I hope the Democrats in the House are clear-eyed about this: the time will surely come for impeachment hearings. (Not instead of doing all the positive things for the American people – on health care, the minimum wage, infrastructure, voting rights, prison reform, or whatever – but alongside those things.)
First, let it be said, what those of us who have paid close attention already know: there’s no doubt that Trump warrants impeachment. Even just the information publicly available now provides abundant evidence of impeachable offenses.
But it’s true that the nation as a whole – not yet so well informed — is not ready for impeachment. So the way must be prepared, and what will provide that necessary preparation is an effective presentation to the public of the picture of Trump’s wrong-doing.
Making sure that this picture is presented well is the Democrats first job– whether that be through their own hearings as a public process of “finding out the truth” or through presenting and exploring the truth as reported by the Mueller investigation, or a combination of the two.
This will serve as a means to educate the American people.
What will almost surely emerge is a picture of blatant corruption and criminality, along with abuses of power to obstruct justice. And quite possibly even betrayal of the nation to our adversary. In response to the laying out of this picture, if it’s done right, most of the American people will be ready for the impeachment process to proceed. They may even cry out for it.
So, although impeachment is not a starting place, it is an inevitable destination. It’s necessary, it’s right, and it’s even politically smart.
Some, of course, disagree. Here I’ll address one specific objection I’ve heard more than once to the idea of the House impeaching Trump.
Impeachment would be a mistake, they say, because the charges from the House would only fall short in the Senate, where the Republicans are in a majority, and where a two-thirds majority is required to actually remove the President from Office.
Better not to have struck at the king, these liberals argue, and then failed to remove him. Having “beaten the rap,” the fear is, Trump would only become bolder and more powerful.
Even assuming that the Republican-dominated Senate would, in fact, acquit the impeached Trump, I think the consequences of that scenario would be quite different.
(I’ll just note that, though the assumption that the Republicans in the Senate would support Trump seems obviously true now, it might prove otherwise once Trump has been exposed in the devastating fashion that would be possible.)
Although Trump’s having been impeached but not convicted might enrage him, for having been exposed, and make him dangerous in that way, I maintain that this exposure of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” of this President, by the process of impeachment, would weaken him by driving Americans to turn against him (perhaps all but the “Shoot on Fifth Avenue” true believers).
Weakening Trump would be reason enough to impeach. But there’s more.
If we assume that the Republicans would vote to acquit, no matter how repulsive the picture of Trump that emerges, then impeachment will provide a means not only to weaken a lawless President but also to drain away power from a Republican Party that has been a wrecking ball on this nation since well before Trump came on the scene.
Over the course of a generation, this Republican Party — as it grew increasingly dishonest and corrupt — created the context in which a monster like Trump could become President. They created the base that could look at Trump –a lying, bullying, sadistic, narcissistic man who likes to pick fights and insult people, and has only a tenuous connection with reality – and like what they see.
And now the GOP has chosen to become the Trump Party—totally tied to this corrupt and dishonest President. Trump’s fate becomes their own.
If the Republicans were to continue to side with a disgraceful and disgraced President — even when the darkest picture ever of an American presidency has been laid out before the American people — the voters would quite likely do to the Republican Senators in 2020 what they did to Republican Representatives in this 2018 Blue Wave election.
So in this way, too, initiating an impeachment process – even if removal from office proves impossible — is likely to be politically beneficial for the Democrats, and good for the nation as well.
But political benefit is hardly the only reason for the Democrats to impeach this corrupt and lawless President.
Even if it were not the case that conducting impeachment hearings (at the right time), were good politics for the Democrats; even if it were not a good way to take power away from the destructive force that has hijacked the Republican Party increasingly over the past quarter century, culminating in this unthinkable Trump presidency—even then, there would be a strong reason to impeach Trump.
Our founders told us that the most important political task we have as a nation is to “protect and defend the Constitution.” The Democrats have taken a sacred oath to do so. Honoring that oath is important– not just for the honor of those who took the oath, but for all the vital reasons our founders put that oath into our founding document.
To not impeach after we all have been shown what he’s done, to let him continue to fill that vital office and wield the great powers of the presidency, would be to accept the unacceptable. It would be to discard the standards and rules that keep us free.
To fail to impeach under such circumstances – for whatever reason of political calculation—would itself do great damage to our constitutional order.