A couple of aphorisms come to mind when looking at the Ukraine whistleblower scandal. At its core, the scandal is about unintended consequences and deception weaving a tangled web. While there have been many unintended consequences of President Trump’s request for a favor from the president of Ukraine, one of the most unintended will be if the scandal boots Elizabeth Warren to the presidency. At this point, that looks like a real possibility.
In theory, Donald Trump’s intent on requesting that the Ukraine investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, was to make the elder Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, a weaker candidate in the general election. That strategy may be working.
While there has so far been no proof of wrongdoing by Joe Biden, the standard of evidence is much weaker in the court of public opinion than in the court of law. Hunter’s seemingly shady connections with Ukrainian and Chinese companies taint his father, even if hard evidence of corruption is hard to come by. As conservative sites and the mainstream media dig into Hunter’s business dealings, there is no way of knowing what will turn up even though statements by Ukrainian prosecutors are glowing enough that they might even spur one to tweet, “Complete and Total EXONERATION [sic].”
Nevertheless, as an elected official, Biden (as well as Trump) should have followed the Apostle Paul’s advice to “abstain from all appearance of evil.” Now the appearance of impropriety threatens the electoral ambitions of both men.
If the scandal causes Joe Biden to slide in the polls, Elizabeth Warren is the obvious beneficiary. As Warren climbed in the polls over the past few weeks, the buzz was that Republicans wanted her to be the Democratic nominee because they thought she would be easier to beat, especially after prominent Wall Street donors said that they wouldn’t back a Warren candidacy.
However, rooting for a bad opposition candidate is risky business. Many Republicans wanted to run against Barack Obama in 2008 because they thought he was unelectable. In fact, Rush Limbaugh urged Republicans to cross party lines as part of “Operation Chaos” in the 2008 primary to support Obama because he was “the weakest” of the Democratic candidates that year. Likewise, in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign tried to pump up Donald Trump in an effort to weaken the eventual nominee. Are you sensing a pattern here? In this day and age, it seems that no candidate is truly unelectable, especially when faced with a weak establishment candidate.
Trump’s plan to weaken Biden backfired when the whistleblower complaint became public knowledge and weakened the president’s own position. Polling shows that there is widespread disapproval of Trump’s actions and support for impeachment has surged since the details of the phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky have emerged. While there is still a long way to go until the election, even the non-Native American senator from Massachusetts is leading Trump in the polls and it is far from clear that the president could win against her, especially after months of yet another investigation and more unhinged tweets tarnish his image even further.
Of course, an Elizabeth Warren presidency is not a fait accompli. Trump could beat the odds (again) and pull off an upset. There is also the chance that Trump’s re-election campaign will be derailed by either his resignation or removal from office by the Senate. Trump’s newfound weakness could also provide an opening for a Republican primary challenger. A different Republican would stand a much better chance against Warren.
It is also possible that the plan to discredit Biden will fail. The Hill reported yesterday that Biden’s favorability has not dropped since the onset of the scandal. In contrast, Trump’s approval has slid over the past week by more than a point in the FiveThirtyEight polling average, with some polls showing his as low as 39 percent. The flip side is that Warren does continue to rise in the Democratic primary polls while Biden has slipped.
There is no way to know for sure how it will play out, but the Ukraine scandal has upended the 2020 plans for both sides. If Elizabeth Warren becomes president, Donald Trump’s decision to ask Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden will have played a pivotal role.
This article originally appeared on The Resurgent and is used by permission.
David Thornton is a professional pilot, freelance writer, and regular contributor at The Resurgent.