Lee gets it right

okay then
Susie Lee after winning her race against Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian at the Nevada Democratic Party's election results party in 2018 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

On the one hand, His Excellency President Do Us A Favor Though (aka Individual 1) instigated a sleazy foreign policy, contradicting official policy authorized by overwhelming bipartisan congressional support and jeopardizing the security of Ukraine, Europe, and the U.S., to gratify his trashy obsession to con, connive and corrupt.

On the other hand, impeachment is reportedly creating pouty faces in some Henderson neighborhoods.

It might have been a tough call for Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee.

By far the most important feature in Lee’s young political career is she’s one of 31 Democratic members of Congress representing a district Trump won in 2016. Not surprisingly,  Lee makes much of working across the aisle, and boasts that the bulk of her work in the House is bipartisan.

“I think it’s easy to fall into the this-camp-versus-this-camp,” Lee said in August. “We can come together on about 80 percent of issues. That division is at the fringes.”

And so there was much speculation about whether Lee would vote for impeachment, especially after she declared herself undecided in the Washington Post last week. Would she “come together,” as she put it back in August, with Republicans to defend Trump’s acidic behavior, not only shielding him from accountability for his treachery, but reinforcing his tantrums and outbursts about a hoax and a witch hunt and whatever other words are still available in his rapidly diminishing vocabulary?

She did not.

“After weighing all of the facts, I will be voting in support of impeachment of the President,” Lee announced Friday. “The facts are clear: the President abused the power of his office and blatantly obstructed Congress.”

Nevada Republicans scooted into their minivans and monster trucks and raced to a little demo Saturday to deplore and decry Lee for trying to overthrow the 2016 election by making Mike Pence president. Republicans, you see, had warned Lee, through advertising & such, that a vote for impeachment would scare aforementioned frowning Hendersonians. In other words, Nevada Republicans were urging Lee to ignore constitutional concerns, and instead be fearfully driven by political ones.

“Nevadans are ready to make @RepSusieLee a one-term Congresswoman if she goes through with voting for this impeachment sham,” the state party declared on its Twitter account Saturday.

Here’s a question: What’s with the “if”? 

Are Republicans saying “if” Lee changes her mind and votes against impeachment Republicans won’t be ready to make Lee a one-termer, and all the Republicans vying to run against Lee, led currently by electoral juggernaut Dan Schwartz, would withdraw from the race, get out of Lee’s way, and let her win reelection? 

Of course the author(s) of Nevada Republican Party social media accounts meant nothing of the sort. Even if Lee did cave to their tacky pressure tactics and vote against impeachment, Republicans would still do whatever they can to beat her. After the presidency, the 3rd congressional district is the most high-profile competitive race in Nevada in 2020, and the GOP’s best shot at a significant pick-up in the state.

Assuming it is a shot.

Trump barely beat Hillary Clinton in CD3 by a percentage point in 2016. But Jacky Rosen still narrowly won the House seat for the Democrats that year. 

Last year, while Rosen was serving as exactly the sort of inoffensive generic Democrat party leaders rightly assumed it would take to oust Dean Heller, Lee kept CD3 in Democratic hands with a really rather whopping 9 point win. It was the first time a Democrat had won the district in a non-presidential year since CD3 was created after the 2000 census.

Granted, Lee’s victory last year, like Rosen’s two years earlier, carries an asterisk: The Republican opponent both times was Danny Tarkanian.

But still. A nine point win? In a midterm, when Democratic turnout is historically atrocious?

The 2016 election was a freak show. Literally. And in 2018, as much as Lee, and Rosen and Steve Sisolak for that matter, might like to think they were elected because of the strength of their candidacies, their supreme likability, their mad campaign skills, and because they said education and health care a lot, the looming and decisive factor in that midterm — the factor driving all that Democrat turnout — was the freak. And he wasn’t even on the ballot.

In 2020, Trump will be on the ballot. He shouldn’t be, because after Lee and her House Democratic colleagues vote for articles of impeachment against him this week Senate Republicans should put the nation’s interest ahead of Trump’s and vote to convict. Senate Republicans won’t, because Senate Republicans have all become wretched variations of miserable Lindsay Graham: Trump abducted their party, and now they’ve sworn undying loyalty to their abductor. It’s like the Stockholm Syndrome, but with tax cuts.

But back to Lee & CD3…

Every politician is supposed to run scared, or so goes some old adage. As the holder of what has traditionally been a swing district, Lee has one job: Keep that seat blue.

An argument can be made that Lee would have hurt herself more than helped herself if she decided to vote against impeachment.

Fortunately, that argument needn’t be entertained, because Lee made the right call.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.