If in November of this year Donald Trump ends up winning the presidential elections and the Republicans consolidate their power in Congress, many will see this week that has just ended as the time when that victory was perhaps sealed.
And not necessarily because of the acquittal in the Senate on Wednesday, when the entire Republican Party, except former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, voted against the two articles of impeachment that the House of Representatives approved last year.
Badly or well, it was known from the beginning that it was an impossible mission to get the 67 votes (out of 100) that were required to dismiss Trump, and less in an organ controlled by the president’s party.
What was at stake was the heart of public opinion, with both eyes on the results of next November. A game that, for the moment, the Democrats are losing in a resounding way.
Who best explains it is David Von Drehle, election expert and columnist for The Washington Post. “The verdict of the impeachment trial we already know. And it was not the vote in the Senate, which was absolutely predictable. When this process started in September, Trump’s popularity was below 39 percent, of the worst in history. Five months later, according to a Gallup poll, it has reached 49 percent, the highest of its entire presidency, ”says Von Drehle.
Three points higher than the one Barack Obama had in 2012 when he sought to be reelected and ended up winning without major difficulties.
Five months later (from the start of the political trial), according to a Gallup poll, (Trump) has reached 49 percent (popularity), the highest in his entire presidency
The explanations are several. On the one hand, the president and his environment effectively sold the idea that the Democrats were only looking for a pretext to dismiss Trump and ignore the election results of 2016. That, despite the fact that there were several senators of the Republican Party who they ended up admitting that Trump was guilty of what he was accused of, but not enough to punish him with the maximum penalty.
For Von Drehle, the narrative that the dismissal process was a partisan exercise, caused a closing of ranks around the president, who went from controlling him to being his absolute king.
And he stirred the bases, which have always been loyal to him, but much more now when his presidency was in danger.
Incidentally, the ‘impeachment’, it seems, weakened former Vice President Joe Biden, who was supposed to be the Democratic candidate with the most options to defeat him in November. Although the race for the nomination of this match has just begun, Biden’s fourth place in the Iowa caucus leaves him badly injured.
Which is an irony, because the epicenter of the Ukrainian saga is that Trump sought to hit Biden through the opening of investigations against him that finally never materialized.
That is, in denouncing the case, it was the same Democrats who put the name of Biden in the pillory and ended up doing the task that Trump wanted to assign to the Ukrainians.
To make matters worse, the Democrats took another shot in the foot this week with the chaotic start of their electoral process, which took three days to publicize the name of the winner in Iowa and made them look like a disorganized party, in crisis and without a clear leader in the nomination process.
The president rounded off his task with a speech on the state of the Union in which he emphasized the good moment that the US economy is going through thanks to the policies that it has been implementing for three years.
While there were many analysts who underlined how Trump attributed victories that did not belong to him and exaggerated on several fronts, the result was very powerful: While the Democrats concentrated on trying to dismiss him, he produced results, such as the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years and the generation of millions of new jobs.
A formula that sells very well. “Trump’s message is:‘ They may not agree with me on everything. But look at what I have achieved, look at their wallets, and think if they are willing to replace me with a party member who doesn’t even know how to count votes, ”says Brad Pascale, head of the president’s re-election campaign.
The Democrats, in turn, have a difficult time from now on because they must decide, and soon, if they continue on the path of investigations against Trump and focus their election campaign on a referendum of their management or turn the page and concentrate on issues that matter to people, such as health coverage or pensions.
And having won the House in the 2018 elections, today they face the prospect – the product of the process against Trump – of losing it again. Which would leave them in an absolute minority with another 4 years of Trump at the helm of the Oval Office.
Of course, from here to the elections there are nine months left and anything can still happen. Especially with a Trump who has spent these three years from one scandal to another.
Sources close to the Democratic Party also remember that the good numbers that the president records today are a peak product of two or three positive weeks, but they will go down once the Democratic race straightens its course and a clear opponent emerges for the presidential ones.
As Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House party, recalled these days, sometimes he who laughs last laughs better. For now, however, the most visible smile is that of Trump.
SERGIO GOMEZ MASERI
EL TIEMPO correspondent