Supported not certifying Trump but changed mind after insurrection.

·        Cynthia Lummis, Wyoming.  Supported not certifying Trump but changed mind after insurrection.

·        Jerry Moran, Kansas.

·        James Risch, Idaho.

·        Mike Rounds, South Dakota.

·        Richard Shelby, Alabama.

·        Dan Sullivan, Alaska.

·        Roger Wicker, Mississippi.

·        Todd Young, Indiana.

I offer three final caveats to this exercise:

The first is that Donald Trump’s approval rating has not fallen very much over the last two weeks -- about five points.  This drop may have been enough to loosen his vicelike grip on the GOP, but not enough to sever it, by any means.  The drop may not be enough for more than a few to convict him.

The second is that Mitch McConnell is now the most unpopular person in America.  The Democrats have always hated him, and his favorability rating among Republicans has dropped significantly with his break from Trump -- the crazies hate him now, too.  We may be overstating the willingness of GOP fence-sitters to follow him.

The third is Joe Manchin.  He is the most conservative Democratic Senator, from deep red West Virginia, and he is now, after Joe Biden, the second most powerful person in Washington, D.C.  Manchin might very well vote against conviction, and then another GOP vote must be found from a seemingly intractable pool.