Last night, The Washington Post’s Rachael Bade looked at the standoff between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the progressive Democrats over impeaching Donald Trump. Bade pointed out that the momentum for impeachment has stalled out because Pelosi quashed it and that members of her caucus are afraid to publicly oppose her. Democrats give great weight to Pelosi’s political acumen, which hinges on attacking Republicans for supporting Trump rather than impeaching the president. She also seeks more obvious public support, even with the odds that the Russian employee in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, will not convict Trump.
Far be it for a wizened, little, old 74-year-old political junkie in the hinterlands of South Texas to dispute the wisdom of the Beltway, but I think Pelosi and the Democrats are wrong. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to the meme posted here, believes the Democrats in the House need to do their job. Or, they will continue to not only look feckless but will continue to embolden Trump and enable more damage to the Republic.
The two key issues about impeachment are timing and calculus.
As far as I am concerned, the inquiry should start now. And the enforcement of the subpoenas and holdings of contempt against those already stonewalling the totality of requests can and should be part of the impeachment inquiry. This approach gives the House Democrats time to show to the Nation how the Trump administration violates the law and debases the Constitution. If Trump’s open embrace of illegal foreign help for this 2020 campaign in George Stephanopoulos’ interview isn’t bad enough, impeachment hearings will expose what Trump and his Russian allies have done and will make clear his obstruction of justice.
Some have noted that Bill Clinton’s impeachment backfired against the Republicans and are using that as the rationale for holding off. I think to base calculations on the Clinton case is an error. This isn’t lying about fellatio. This is about treason and destroying our country in league with an enemy state. Don’t forget, as the Nixon impeachment hearings unfolded, support for his impeachment and likely conviction in the Senate grew. I believe this will occur with this case.
The impeachment vote itself and referral to the Senate for trial is a matter of timing and the calculation. If the calculation is that the Senate, in the face of overwhelming evidence, fails to convict, Trump may claim vindication. But, how much of the country will buy it? And, how much of the country will accept those Republican senators standing for election in the face of overwhelming evidence? Those are the key calculations the Dems must make and craft their tactics accordingly.
The Republicans must make similar calculations. If, in the face of overwhelming evidence, they protect Trump, they have to face the possibility of losing their elections; and, if they look at the situation and see that to save their seats, they have to turn on Trump, will they?
These months between now and November 2020 will slip away faster than we realize. In my view, there’s no downside to the inquiries in the context of saying, “These are for impeachment.”
The risks come in the next steps.