I lately wrote:
I would think that it would be perfectly obvious that if one party in a two-party nation became progressively more disgraceful and destructive, while at the same time becoming ever more powerful through democratic elections, there must have been something seriously wrong with the other party.
But I don’t see any sign that this obvious conclusion has been seriously considered in Liberal America’s Democratic circles.
This comes to mind as the issue of impeachment is rising to the fore in the American political system.
So far the Democrats are proceeding responsibly and appropriately, with all deliberate speed.
They are entirely right to make “Investigation” their I-word at this stage. As with the Watergate investigations, the first task is to flesh out whatever is the true picture of the Trump presidency with respect to criminality, abuse of power, obstruction of justice, corruption, and/or betrayal of the nation. All to be done as publicly as possible so that the American people absorb that picture, and as many citizens as possible understand the choice at some future point to shift toward the next I-word, “Impeachment.”
Already, according to a Quinnipiac poll just published, 64% of Americans believe that President Trump committed crimes before becoming President, and most of those believe he has continued to commit crimes as President, as well.
Those numbers are already amazing. But it is best for the nation that those numbers be maximized, so that as large a segment of the American people as possible regard any explicit turn toward impeachment as a necessary step. (Already, Michael Cohen’s public testimony has led to a 6% increase – to 42% — in the percentage of Americans who say they want Trump impeached.)
As for whether impeachment will be called for, as one who has followed the cascade of information very closely, I see no room for doubt: the grounds for impeaching Trump, I feel confident in asserting, will prove vastly deeper and more extensive than was the case for any president impeached in the past (Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton).
So far, so good.
Yet one can discern some signs that give rise to concern: will the defects of Liberal America – and its political arm, the Democratic Party – that have enabled the destructive force that has taken over the right to become so powerful as to put a person like Donald Trump into the presidency — lead to the failure of the Democrats in Congress to handle the impeachment issue the way the nation needs?
I’m concerned, for example, about the expressions of trepidation one hears from some Democrats who fear that it will be politically damaging to the Democrats to go down the impeachment road.
One hears, for example, the fear that if the Democrats impeach, they would be recapitulating the same error of “overreach” the Republicans made with Clinton, for which the electorate punished them in the elections of 1998.
Such fears seem to bespeak the same sort of blindness that has afflicted too many Democrats in this era – blindness to the extraordinary nature of what has arisen on the political right. Is it really possible not to see the utter dissimilarity between the Clinton and Trump issues?
Clinton’s failures were about his sexual misconduct as an individual who happened to be President. Trump’s have to do with serious misdeeds committed in his presidential role.
The American people rightly viewed impeachment over the Lewinsky affair as a partisan congressional abuse of the impeachment power: the attempted punishment did not fit the crime.
Conversely, the misdeeds of Trump are of such gravity that it is a failure to impeach that would be a monumental lapse of congressional responsibility.
(Given the nature of Trump’s offenses, it should be pointed out, even if the fears that impeachment would be politically “risky” were valid, failure to impeach would be a dereliction of duty—a duty spelled out in the oath of office everyone in Congress has taken to protect and defend the Constitution. The whole purpose of an oath is that fulfilling that oath is not optional, and calculations of personal advantage are irrelevant.
So while fretting is permissible, failing to impeach when it’s necessary is not.)
Assuming I’m correct in my assessment of the unprecedentedly dark picture that will be exposed, the failure to impeach Donald Trump — besides being a violation of the oath of office – would effectively eviscerate the impeachment clause our founders gave us. How could any President be impeached in the future, if Trump never faces impeachment despite the rampant “high crimes and misdemeanors” already visible?
It is for that reason that the argument that it is not so far into the future that it will be possible to remove Trump through the 2020 election should be rejected. The defense of the Constitution requires the message be given that presidential abuses like Trump’s are not to be tolerated.
Let it not be said that when faced by a profoundly lawless President, neither of America’s two major parties did its duty: one because it had chosen to be that President’s accomplices, and the other because it feared that doing its duty would expose it to the wrath of voters.
Which brings us to another of the troubling signs of Democratic weakness: talk that impeachment should not be undertaken unless Republicans in Congress get on board, thus making the Democrats less vulnerable to charges of acting from “partisan” motives. (E.g. Dana Milbank, in an otherwise mostly excellent piece, writes that Democrats should “keep our powder dry on impeachment unless and until Republicans join us.”)
One form this argument takes is that while the House could impeach, the Republicans in the Senate will never vote to convict. And the Democrats will be in the position of having “struck at the king” but failing to bring him down.
The fearful see that as a political disaster. One envisions such a scenario – impeachment proceedings in which the Republicans protect Trump and leave him in office – as leaving Trump “vindicated” and the Republicans victorious only if one is ruled by fear.
There’s a completely different political results from that scenario that’s possible if the Democrats come from a bold and righteous place, rather than from a fearful one.
Just think how the Republicans will have exposed themselves if – after the impeachment proceedings in the House and the trial in the Senate expose the full extent of Trump’s criminality, corruption, abuse of power, violations of the Constitution, etc. – they vote to acquit!
Surely, the great majority of the American people can be helped to see – if they don’t already see it for themselves – that far from making the Republicans victorious, their actions expose their total moral bankruptcy.
Can anyone point to a single instance in the past quarter century – as this darkness has taken over the Republican Party – when the Democrats erred in the direction of being too aggressive, too eager to fight, too willing to denounce the Republicans?
Was that the Democrats’ error when W violated the ban on torture (among many other offenses)? When the Republicans practiced across-the-board obstruction to make Obama fail? When they twisted “advise and consent” to steal a Supreme Court seat?
If Democrats can overcome the timidity that has too long weakened them, they should recognize that scenario 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.
The strategy I think best: Do the right thing, and do it with boldness and dignity. Rally the American people with a powerful case for why it’s right. And let the chips fall where they may.