The Atlantic Politics Daily: America’s Divisions May Get a Whole Lot Worse

Where do parties—and people—stand before the impeachment inquiry’s public phase begins? Plus, Yoni Appelbaum on how America ends and Adam Serwer on the “false promise of civility”

It’s Tuesday, November 12. We’re watching: ❖ The Supreme Court heard arguments in the Trump administration’s bid to end the Obama-era DACA program, case that hinges on a question of administrative law. ❖ The first public impeachment hearings begin Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET.

In today’s newsletter: ❖ Where the public, the GOP, and Democrats stand on impeachment. ❖ Yoni Appelbaum on how America ends and Adam Serwer on the “false promise of civility.” ❖  Finally, a word on The Atlantic’s new design.


(Damon Winter / The New York Times / Redux)

Where do parties—and people—stand before the impeachment inquiry’s public phase begins tomorrow?


About 83 percent of Democrats support impeachment. Just 12 percent of Republicans do, according to a broad analysis by FiveThirtyEight.  

With the American public about to get a window into the impeachment fight, polarization may get a whole lot worse.

One reason is that the divisions between left and right are “not just two ways of interpreting the same set of facts, with a gentleman’s agreement to disagree,” my colleague Emma Green writes. “They’re totally separate understandings of reality, based on the assumption of the other side’s bad faith.”

Party affiliation isn’t the only impeachment divide. Women are far more likely than men to consider Trump’s actions worthy of his removal from office. That’s partly because women skew Democratic—but the skew doesn’t explain everything.


So far, there are few cracks. When House Democrats moved to officially vote on launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump last month, the vote was framed in anodyne, procedural terms. Still, not a single Republican went along.

But Republicans publicly staying loyal to the president doesn’t mean they don’t murmur behind closed doors. One senior Republican Senate staffer told my colleague McKay Coppins: “If it was just a matter of magically snapping their fingers … pretty much every Republican senator would switch out Pence for Trump. That’s been true since day one.”

On the Senate side, we’ll have to wait and see. When McKay profiled Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, he found a Senator who—possibly more than any other Republican in Congress—is musing openly about the possibility of removing Trump from office.


When the news of that Ukraine phone call hit in September, many House Democrats still wanted nothing to do with impeachment. Now virtually all are on board.

One tipping point: a Washington Post op-ed from a group of moderate Democrats, all with national-security or military backgrounds, in support of impeachment proceedings. One of those Democrats, Representative Elissa Slotkin, told my colleague Edward-Isaac Dovere how she came to change her mind.

Vulnerable Democrats have a tough choice ahead of them: How will they vote on the actual articles of impeachment?

While swing-district Democrats may think they can boost their reelection chances by bucking their party, they may be better off by going all in on impeachment, Ron Brownstein writes.

Here’s a refresher on who’s testifying in public this week.

🗓On Wednesday, November 13:
Bill Taylor: His “testimony delivered a still-warm pistol with Trump’s fingerprints all over it to congressional investigators,” our politics writer David Graham argued, after Taylor first testified on October 24.

George Kent: “Kent’s story seems emblematic: Despite his expertise on [Ukraine] and his long record of service, he alleges he was sidelined … in favor of [Rudy] Giuliani,” David noted of Kent’s October 15 testimony.

🗓On Friday, November 15:
Marie Yovanovitch: “[H]er account reflects a tendency that is already clear: The federal government is terrified of Donald Trump’s Twitter account,” David argued, after transcripts from her October 11 testimony were released.


(Photograph: Sam Kaplan; prop styling: Brian Byrne)

In the latest issue of our magazine, a stunning range of writers examine how America has arrived at its polarized state today, and how it might recover.

Our Ideas editor Yoni Appelbaum traces the political process that has brought America to its most fractious moment in recent memory.

The United States is undergoing a transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced: Its historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority—and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests.

Read Yoni’s full essay.

Our staff writer Adam Serwer rebuts the “false promise of civility” using lessons from Reconstruction as a guide to today’s battles over civil rights.

In the aftermath of a terrible war, Americans once purchased an illusion of reconciliation, peace, and civility through a restoration of white rule. They should never again make such a bargain.

Read Adam’s full essay.


The Atlantic has a new look, informed by our 162-year history. Read our editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg’s conversation with our creative director, Peter Mendelsund, about the bold new design.

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Today’s edition of our daily newsletter of political ideas and arguments was written by Saahil Desai and Christian Paz, and edited by Shan Wang.

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