Whenever I listen to Democratic Party “strategists” dismiss the idea of impeachment out of fears that it will help Trump win re-election, my thoughts turn to the lion in the Wizard of Oz who was seeking courage. By basing all of their decisions on polling, these pundits and strategists have shown they lack the conviction of their own beliefs. They are little more than weather vanes – always reacting to the direction the political winds are blowing. And, in doing so, they have caused long-term harm to the future of the party and the nation.
Just look at their recent record. The strongest and most eloquent Democratic member of the Senate, Al Franken, was forced to resign without due process by Democratic leaders pandering to the Me-Too movement. Representative Ihlan Omar was publically shamed and forced to apologize for having the courage to speak up about the out-sized role of AIPAC and Netanyahu in US politics. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has largely been left on her own to defend herself against scurrilous GOP attacks. And instead of using all of the powers granted to them by the Constitution to compel testimony, Democratic-controlled committees have patiently awaited the courts to enforce the subpoenas of administration witnesses, allowing Trump to continue to run out the clock until the 2020 election.
Now ask yourself: What would Republicans do if the roles were reversed? We already know the answers. GOP officials have always circled the wagons around those who have been accused of sexual assault, racism and other antisocial behavior. They have ignored the many outrageous statements made by Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Steve King and others. They have looked the other way from the administration’s corruption. And most continue to support Trump despite his crimes and despicable behavior.
Democratic leaders justify their refusal to call for an impeachment inquiry against Trump by pointing to the rise of President Clinton’s job approval following his impeachment. First, let me state that an impeachment inquiry is not impeachment. It is an investigation. If the House doesn’t find enough evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, it doesn’t have to vote for impeachment. Second, they should note that, despite Clinton’s job approval, Republicans still took control of the House and the White House in the following election.
Further, the crimes and circumstances are starkly different. Can you really compare the impact of impeaching a president over a sexual indiscretion with an impeachment investigation into a president who gained office with the help of our nation’s greatest adversary; who welcomed and encouraged Russian interference; who provably committed obstruction of justice trying to derail the investigation into his campaign’s complicity with Russians; who resorted to witness tampering and suborning of perjury? A president who is in obvious violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause? A president who refuses to reveal his tax returns, likely because of questionable financial ties to Russian crime bosses?
When the details of this president’s crimes are put on public display in congressional hearings, do you really think voters will show sympathy for him and vote for him in 2020?
Some Democratic Party strategists argue that Trump is setting an “impeachment trap” – that he actually wants to be impeached in order to ensure his re-election. This supposes that Trump is an evil genius who is just daring Democrats to impeach and, in doing so, they will fall into his carefully laid trap. That argument is laughable. Trump may be good at branding and manipulating the media, and he’s certainly good at creating fear and division. But a genius? Hardly.
Based on his panic over the Mueller report, I believe he is actually terrified of impeachment. An impeachment inquiry would give Congress access to information that was unavailable even to the Mueller team. Rather than exonerate Trump, it’s likely to reveal a large number of yet unproven crimes, such as tax fraud and money-laundering. Moreover, an impeachment inquiry is likely to have little negative effect on Democratic prospects for the 2020 elections. No matter what happens, Trump has already accused Democrats of treason; of trying to implement a coup; of trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Indeed, he and his new fixer, William Barr, have already begun an investigation into the “oranges” [sic] of CIA and FBI “spying” on his 2016 campaign. That nonsense is already baked into the 2020 campaign.
What’s more likely to damage the outlook for Democrats in the 2020 election is weakness and indecision. We already know that 35 to 40 percent of Americans support Trump. Given that his supporters only believe what Fox News and other conservative media tell them, they will vote for him no matter what happens. Likewise, for those independent voters who haven’t yet made up their minds about Trump (if they even exist), an impeachment inquiry might reveal details that give them reason to either vote against him or to stay home on election day.
The voters Democratic leaders need to most worry about are those in their own base. Since Democrats are the majority party, voter turnout is critical. Failing to hold Trump accountable could well demoralize Democrats. But an impeachment inquiry is almost certain to energize Democrats to vote.
If all of that isn’t enough to convince Democratic leaders to do the right thing, they should re-read Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution which states, “The President, Vice-President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (Note that it says shall. Not can, may or if it’s convenient.) If gaining the office with the help of a foreign adversary, failing to follow the Constitution, obstructing justice, suborning perjury and witness tampering don’t qualify as high crimes and misdemeanors, it’s difficult to imagine what would.
Finally, they should look to the recent town hall meeting held by Rep. Justin Amash for inspiration. A staunch conservative, Amash is the first member of the Republican caucus to call for impeachment. And, when he laid out his case to his skeptical constituents, they rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation – proof that it pays to have the courage to do the right thing.