How to Watch the Impeachment Hearings

November 19, 2019

Week One of the impeachment hearings was certainly not the equivalent of watching the Super Bowl or even Jeopardy’s Tournament of Champions.  The reviews from across America described the hearings as “boring”, ” hard to follow”, “partisan”, and no where near a “game changer.” Those Americans who bothered to inform themselves about “Ukrainegate” often turned to their favorite cable talk show for the analysis that solidified their position about whether the President was impeachable. There is  some poll data that suggests the public is slowly coming to the position that President Trump should be impeached but with so much opinion gathering that is often unreliable it is difficult to determine whether the work of the Democrats is really having an impact.

Unlike the Nixon Watergate hearings we live in a far different world of politics and media. Most Americans don’t sit down after dinner to watch the evening news or watch the inquiry from their favorite watering hole. Because we are so divided and angry as a nation, the questioning of witnesses creates a glaze effect as viewers just can’t bring themselves to see the drama unfolding as diplomats challenge the veracity of the President or Republicans try their best to debunk testimony. Back in the 70’s Americans watched with rapt attention to see which Republicans would turn on Nixon. Today what we see, at least for now, is Democrats talking about the end of democracy while the GOP provides a staunch defense of President Trump as just doing his job; it is all so predictable and indeed “boring.” Some wiseguy pundits have suggested that to get the peoples’ attention somber background music should be played or a running scorecard “hits” or “misses” in the questioning; anything to get the attention of a tired audience.

Perhaps this week will bring a bit more public interest to the hearings as the Democrats try to link the President to the only Latin phrase Americans will remember – quid pro quo. But even if the Democrats score a game changer, the Republicans will not lose their base of support or see some of their members bolt from the ranks. Remember Trump’s base agrees with him that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York and nothing would or should happen to him. Because Trump has effectively developed what is often termed a “cult of personality” die hard fans in and out of Congress are not going to move over to the other side.

So what we are faced with is a litany of witnesses trying to convince Americans that their President did wrong, Democrats hoping that their efforts will galvanize support for impeachment, Republicans holding fast with their leader, and Americans knowing that impeachment is not going to remove the President, while they wait for the 2020 election. In a real sense many Americans believe they should judge the President rather than Congressional committees in large part because they don’t trust Democrats or Republicans

And so the impeachment soap opera continues, daily installments of bland bureaucrats trying their best to deliver the truth, while Democrats and Republicans try to juice up the proceedings with ominous claims and the President sending along threatening tweets to get the attention of the audience. The television ratings are weak because the American public have either made up their mind, don’t care or are waiting for their chance to make a decision of President Trump. The only drama that has occurred in the hearings is the face off between Fox and CNN over which cable network deserves the attention of the American people. So far Americans aren’t watching.

Polling Trump

September 11, 2019

Public opinion polling, especially of presidents and elections, has become a huge cottage industry in this country employing thousands and raking in millions of dollars from campaigns and political organizations anxious to determine the preferences of Americans. Needless to say, polling outfits are in intense competition to make the claim that they are the most accurate and the best predictor of outcomes.

As this country heads toward a still distant national election there are almost daily polls on the job performance of Donald Trump, the chances of his reelection and the popularity of his Democratic challengers.  One of the most interesting developments in the polling race is the mini war of public opinion data crunching between the Rasmussen organization and all the more well known pollsters such as Quinnipiac, Monmouth, CNN, Politico, Reuters, Marist, NBC/Wall Street Journal and ABC/Washington Post.

To make a long story short, Rasmussen was one of the very few pollsters that got the 2016 election outcome correct showing that Donald Trump would win the presidency. Since Rasmussen is often viewed as an “outlier” pollster and according to some a front for conservative points of view, its correct prediction of a Trump victory sticks in the craw of the establishment polling organizations. The folks at Rasmussen waste little time in pointing out that in this election cycle there’s is the most accurate appraisal of Trump’s popularity and presidency.

Why this is important is because currently Rasmussen’s polling is far different than most if not all of the rest of the more well known organizations in terms of assessing Trump’s job performance and his chances for a repeat of his 2016 victory. While the establishment pollsters have Trump in the neighborhood of the low 40 percent range in terms of job performance and popularity, Rasmussen has the President in the high 40 percent range ( and many times over 50 percent) in job performance and the same with his overall popularity.

Now I am not in any way an expert on polling techniques in terms of sample size, demographic identification, and likely voters vs. registered voters, but Rasmussen boldly claims that most of the establishment polling that is being done today is seriously flawed and biased against President Trump. Of course if Rasmussen is correct about the current status of Trump the president and Trump the Republican candidate for reelection, then the Democrats are kidding themselves about taking the presidency in 2020 and are following the flawed strategy of Hillary Clinton who bought into the erroneous polling numbers that showed she was way ahead in 2016.

Perhaps Rasmussen got lucky in 2016 with its call of a Trump victory and perhaps all the current pollsters have fixed their models so that their current analysis showing Trump in deep trouble are on the mark. It is way too early to speculate on where the 2020 race for the presidency stands and I always wonder whether all those phone calls to Americans get a truthful answer or whether voting decisions are made in a split second while filling out the ballot. Whether Rasmussen is right or wrong this time around or its competitors have a better handle on American political opinion will certainly shape campaign strategy, but Democrats beware- they ignored Rasmussen in 2016 and the rest is history.