In the aftermath of the costly victory at Shiloh in 1862, career bureaucrats in Washington called for the removal of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. President Abraham Lincoln responded, “I can’t spare this man; he fights.” Our first Republican president had the fortitude to stick with it when it counts, and he wanted generals such as Grant, who did the same. Union leadership at the start of the Civil War was gun-shy and inept, but names such as Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan changed that.
In recent years the GOP has looked more like the people Lincoln ended up firing than General Grant. But in Wednesday’s House Intelligence Committee hearings, rank and file members of the GOP showed some resolve and fought back.
Republicans grew a backbone in the hearing and pushed back against House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff’s impeachment narrative. This is the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from Rep. Jim Jordan, but the fact that Reps. Elise Stefanik and John Ratcliffe also came out swinging speak volumes. These three are all quite different breeds of Republican, but for once, disparate House Republicans all brought the same level of intensity to a high stakes hearing.
Republicans challenged the Left’s narrative not only on the facts but the process as well. They’ve done good work to expose this investigation as the sham impeachment hearing it really is. We haven’t seen this sort of energy and poise from Republicans since the Kavanaugh saga, and we have rarely seen it at all throughout President Trump’s time in office.
For so long, the GOP has been afraid of its shadow. When things get tough, they turn tail and run. We’ve seen it on budget votes, shutdown standoffs, and stunningly, Obamacare — the single issue they railed against for years on the campaign trail but failed to repeal under unified government. Wednesday’s hearing was not what we’ve come to expect from the GOP.
Contrast House Republicans with has-beens like Sen. Mitt Romney, who, when he’s not trying to ban your Juul, can be found straddling the fence on impeachment. Romney has a track record of leaving the gloves on dating back to his ill-fated attempt to beat former President Barack Obama. In terms of Civil War analogies, Romney would be Gen. George McClellan, who, despite overwhelming advantages in numbers and supplies, managed to fall short of a decisive victory.
The conservative base wants Republicans who stand up and don’t back down. It’s why Trump’s approval rating remains so high among conservatives. For all of the issues that many have with his tone and approach, the president remains focused on making good on his campaign promises. He’s issue-focused.
Going forward, we need to see more Republicans who are willing to fight back and take on the Left’s narrative. Democrats aim to use the House impeachment hearings to amplify their impeachment narrative. Should Democrats find the 218 votes necessary to impeach the president and send the issue to the GOP-controlled Senate, both sides lose the ability to frame the optics to their advantage. Senate trial procedure bars individual senators from questioning witnesses in person. All questions must be written and asked through Chief Justice John Roberts. If Republicans wish to advance their side of the story, they need to continue to push back against the Left’s impeachment narrative as House hearings continue.
Thankfully, Wednesday’s hearing before the House Intelligence Committee showed us that at least some Republicans are willing to show up and fight. Republicans can make it especially tough for Democrats in the 30 or so swing districts — the “dirty thirty” hot seats that went red in 2016 and blue in 2018 — that must choose between towing the party line and getting reelected. If Republicans can continue to counter the Left’s narrative in the House, impeachment becomes a losing issue for Democrats heading into 2020.
Like Lincoln in the spring of 1862, the GOP needs leadership that won’t shy away from a fight. Jordan, Stefanik, Ratcliffe, and the rest of the Republicans on the committee need to keep up the pressure and show their colleagues in the House and the Senate how it’s done.