Falling in line: Two freshmen Dems from red districts in Texas say they’ll support impeachment


One, Colin Allred, represents an R+5 district outside Dallas, having unseated Pete Sessions last year. The other, Lizzie Fletcher, hails from an R+7 district in Houston. She took out John Culberson to earn her seat.

Why, oh why, would two reps from the country’s most populous red state risk their necks by supporting impeachment? (Apart from Pelosi threatening to do the Darth Vader choke to their political careers if they didn’t.) Answer: Because Texas in general and their districts in particular aren’t reliably red anymore. A million stories have been written about Texas turning purple, particularly in the suburbs, since Beto O’Rourke’s near-miss in the Senate race last fall. Ted Cruz has made that point himself repeatedly in interviews ever since, warning that Texas can’t be taken for granted in 2019 by the GOP the way, say, Wyoming can. That’s especially true in Allred’s and Fletcher’s districts, each of which was won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 despite their Republican lean.

I think both of them are looking ahead and wagering that whoever the Democrats end up nominating for president is a cinch to be more popular than Hillary. Which means it’ll be that much easier to ride that person’s coattails to victory next fall despite their impeachment vote. Or maybe because of it, considering that both districts are trending blue.

“These uncontroverted facts are an unacceptable violation of his oath of office and constitute an impeachable abuse of power,” [Allred] said in a news release. “This is a somber moment for our nation, and I have not reached this decision lightly.”…

Later Friday another Texas Democrat, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher of Houston, also announced that she will vote to impeach Trump.

“As a member of Congress, I also swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” she said in a news release. “And that is why, when the articles of impeachment are presented in the House, I will vote yes on both.”

It’s not just Allred and Fletcher. Pelosi got another win yesterday when Katie Porter of California finally signed on to impeachment. Porter managed to flip the 45th District in Orange County last fall, the first time a Democrat won a House race there since the district was created in 1983. She’s been gung ho for impeachment from the beginning — from before the beginning, actually, since she first called for an impeachment inquiry back in June, months before the Ukraine saga became known. House Democrats were already gradually moving towards impeaching Trump for obstruction of justice in the Russiagate probe by that point, but Porter’s support for the effort was notable because she’s a freshman from a longtime Republican district, one of the most endangered political creatures in Congress.

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But maybe not as endangered as everyone thinks. As with Allred and Fletcher, Porter’s district broke for Hillary in 2016. If it went blue for a candidate as disliked as Clinton, Porter figures, then it’s apt to stay blue next year. Porter has something else in common with Allred and Fletcher: She’s young, just 45 years old. (The other two are even younger.) Every young Democrat who’s proved they can flip a swing district has an incentive to stay on the right side of their base on this vote to preserve their viability for a party leadership position in the future. They need to pass the litmus test if they want progressives to tolerate them leading a powerful committee, or even the entire caucus, someday.

If you’re curious how many other Dem freshmen have and haven’t committed yet to impeachment, the Times is keeping a running list. As of Saturday afternoon, just one — Jeff Van Drew — has said he’ll vote no. More than 60(!) remain undecided or haven’t responded to inquiries. Which got me to thinking: How many of the seven freshmen who co-wrote that WaPo op-ed in September egging on the caucus to consider impeaching Trump over Ukraine have had the stones to actually announce their position already? I’ve brought up that op-ed numerous times this week in posts about Elissa Slotkin, one of the co-authors, but I completely overlooked the other six Dems who signed on to it. They’re all either military veterans or former natsec officials, so the op-ed carried a little extra weight from that. And it carried a lot of extra weight from the fact that all seven come from swing districts. They were all risking their political lives by leading the impeachment charge. How many of them have now actually followed through and declared that they’ll vote to impeach?

Answer: One. Just Elaine Luria of Virginia. (Weirdly, Luria was also one of a handful of Democrats in the House to attend Trump’s White House Christmas party this week.) The other six are obviously hoping to hide in a crowd, not releasing their decision to support impeachment — which is how all six are likely to decide — until the last possible moment so that the news back home about their vote is obscured somewhat by the news of the House collectively voting to impeach Trump.

So who else is going to end up voting no besides Van Drew? Joe Cunningham, Kendra Horn, and Ben McAdams are the three whom everyone’s looking at, just because they come from solidly red districts in solidly red states (South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Utah, respectively). Pelosi doesn’t want to lose anyone on the vote but she’ll probably cut them loose at this point as a matter of simple self-preservation. A recent poll of Cunningham’s district, for instance, found 57 percent against impeaching Trump versus just 38 percent in favor. He’s a longshot to get reelected under the best of circumstances but he’s DOA if he supports impeachment. If Pelosi loses those three, Van Drew, and Collin Peterson (the other Dem besides Van Drew who voted against authorizing the impeachment inquiry) and no one else, I think she can live with that. Even though the GOP will spend the entire holiday break dunking on her and Schiff for having actually lost support within their own party since the vote to formalize the inquiry.

In lieu of an exit question, here’s Horn and Abigal Spanberger of Virginia (one of the seven co-authors of the WaPo op-ed) being confronted by voters at town halls.

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