This piece was published on liberal sites on May 8, 2019.
It is well known that — on the whole — the Democrats in Congress (e.g. Speaker Pelosi) are afraid of going down the path of impeachment. Here’s why I think that fear is misguided.
(Put aside the very important point that — with a President who poses such a profound threat to this nation and its constitutional order — considerations of political advantage should not govern. So, considering just the politics….)
The fears center on
** the fact that at present only a minority of Americans (approx. 40%) favor impeachment;
** the likelihood that Republicans in the Senate will stick with Trump and so even if impeached this President will not be removed;
** the expectation that if he is acquitted in the Senate Trump will trumpet how he’s been exonerated and will be strengthened and emboldened in his quest for re-election.
Really? That way of looking at the path ahead gives good grounds to fear that impeachment will be politically costly to the Democrats?
I don’t think so. I think that is just the same Democratic timidity that has contributed to bringing us to this point threatening to make us take once again the path of “caution” that turns out instead to be the path of disaster.
It is the Republicans, not the Democrats, for whom the impeachment process poses a significant political danger.
Trump, Public Opinion, and the Politics of Impeachment
My position rests on two premises:
First, that the true picture of Donald Trump’s conduct presents a set of “high crimes and misdemeanors” well beyond anything ever seen in an American President. (The Mueller Report should suffice to damn Trump, but there’s more as well that could be exposed through an impeachment process.)
And second, that if this picture is presented to the American people through impeachment hearings (comparable in quality to the Watergate hearings back in the 1970s), a very substantial majority of the American people will be appalled by what they see and will see impeachment as not only appropriate but necessary.
I doubt that the Trump True Believers — the “Trump could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and not lose his voters” crowd — can be any more than 1/3 of the electorate, if that.
That’s appalling enough, but who would you rather be: the Democrats, who are proceeding the way 2/3 of the people think right, or the Republicans, if they make the choice everyone now expects– namely, to protect a President whose ugliness, lawlessness, greed, and betrayal of the nation have been fully exposed through a long process on national TV?
(Some might say that the American people already know what the impeachment process would expose. But I doubt that public knowledge is nearly so well-developed as that, even if a great deal of the information has already been coming out bit-by-bit over the past two or three years.)
Whether the Republicans would actually stand by Trump, after all that public education remains to be seen. But what seems clear is that it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who would be in a dilemma: they can stick by the President and please most of their base but be seen by the majority as corrupt partisans, or they can go against Trump and antagonize a large number of the voters on whom they depend.
All of which means that — if the case for impeachment is overwhelming, and if plenty of Americans still care about protecting our constitutional order — the Republicans who have tied themselves so tightly to Trump will be in real jeopardy.
(And the Democrats? They would be seen by that substantial majority as having done what the nation needed them to do, having been faithful to their oath of office.
(And that “Shoot somebody on 5th Avenue” crowd? They were likely never going to vote for Democrats anyway.)
If Trump were acquitted in the Senate, sure he’ll claim that his innocence has been established. But as for him riding high? The shameful, foul, grotesque picture of him that will have been painted over many hours of nationally televised hearings will make that all seem to most Americans a contemptible lie– one more reason for Americans to want to be rid of him.
It is of great importance that we go into the next election with as many Americans as possible knowing as much of the truth as possible about Trump (and, by extension, the Trump Party).
Lindsey Graham’s Prophecy Belatedly Fulfilled
Back in May of 2016, Lindsey Graham tweeted: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed… and we will deserve it.”
That prophecy didn’t come to pass as quickly as Senator Graham presumably expected. And in the meanwhile, Graham has sold his soul to this President he had previously described as “crazy” and “unfit for office.”
But in all this, Graham is a fitting representative of the Republican Party as a whole.
They not only nominated Trump, but they’ve stood by him even as Trump’s criminality has become increasingly clear.
The time has come for the American people to be shown the whole damning picture in the spotlight of an impeachment process.
And finally, what Lindsey Graham foresaw as the consequence for the Republicans of tying themselves to this unthinkable President will come to pass. Destroyed, and fully deserving of it.