Partisanship makes people do strange things.
The Indiana Republican Party sent out an odd email the other day. It urged people to buy T-shirts that say, “Impeach This” and feature a map of the United States that showed how much geographic area is red, or GOP-dominated. All proceeds, the email said, would go to fund President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
The timing was unfortunate. The email landed in people’s in boxes at about the same time the president beseeched China to intervene in U.S. politics.
This, too, was weird.
If China were to take a role in American internal affairs, it likely wouldn’t be to help the political party of the president who started a trade war with the Chinese. The Chinese already have crafted their responses to President Trump’s tariffs to hit staunchly red states, such as Indiana, the hardest. Now, the Chinese have a presidential invitation to take another swipe at us Hoosiers.
But that’s only a piece of the strangeness.
If this exploding Ukraine-impeachment story has demonstrated anything so far, it is that no sane person knows how it’s going to turn out. Shortly after the Indiana GOP sent out that email, we Americans learned of text messages from U.S. diplomats demanding that the Ukrainian president provide dirt on President Trump’s political opponent as a condition of U.S. support.
One of the president’s key talking points was that there was no quid pro quo in his communications with the Ukrainian leader. The texts demonstrate that there in fact was a quid pro quo.
Democrats should not rush to presume guilt with this president.
But neither should Republicans rush to pronounce innocence.
Another piece of oddness involves Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence, a former Indiana governor, has done a careful and complicated dance since news broke regarding Trump’s controversial Ukrainian conversations. The vice president has supported the president’s actions but also made it a point to say he knew nothing about them and didn’t take part in any of them.
Pence, as he often does, is trying to have it both ways.
He wants to send a signal to Trump and Trump supporters that he stands with the president while also preserving his viability should the president fall.
One might think the Indiana Republican Party would follow the vice president’s lead. After all, should Trump be removed from office, we would have a Hoosier in the Oval Office. That presumably would be good for both Indiana and the Indiana Republican Party.
There’s also Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, an Indiana Republican who has been shrewd and savvy enough to present himself and govern almost as if he were a non-partisan or post-partisan leader. He’s done his best to emphasize his gifts for conciliation rather than confrontation and to tout his quiet and very un-Trumpian ability to get things done without a lot of noise and drama.
“Impeach This” is hardly a Holcomb-like message.
In part, that may be because the governor understands the misleading nature of the map on the T-shirt.
It’s true that Republicans are the dominant political party for a much larger geographic slice of America than Democrats are. It’s also true that the space where Republicans prevail is much more sparsely populated than the places where Democrats are in ascendancy — and that the areas Democrats dominate are growing in population and wealth much more rapidly than the GOP strongholds.
This is true even in a Republican stronghold such as Indiana.
Smart Republicans — and Eric Holcomb is a very smart politician — know that they write off the cities and suburbs that now trend toward Democrats at the GOP’s peril.
But understanding that involves some thought.
Uncritical and unthinking partisanship such as the Indiana Republican Party email make such thought impossible. It can even blind partisans to things that are clearly not just in their own interest but in the interest of their party.
Again, partisanship makes people do strange things.
— John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheSatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.