Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin— An Impeachment Profile in Courage December 22, 2019
All Demagogue Donald truly cares about is “branding,” elevating his name recognition on everything and anything. It’s about Trump hotels, Trump golf courses, Trump’s own airline, Trump casinos, Trump steaks, Trump reality TV shows, ridiculous Trump “University,” you name it. In fact, many people believe Demagogue Donald ran for the White House to exponentially increase his brand because for “Mr. Narcissistic Personality #1,” one can never get enough name recognition. The late Roger Ailes, who headed Trump’s favorite propaganda network, FOX News, was credited by many with putting the presidential “bug” in Donald’s ear by saying that if he really wanted a super brand, he should run for the Oval Office. Sure, Donald wouldn’t win, but his image would be launched into the stratosphere. Well, unfortunately, Donald did run and to the shock and surprise of everyone, including his own staff, he won.
It is now clear to everyone who ever worked with him since his 1/2017 inauguration, including fellow GOPers, that Trump has been the only American Chief Executive with all the worst possible qualities combined into one person. Yes, we have had previous unscrupulous presidents, previous vulgar ones, previous amoral ones, and previous ones seeking vengeance against “enemies.” We have also had presidents who were incurious and inexperienced. However, we have never before had one individual occupying the White House who had all these negative qualities at once. Neither have we had a person in the Oval Office who could care less about our governing document, the U.S. Constitution, and who wrongly thinks that under its Article II he can do ANYTHING (See Anonymous, “A Warning,”2019).
Until 12/18/2019, Demagogue Donald has been able to get away with just about anything. On that date, however, Donald was branded in the most negative way imaginable, joining a dubious “club” of two other Presidents. He was rightfully impeached under two articles by the House of Representatives. In Article I, passed by a 230-197 vote, Trump was impeached, the equivalent of being indicted by the House, for abuse of power by corruptly using the levers of government to solicit election assistance from Ukraine to discredit his Democratic rival, presidential candidate Joe Biden. In Article II, which passed 229-198, Trump was impeached for obstruction of Congress, or barring all his Executive Branch employees from testifying or giving documents to Congress dealing with this Ukraine investigation (See nytimes.com, Fandos & Shear, 12/18/19). Never mind that all House GOPers voted like robots in lockstep backing Trump. Never mind that the GOP-majority Senate under obstructionist leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to acquit him. McConnell has already made up his mind on this subject, contrary to what a fair and impartial juror in a Senate impeachment trial swears to do (See nytimes.com, Editorial, 12/18/19). The House impeachment vote will, however, always follow Trump throughout history. Demagogue Donald will forever be tarred by scandal and infamy, not the kind of branding Donald had in mind.
All the Democrats, with the exception of two, voted for impeachment in Article 1 and only three did not vote for impeachment in Article 2. For 21 Democrats, this decision was a tough one. They came from districts that Trump carried in 2016, but won rough races in 2018 against GOP incumbents (See Adam B, dailykos.com, 12/18/19). Their wins were key to the Democrats taking back the House and allowing them to check Trump’s illegal behavior with the constitutional punishment of impeachment. One of those Democrats was Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. Let’s meet Cong. Slotkin.
First-term Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (43) currently represents Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, CD. The post-2010 redistricted MI 8th is located in southern and southeast MI. This CD includes exurban Ingham and Livingston Counties as well as the northern, more rural parts of Oakland County north of Detroit. Almost all of MI’s capital, Lansing, and part of East Lansing sit in the 8th. The cities of Rochester, Mason, and Howell lie in the Wolverine 8th (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac).
East Lansing is home to Michigan State University (MSU), founded in 1855 as America’s first land grant college. Two GM assembly plants, state government, insurance companies, and growing MSU drive the 8th’s economy (Cohen & Cook 2020). Lansing, East Lansing, and surrounding Ingham County have become heavily Democratic. Forty years ago, Livingston County, east of Ingham County was rural, but has now become one of MI’s fastest growing counties with schools, malls, and subdivisions. The people who moved there are conservatives happy to leave Detroit’s urban problems. They are anti-tax and socially traditional. Livingston County is one of MI’s most GOP areas. The 8th CD’s more rural parts of Oakland County constitute more than one-third of that district’s vote. The 8th is 82.2% white. The current 8th CD is very swingy with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+4. Romney beat Obama by 3 points in 2012, while in 2016 Donald won here by 6 percentage points. However, the heavily Democratic trend and a big turnout by state workers and college students in Ingham County, which has nearly 1/3 of the 8th ‘s vote, has flipped this area “Blue” in some elections (See Cohen & Cook 2020).
