The Problem With Impeachment
This post was originally published at smerconish.com
Unfortunately, in today’s political realty the battle cry of “Party First” takes precedent over “Country First.” We all know that. With this idea, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives could impeach Trump with the proverbial pictures of him shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, and the Republican controlled Senate would acquit him by claiming the picture, the gun and the dead body were all fake.
So, if we know the outcome, why play the game in the first place? Well there are a couple of reasons. First, it’s Congress’s job. If they felt that the President obstructed justice or worse, it’s the right thing to do. Politically, they may want to do it because the loudest voices in the party are calling for it. On the other hand, we keep hearing that in the past, calling for impeachment of a President only makes him more popular, which could impact the outcome of the 2020 election. What’s a political party to do, the right thing or the most politically viable thing?
While the most principled person would say you always do what is right, regardless of the expected outcome, it is important to remember the words of Voltaire who wrote “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Of course, he didn’t write in English, so what he actually wrote was, “Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien,” but since few of us read French, what good would have come from a “perfect” reprinting of his exact words?
So, if we are aiming for societal good, it is possible that a “perfect” approach will not reach the desired goal.
A large portion of political conversation is dogma, theories and assumptions. From the commentary side, it’s designed to scare viewers so that they feel the need to return, hoping for a more reassuring update. For instance, I hear that the Democratic Party needs to embrace the views of the far left, because, well, they are the loudest and people we hear most, so they must be the majority, and if we don’t give in to the majority, they won’t support the candidate that wins the nomination. A couple of problems there. They aren’t the majority, and if they don’t like the candidate that the party nominates where are they going to go? To Trump? That’s not happening. A third party as a protest, or just refusing to vote is possible, but hopefully we all learned a lesson from 2016, when the Berniacs stayed home or voted for Jill Stein, because they felt that Hillary wasn’t perfect.
On the other hand, there are 40 Democratic House members who are sitting in seats that Republican held in 2018. If the voters of those district don’t like what they hear from the Democrats, might they go back to voting red? Possibly, and since Trump carried 13 of those districts and they only need to regain 18 seats to flip the House back, you’re playing with fire if you demand extremism over moderation.
Those preaching moderation will have you believe that if Democrats do more than merely say the word impeachment, that will push those swing voters towards the Republicans as retribution. After all, that’s what happened 1998 with Bill Clinton, and as political philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Of course, British documentarian Adam Curtis said, “Sometimes history repeats itself. And sometimes it doesn’t.” Taking a closer look at 1998 we can see significant differences between then and now. First and foremost is that we are much more partisan than we were 20+ years ago, which means those who are already locked into their left/right vote aren’t going to change their position no matter what Congress does. That just leaves the ever-shrinking group of voters in the middle, who are either independent and open minded, or most likely, don’t pay attention to anything that is going on in this country politically until right before an election.
So, what should the Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats do? I think she’s got the right idea: slow walk the process until the summer of 2020 when actually impeaching Trump would seem too political, so close to an election. Ignore those voices that are disappointed that Mueller didn’t jump from his seat and yell “J’accuse”, which in this case does sound better in the original French and pay no attention to those that feel any continued mention of impeachment will lead to Trump’s re-election.
Instead watch the politics progress like sand through an hour glass. Congress won’t be back till September, so nothing can happen till we’re 14 months from the election and Congress left town with a lot of their plates to deal with when they come back. There will be the time for committees to go to court in order to make Trump do what is constitutionally required of him. Since there is little chance that this will be rushed, that process should fill up most of September and October.
Come November, the Democrats should announce that the White House is refusing to provide any information or witnesses, so the only way to get the courts to rule that they must is to open an impeachment inquiry. Since finding information regarding crimes and misdemeanors is congresses constitutional job, the courts will act more quickly and by late November they will rule that the White House must provide what Congress is asking for.
The White House will of course refuse, and Congress will adjourn for the Christmas recess. Come January, after charges of Contempt of Court and various ramifications of that Contempt, the White House will slowly deal out some materials, which Congress will reveal publicly. Nothing explosive just more minutiae which will allow both sides to publicly complain about the process.
In February the primaries start, more information dribbles out, which undoubtably will not look favorably on Trump but which his base won’t care about, and this process continues on till about June at which time the Democrats have a candidate who, looks at the calendar, is shocked that it’s only four months till the election and Congress wasn’t able do the “right thing.”
At which point the candidates campaign, while focusing on healthcare, the environment and all those regular issues, also repeats the damaging information found by Congress, and promises that come January 20, 2021, they will make sure that their new Attorney General will use their full power to investigate and prosecute if necessary. Perhaps not what the so-called left “majority” would desire, but a bone to those on the left who have been demanding an impeachment for over a year and are threatening to sit out the election if they don’t get what they want. Basically, a promise that if they help vote Trump out of office, they will ultimately reach the same goal. How could the extreme left not see that as good if not perfect result?