Houlahan deserves credit for careful consideration on impeachment

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

By now, America has absorbed the fact that President Donald J. Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.

While Republicans in Pennsylvania had little choice but to submit to the cult of Trump personality — conform or suffer electorally fatal Twitter attacks from the president — Democrats, like our own Rep. Chrissy Houlahan approached the issue of whether to vote yes or no with more solemnity and careful study, rather than caving to political reflux.

Houlahan was among the last to decide to vote to approve both articles of impeachment, and sources close to her said she spent most of last weekend studying everything from the Constitution to all of the various reports and testimony on the matter before rendering a decision — not caving to the easy choice of a rubber stamp yes.

Serving in a district where Trump lost (Trump lost Chester County by 9.5% in 2016, which makes up most of the district) in 2016 and is likely to lose again in 2020, she might well have been best served electorally by a snap yes, rather than a careful deliberation.

As a careful reading of the source materials and watching of the hearings reveal, it is increasingly apparent that President Trump used military aid and a White House visit as leverage to force the Ukrainian President to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden — the current Democratic front runner for the Presidential nomination.

Worse, Trump has stonewalled all Congressional investigations — offering a blanket denial of all relevant subpoenas for administration witnesses and documents.

And while there are other issues — too few people apparently read the Mueller Report, which lists 10 incidents of Trump being actively involved in obstruction of justice — the two counts against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are more than enough to warrant both impeachment and removal.

If these actions aren’t enough to warrant impeachment and removal, then what would be?

Unfortunately, while the House passed the articles on a largely party-line vote, it seems clear that not only will the U.S. Senate not vote to convict, it will not hold anything like a meaningful trial.

If that comes to pass, we all should remember the role of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey. Unlike some of his colleagues, Toomey has both intelligence and some sense of honor — yet at this writing it appears that Toomey will be little more than a rubber stamp for Trump’s misconduct.

One would hope that Pennsylvanians will remember Toomey’s role in 2022, when he is up for reelection. While there are some rumors he might opt to leave the Senate to run for Governor that year, he should be forced to explain himself, his actions and his seeming betrayal of his own rhetoric since winning election in 2010.

The facts of the this case should rise above petty partisanship and there should be a price for those who fail their oath of office.

Houlahan rightfully deserves praise for taking care in reaching a deeply considered decision.


President Trump came to Hershey last week and not for the chocolate.

Trump was here because he knows Pennsylvania will likely decide the next president of the United States. Rest assured that Chester County will likely play a pivotal role in that, as well.

First, understand, Chester County is no longer a swing county. It is a Democratic county and will be relied upon to boost statewide Democratic vote, a role long held by Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Scranton and so on.

The collar counties surrounding Philadelphia could drive massive Democratic vote totals, not just dooming Trump here in 2020, but dooming Republicans running for governor and U.S. Senate in 2022.

As noted above, if Pat Toomey runs for either, memories will be long and voter anger will loom about his failure to live up to his own stated principles of smaller government, free trade and recognizing the geopolitical threat of Russia. His failure to stand up for his own beliefs could well make both offices out of reach for him.

Undoubtedly, both Toomey and Trump will be hurt in their statewide efforts by Chester County.

After generating about Democratic 140,000 votes in each of the last even-year election cycles, Democrats are understandably bullish about their prospects in 2020 and beyond. But the math means there are likely some upper limits on what is possible — all the more crucial as they seek to find more than 100,000 votes statewide to make the difference in the presidential election in 2020.

A safe bet: Chester County pulls in about 160,000 Democratic votes in November, 2020. Aside from that meaning a sweep of congressional and state legislative seats (with the exception of the 13th District which seems likely to stay in GOP hands), that should add about 20,000 votes statewide.

With similar boosts in Delaware, Bucks and Montgomery counties, Democrats should be able to count on getting to that 100,000 added vote total. Additionally, better GOTV efforts in the northeast — Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — could add another 20,000 votes.

Will 120,000 more votes be enough to defeat Trump in Pennsylvania?

Probably, but not definitely.

What number would be a lockdown? The best case scenario number: 180,000 Democratic votes in Chester County in 2020. Aside from the rhetorical value (Help America Turn Around, get Chesco to 180K), if there are 40K additional votes (which would require turnout to be near 85%, a big jump from 2016’s 77%), Trump would be doomed, the entire Democratic legislative slate would win (and probably become a majority in both houses of the state legislature).

Make no mistake, 180K votes is a really, really high bar and it may well take a perfect storm to accomplish.

But every 1,000 votes over 160K will dramatically increase the likelihood of Democrats winning in Nov., 2020, both the White House and the state legislature.


So, who will Trump find himself running against? My sense is that it will be Joe Biden. Understand this isn’t a statement of support — I’m nowhere near a choice there.

But Biden continues to be the safe option in a world where Democrats have one uniting goal: removing Trump from office. Biden, too, can be seen as a comfortable option for independents and moderate Republicans (both will be needed for Democrats to win).

And while a newly energized left is pushing for ideas like Medicare For All, free college and so on, the more liberal side of the party may be getting a bit ahead of themselves.

While there is broad support for doing something incremental on both fronts, massive, revolutionary change — at least in this moment — has a pretty low comfort level with a majority of voters. Biden represents a return to normalcy, a return to more traditional values in government.

That’s why he’s my bet to win the Democratic nomination and be the 46th President of the United States.

On a related note, our thoughts, prayers and best wishes to TJ Ducklo, a Philly-based national spokesman for the Biden campaign who announced this week on Twitter that he has been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. He plans to remain with the campaign as he undergoes treatment — we wish him the best and will be pulling for a full and speedy recovery.


To say that 2019 has been a complicated year is an understatement. With all of its highs and lows, I’m humbled to see The Times’ reader traffic continues to rebound after a bit of slump in 2018.

For us to return to covering some of the things we did previously (school boards and municipal governments), that added traffic will need to mean added advertising revenue. Right now, we’re just about breaking even, an improvement from losing money last year. Here’s hoping 2020 continues that trend and allows me to spend more time working here and less working elsewhere (with two kids in college, I have to spend my time where the money is).

For all of our fabulous readers, I’d like to wish a happy holiday season (not everyone celebrates the same year-end holidays and I’m not getting into any stupid culture war stuff) and a happy and healthy new year in 2020.

We’ll be back with new columns after the new year.

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