Slotkin grew up in MI, where she spent her life on a farm in Holly, about halfway between Flint and Detroit. She attended secondary school in Bloomfield Hills, MI. She received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Her first week as a student in NY City occurred amid the 9/11 terrorist attacks a few miles away. In Slotkin’s words, “That terrible day changed the trajectory of my life. I decided that after graduate school, I would join the intelligence community and work to prevent further terrorist attacks.” Slotkin joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a Middle East analyst and was deployed to Iraq for three tours over five years. During that period, Slotkin had national security and intelligence assignments at the W Bush White House and State Department. Slotkin was well prepared for this service. Slotkin, who is Jewish, had previously completed a course in Arabic at Cairo, Egypt’s American University. She had also been a grant writer at “Isha L’Isha (‘Women to Women’ in Hebrew).” Slotkin, additionally, had been a Swahili language translator (Cohen & Cook, 2020, votesmart.org/candidate/biography, 2018). After Obama became President, Slotkin had several senior posts at the Defense Department. They included principal adviser to the undersecretary of Defense on security strategy and policy issues, plus acting assistant secretary for international security affairs. Slotkin worked on international negotiations in the fight against ISIS and in countering Russian aggression (Cohen & Cook 2020).
In early 2017, Slotkin decided to run for Congress. She wanted “to put our country and our community ahead of everything else.” Her decision to run for Congress was triggered when she saw a television report of 8th CD incumbent GOP Congressman Mike Bishop smiling at a White House ceremony that was celebrating the House GOP repeal of Obamacare without offering an alternative. She stated she could not allow such an action to stand and added, “In the military, this is called dereliction of duty. We decided to fire him (Bishop) that day.” She handily won the Democratic primary. Including funding from the two national parties as well as the candidates’ own, more than $25 million was spent on this general election race. Slotkin was able to define Bishop negatively over his health care vote. Bishop’s attacking Slotkin as a “carpetbagging outsider elitist” failed. Although Cong. Bishop carried Livingston and Oakland Counties, Slotkin’s 2:1 victory margin in Ingham County with its heavy turnout of university students and state employees gave her a 51%-47% victory. Slotkin was the first Democrat to win the MI 8th since Debbie Stabenow gave up that seat to successfully run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 (Cohen & Cook 2020).
In the House, Cong. Slotkin currently sits on the powerhouse Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, assignments suited to her interests and experience (See CQ, 116th Cong. At Your Fingertips). In her swingy MI 8th, Cong. Slotkin has voted 93% of the time with progressive Judiciary Committee member Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, projectspropublica.org, 2019-2020).
Cong. Slotkin was initially against impeaching Trump. However, after hearing about Trump’s extortion of Ukrainian President Zelensky, she and her four fellow moderate first-term Congresswoman with a background in national security, nicknamed the “badasses,” changed their minds and wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post. These women, Slotkin, Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and Elaine Luria (D-VA) joined Navy veteran Cong. Gil Cisneros (D-CA) and Army veteran Jason Crow (D-CO), also freshmen, in arguing that Trump’s Ukraine actions were severely detrimental to U.S. national security and merited investigation. Slotkin’s group opened the floodgates for moderates to join the more liberal Democrats, and gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) political cover to initiate impeachment hearings (See cnn.com, Bash & Nolan, 9/28/19).
Donald, of course, has relentlessly attacked Slotkin and her fellow moderate congressmembers. He conducted a MAGA rally close to her district at the time of the impeachment vote. The GOP is already running ads against her (endcitizensunited.org, 12/17/19). After Slotkin came out for impeachment, White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves personally attacked her for “selling out her constituents.” Groves falsely accused Slotkin of focusing since “day one” of Trump’s term on impeachment (detroitnews.com, Mauger, 12/17/19). After she came out for supporting the impeachment inquiry, Cong. Slotkin held more than four town halls across her MI 8th CD. She has received more than 1,500 phone calls and more than 6,500 emails and letters on this issue (12/16/19, freep.com, Slotkin).
In a fifth town hall meeting in Rochester, MI held on 12/16/2019, Slotkin was booed by dozens of Trump supporters for supporting Trump’s impeachment. However, most of the 400 people present leaped to their feet to applaud her for her impeachment stance (nytimes.com, Stolberg, 12/16/19). In her 12/16/2019 op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Slotkin explained that she would be voting for impeachment because Trump’s conduct with a foreign power, Ukraine, went to the heart of impeachment on national security grounds. In reaching her decision, Slotkin read and re-read all the reports and transcripts, looked at the Constitution and Federalist Papers, studied the Nixon and Clinton impeachment articles, and looked over House procedural rules. In that same op-ed, Cong. Slotkin noted that she had been told “more times than I can count that the vote I’ll be casting this week will mark the end of my short political career. That may be, but in the national security world that I come from, we are trained to make hard calls on things, even if they are unpopular, if we believe the security of the country is at stake. There are some decisions in life that have to be made based on what you know in your bones is right. And this is one of those times (latimes.com, Stokols, 12/18/19, freepress.com, Slotkin, 12/16/19).” Cong. Elissa Slokin, a modern “profile in courage.”
The MAGA GOP crowd will be out in force in 11/2020. The Democrats and independents who backed Slotkin and her fellow moderates throughout the nation in their town halls must do the same and then some when it truly counts, on Election Day, 11/03/2020. They must come out in droves to re-elect Rep. Slotkin and her fellow courageous Congressmembers in swingy and Trump-leaning districts. We must financially back them. Keeping the House in Democratic hands depends on our turnout. Should the Senate acquit Donald, which it probably will, the verdict of the “People’s House” must remain in history as a clear rebuke to Trump’s abuse of power.