In recent times, like a lot of Democrats, I’ve been impressed with the leadership being provided by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House. So it gives me no pleasure to take issue with her.
But I think some things do need to be said.
First, it seems fine to me that, as Speaker, she’s expressing hesitations about impeaching Trump. I also support those Democrats who are raising the issue, but I think it’s good politics for the leader to tamp it down. With 42% of the American people already supporting impeachment, but 54% NOT supporting it, as I’ve written here before (The Democrats and the Impeachment Question: Worrisome Signs), the best approach is to emphasize finding the truth (Investigation) and then seeing whether it leads to the other I-word (Impeachment).
But then Speaker Pelosi goes further. 1) She says that any impeachment process needs to be bi-partisan, and 2) She talks about how impeachment will ‘tear our country apart.”
As for the first point, I’ll just refer to that earlier piece where I argue that — if the investigations show the pervasive criminality, corruption, etc. of this President, as I think one can reasonably expect — the Democrats should “overcome the timidity” that has “too long weakened them” and
recognize that scenario [of impeachment in the House, but Republicans in the Senate refusing to convict] not as posing a threat to themselves, but as presenting an opportunity to flog the “Trump Party” for their hypocrisy, their opportunism, their violation of their oath of office, and their failure to put nation ahead of Party.
But I’d like to focus on the second point, about tearing the country apart.
She’s probably right that impeachment would have that effect. We might hope that the 42% in favor of impeachment will climb up to a clear majority, as the American people see and hear the results of the investigations. But it is not realistic to expect that anything can be exposed that will make deep inroads into Trump’s “I Could Shoot Someone on 5th Avenue” contingent.
The issue with Pelosi’s trepidation, therefore, is not with whether she’s right about the strains and conflicts that would be involved in taking the constitutionally mandated measures to deal with presidential criminality. The issue, rather, is whether it is wise for Democrats to give avoiding that conflict decisive weight in their choice about impeachment.
And the main point to be made there is this: Today’s Republican Party has been tearing this nation apart for many years. One can go back to the divisiveness of Gingrich, and Limbaugh, and Fox News, and Karl Rove. One can cite how W deliberately chose to torpedo the national unity following 9/11, using his “war on terror” to gain political advantage, starting in the 2002 mid-term elections. And one can recall here also how the Republicans were already gearing up to impeach Hillary, when they expected her to win the 2016 election.
And most immediately, of course, we can just look at the President they’ve foisted upon the nation: Donald Trump, whose every issue seems chosen in order to “tear our country apart,” whether it be the NFL players who kneel, the Muslim ban, the wall to keep out Mexican rapists and other criminals, or…. He’s the only President we’ve ever seen who has NEVER tried to become President of ALL the people, but only cultivates his base and turns them against the rest of the country.
So the fight is already upon us. It’s a question of whether Democrats will rally to join in that battle, or whether — like Pelosi, apparently — they will shrink from that battle in order to keep the peace, when there is no peace to be kept.
We might recall the decision that President Obama made upon taking office, replacing a presidency that had committed more crimes (as I understand the facts) than any presidency before it. Obama decided to “look forward, not backward,” meaning to let those offenses go unpunished, forgotten, rather than to actually make sure that the laws be faithfully executed.
(Every prosecution involves looking “backward,” for except in a situation like the sci-fi film “Minority Report,” we cannot prosecute people for what they’re going to do, only for what they’ve already done.)
What was said at the time about President Obama’s decision was that he was afraid that the Bush base would be so angered by anyone’s holding W and his gang accountable that it would divide the nation in unpleasant ways.
And how did that work out? What we saw is that Obama waved his olive branch, and the Republicans whipped up their base into the same set of anger, resentment, and eagerness for conflict that Obama was seeking to avoid.
The Republican base does not require Democrats doing the right thing to get infuriated. So the Democrats might as well go ahead and do the right thing.
The war is upon us. It has been upon us for more than a quarter century. The effort to avoid it has entailed forfeiting battles that needed to be fought.
Since there is no escaping that conflict, the task is to choose the right battlefield.
And what better battlefield is there than over this Republican President who represents as clear and blatant and flagrant an offense against this nation as any President in our history, and — if the Republicans will not join in — against this Trump Party that is more profoundly morally bankrupt than any political Party America has ever seen.