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The Trumpification of the RPV, Ben Cline Edition: Part 2

About a month and a half ago, Congressman Ben Cline – previously known as a hard-working, disciplined, and principled conservative with a decade of experience in the House of Delegates – joined the mad myriad of Republican House members who stormed and compromised a SCIF [1]. It was a clown-show moment that endangered national security, all because the House had chosen to begin the initial phase of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump in said secure facility.

Six weeks, several open hearings, and one detailed inquiry report later [2], Cline is back in the news as the House Judiciary Committee held its own impeachment hearing on Wednesday. Cline is the lone Virginia House member on the committee, so it was his chance to speak for all of us. Alas, he’s a Republican, so he chose to curry favor with Trump instead.

Amy Friedenberger (Roanoke Times [3]) manages to capture Cline’s self-pretzelization in one sentence:

He went on Fox News this week to criticize the impeachment proceeding, saying the impeachment report from the House Intelligence Committee — not having yet read it — was “half-baked.”

Read that again: “not having read it yet.” After comprising a Congressional SCIF for the supposed lack of transparency and information available to him as a member of the House, Cline chooses to ignore the information made available to him in his defense of Trump.

But hey, “Trump praised Cline on Twitter for his ‘Great remarks’ ” – which I suspect was the whole point here.

One service Cline did provide in his devolution to full Trump lackey was rehash an argument that the Democrats need to address far more robustly than they – ahem – than we have so far (Friedenberger again):

Cline, a lawyer and former part-time prosecutor, said he didn’t think it should be up to the House Judiciary Committee to decide whether to take away people’s ability to vote for Trump next year.

“It’s the people who elected this president in 2016, and it’s the people who should have the choice as to whether or not to vote for this president in 2020,” Cline said.

Amidst the ostrich-like behavior and conspiracy-theory mongering we’re seeing from the GOP these days, the one argument that has at least a little cut-through is the question of whether the impeachment process is a better remedy for Trump’s behavior than the 2020 election. Some Democrats have answered this argument, but with far less consistency than necessary.

Elections in a democracy are the chief instrument for passing judgment on incumbents’ actions, even those that may be considered impeachable – unless the impeachable behavior compromises the election itself. That is why “let the voters decide” does not hold up and cannot hold up here. Trump himself belied that notion by demanding a foreign nation smear one of his political opponents [4]. There may be many Republicans who genuinely want the voters to settle this, but Trump is not one of themHe is the one trying to short-circuit the electoral process by inviting, demanding, and – as Aaron Blake (WaPo [5]) noted – actually getting foreign interference. That leaves impeachment and removal as the least worst option.

To be clear, Ben Cline isn’t Devin Nunes (who, as the inquiry report revealed, is not merely a defender of Trump’s impeachable behavior but also a likely co-conspirator). However, he is emblematic of how far the Republican Party – including the Republican Party of Virginia – has fallen. They cannot be rewarded for such willful blindness with any further political success.

Even as a Democrat, I feel as much pain in typing that as of most of you do in reading it.