When asked to tell us why Donald Trump shouldn’t be impeached, Trump’s Republican defenders in the House and Senate have, for the most part, limited themselves to waving their arms and screaming that Nancy Pelosi and her radical socialist mob are just out to overturn the will of the 63 million people who voted for Trump. Well, that approach may have backfired, and bigly. One of the most vulnerable members of the Democratic freshman class says he’s voting for impeachment–partly because he doesn’t think his Republican counterparts have given him a reason to do otherwise.
One of the biggest upsets of the 2018 election came in the Charleston-based 1st District, when Joe Cunningham became the first Democrat to hold this seat in four decades. Cunningham upset rabidly pro-Trump state representative Katie Arrington, who had in turn upset incumbent Mark Sanford in the Republican primary. Cunningham was going to have a fight on his hands for reelection in 2020 in any event. He represents a district with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+10, making it the second-reddest district represented by a Democrat.
Even though Cunningham is pretty high on the list of vulnerable Democrats, he hasn’t been shy about making a name for himself. For instance, in March, Cunningham was on hand for a subcommittee hearing on the effects of seismic testing on right whales. Since he represents a district serving much of South Carolina’s share of the Atlantic Coast, he decided to make a graphic demonstration of the risks whales face from these tests. Watch here, courtesy WCBD-TV in Charleston.
Cunningham pulled an air horn from under his desk and blasted it in the hearing room to show just how disruptive the air guns used in seismic testing are to whales. Cunningham argued that air guns can be as much as 16,000 times louder than an air horn–no small consideration for animals who depend on sound for communication and getting food.
Well, if there’s any justice, Cunningham ought to become known for something else after an interview with his hometown paper, The (Charleston) Post and Courier–how bankrupt the Republicans’ defense of Trump really is.
Cunningham said he’d taken his time to decide whether he should vote to impeach Trump for abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to open a politically charged investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, and obstructing Congress by refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. He’d hoped to hear some evidence from his Republican counterparts that would offer an innocent explanation for Trump’s behavior.
But such an explanation never came.
I’ve waited and waited and I have not found any evidence they submitted compelling at all. At the end of day, this is simply about the rule of law, whether we’re a country with laws or not and what type of precedent we want to set for future presidents.
In the end, Cunningham was left with evidence that Trump attempted to sit on military aid to an ally “to curry a personal and political favor that would help his reelection at the expense of America.” That was something Cunningham believed “all of us must stand against”–whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican. For that reason, he was voting for impeachment, concluding that Trump’s behavior was “unacceptable.”
He believed that given how vulnerable he was, the easy thing would be to “just vote no and move on.” Indeed, the House Democratic leadership freed rank and file members to vote their conscience–blowing apart the usual Republican talking point that Pelosi was bullying her vulnerable members into supporting a “WITCH HUNT!”
In essence, Cunningham was saying, “I wanted to be persuaded to vote against impeachment–but the Republicans weren’t willing to talk.” That hasn’t stopped the red team from kneecapping Cunningham over his decision. One of his principal Republican challengers, state representative Nancy Mace, wasted no time flaying Cunningham on social media.
Mount Pleasant town councilwoman Kathy Landing was equally willing to go after Cunningham.
This feels disingenuous on two counts. For one, even if Cunningham had voted no, the odds are pretty good that the GOP would have found some other way to kneecap him. For instance, earlier this year a Republican lawmaker tried to falsely smear Cunningham as unpatriotic–a big deal in this military-heavy district.
For another thing, why couldn’t Mace and Landing have persuaded their Republican sisters and brothers to actually show Cunningham some evidence that Trump didn’t do anything wrong? Apparently they, like their counterparts in Washington, are too busy bowing down to their dear one to actually reach out across the aisle.
Cunningham deserves hearty applause for sticking his neck out and putting his oath ahead of his political career, even as vulnerable as he is. It’s all the more reason that he deserves our support in a race where he’ll likely have everything but the kitchen sink at him. Click here to donate.
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