I’m a bit groggy after staying up half the night watching the world historical butt-whupping the Democratic House Managers put on Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump throughout the first full day of the impeachment trial. But, in the end, it was a fixed fight, and the Republicans won on every scorecard. From the looks of things, this is the theme that will be repeated every day for as long as this impeachment lasts.
In a way, it’s something the Democrats are getting used to. From the hanging chads in Florida in 2000 to the Electoral College loss in 2016, the Republicans make a living winning despite losing. They’ve become dependent on cheating and rigging the rules of the game, and they’re experts at it at this point.
It’s been so long since they’ve gotten the better of an argument, and so long since it has mattered, that the GOP is perfectly content to live in a post-fact universe. Still, it is occasionally embarrassing for them to be trounced in intellectual combat.
If there is to be a quick acquittal in the end, the battle will be over the consequences, and in that respect there is good reason for the Democrats to hope that they will get the last laugh. They were certainly laughing quite a bit on Tuesday as it became apparent that the president’s defenders came completely unprepared.
Evidently, they did not know they’d be watching the Democrats make their case for eleven straight hours as they debated pre-trial amendments on the rules. Meanwhile, the House Managers came armed with concise arguments backed by lots of video tape. If this were a normal trial, the jury would not have been present for any of it, but the 100 senators were glued to their chairs and barred by law from speaking.
Around midnight, Mitch McConnell called for a brief recess and was seen roaming the halls of the Senate in a bedraggled and exhausted state. If he had cornermen, they would have thrown in the towel. All his plans had backfired in spectacular fashion and I’m sure his phone was filled with panicked messages from the White House.
Yet, McConnell had the jury in his pocket and so it was foreordained that he could lose every round and still be awarded the victory. Trump is counting on the same thing.