Dear The Board,
So, to impeach, or not to impeach? Where do you currently stand on the issue? How would you like to see it play out vs. how do you think it would actually play out?
In the words of the new voice of our times, the irrepressible Billie Eilish,
Maybe it's irresponsible to do so, but I feel morally obligated to impeach without really having a sense for how it would play out. And I'm okay with that.
Donald Trump has obstructed justice, his administration is the most corrupt in living memory, and he has utterly disgraced the presidency. He utterly deserves impeachment. In a just or sane world, it would have happened already. That said, I do understand some of the pragmatic reasons against impeachment. This answer will have three parts: reasons to impeach, reasons not to impeach, and a partial rebuttal.
First, reasons to impeach:
- First and foremost, Donald Trump has done serious damage to the office of the Presidency. Impeachment is an acknowledgement that he is manifestly unfit to be President, that he has disgraced the Presidency, and that his behavior is unacceptable. It sends the message that the next President cannot extract personal profit from government, defy lawful Congressional orders, or employ a sycophantic cabinet made up of acting appointees to skirt the usual rules of appointment.
- Also, Donald Trump is a truly awful person and he deserves it.
- Democrats won a House majority in 2018 in part on the promise of holding Trump accountable. So far, their performance has been lackluster, and impeachment would turn that around.
- For the Democrats, 2016 was as much a failure to turn out voters as it was to win over swing voters. Impeachment will boost turnout on the left, and inaction will depress it.
Next, reasons not to impeach:
- Right now, while public support for impeachment is high among Democrats, it's unevenly distributed. The picture in swing states isn't particularly favorable.
- Impeachment will be lengthy, and with an election coming up next year voting Trump out might be faster.
- I suspect one of the biggest reasons for Pelosi's hesitance is that she knows she doesn't have her caucus unified behind her. If she can't get a majority in the House (or even if she can, but there are a few Democratic votes against impeachment), it will look terrible and could doom the entire endeavor.
- And, of course, the biggest problem: there is absolutely no chance that two thirds of the Senate will vote to convict Trump and remove him from office. The best-case scenario is that impeachment weakens Trump's reelection bid, and the most likely scenario is that it will be a symbolic move more than anything else.
And finally, a rebuttal of some of the reasons not to impeach:
- Public opinion is not static. It can be influenced by Congress. If public opinion isn't leaning towards impeachment, Congressional Democrats need to push it in that direction. It's downright embarrassing that Justin Amash, a Republican, has done more than any Democrat in the House of Representatives to make the case for removing Trump from office. The Democrats would do well to follow his example (and that of Elizabeth Warren, the only other member of Congress who I'm absolutely confident has actually read the Mueller Report).
- There's historical precedent, too - public support for Nixon's impeachment, initially low, rose as Congress investigated him and had reached an outright majority (including over a quarter of Republicans) by the time resigned.
- Besides, Trump's base alone isn't enough to win elections at the national level. There's no reason to wait for Republican opinion to shift on impeachment. Move the center, and that will be enough.
- If the Democratic House caucus isn't on board with impeachment, why isn't Pelosi whipping? She's Speaker of the House in part because of her skill at wrangling votes. She should be putting it to good use.
- Right now, Trump's reelection isn't looking likely. But his election wasn't looking likely in 2015 either, and look where we are now. If Trump does win in 2020, the case for impeachment will be much harder to sell.
- So what if the Senate won't vote to convict? Make them vote on it anyway! Make every single one of them own their defense of the Trump presidency. Make the Romney-Sasse Deeply Concerned Caucus pick a side. Make Susan Collins infuriate Maine's Republican primary voters or Maine's Democratic-leaning electorate. Put them all on the record and then use that record to win the Senate in 2020.
Based on all of this, I am unequivocally pro-impeachment. I recognize that there's a lot of work to do in order to make that happen, which is why it frustrates me that so far, Congress hasn't done nearly enough to put things in motion.
At the most basic level, our republic is built on a system of checks and balances, intended to ensure that any action taken by the government would be in the interest of the whole nation, not just some loud/powerful minority or even a slim majority. That system has been eroded, both by changes to the system (such as the direct election of senators) and by the failure of the legislative branch to properly curb the executive branch's expansion of power. The legislative branch has not been jealous enough of the power assigned to it by the Constitution, preferring the efficiency of just letting the presidents do whatever they want, as long as they have the same letter next to their name on the ballot.
Obviously, there are a few exceptions on both sides. Rep. Amash is a good example of that, as one of the only Republicans still pushing back against President Trump and calling for his impeachment. But the sad truth is that the main bulk of both parties fall in line too easily for the system of checks and balances to work. Democrats call to end wars, unless Obama is the one waging them. Republicans speak out against gun control, unless Trump is the one enacting it. Both parties call for the arrest of Julian Assange, unless the leaks in question at the time are about their political opponents.
I have always thought that the allegations of "collusion" or the concerns with Russians meddling in our elections were a bit silly - after all, does anyone really think that we don't do the same thing around the world? Regardless, the Mueller report* shows that Trump engaged in corrupt behavior to obstruct the investigation, and the argument that you can't obstruct justice if there is no crime is absurd. Impeachment is the only method available to discipline the president, and if the House of Representatives doesn't do it, they testify by their inaction that Trump's behavior does befit a president, despite what they may say to the contrary.
I think that the odds of a conviction in the Senate are slim, but it's not about that. It's about making a point: impeachment means that we draw the line somewhere, even if it means not crossing that line ourselves when it's convenient.
*I haven't read it, and my understanding of it is based mostly on Rep. Amash's Twitter threads on the topic, along with several articles that concur with him.
I'm not here to go into the real, complex politics of how this is gonna work out. I'm here to jam to "Politik" by Coldplay and tell you that I think our toupee-clad over-ripe mango of a president deserves to be impeached (Oh wait, he can't be a mango because he put a tariff on Mexico, as if causing more financial trouble to a country is a good way to stop people from fleeing to seek refuge in the U.S.?) Obviously we can only impeach him for criminal charges. But he is a criminal, at least for obstruction of justice, and heaven only knows what else. Beyond criminal offense, I want him impeached for 1 main reason:
Trump is a crappy person and I hate his stupid face.
He's prideful, heartless, cruel, sexist, bigoted, racist, rude, thoughtless, uneducated, immature, and a terrible representative for our country. He's done anything BUT make America great. If anything, he's made us a laughing stock. And it hurts to think that he might get away with it and walk out of a finished term with a stupid grin of 'victory'.
Maybe that's just me... but I doubt it.
Whoa Nellie, what I want to know is why Pelosi is so muted about it. This is the real story. Either the Dems are in disagreement about the timing, or there's something that most of them don't know but Pelosi does.
The downside of impeaching Donald Trump is that Mike Pence would become President. But hey, it's still an improvement right?