Preface: According to me: the two most important truths of this moment in America are 1) the nation desperately needs for the impeachment of Donald Trump to begin; and 2) the failure of the Democrats to be moving as if they recognized that urgent need clearly demonstrates that the nation needs the Democrats to turn to new leadership — leadership that will go all out to do what needs to be done.
I very much like to be right, but sometimes I really want to be wrong. And so — hearing lately some people I really respect saying things like what I’ve been saying — it really makes me heart-sick. I don’t want it to be true that in this historically most significant crisis surrounding this corrupt and lawless (and dangerous) President, the Democrats are blowing it.
I very much like to be right, but sometimes I really want to be wrong. And so — hearing lately some people I very much respect saying things like what I’ve been saying — it really makes me heart-sick. I’d rather have been wrong. I don’t want it to be true that in this historically most significant crisis surrounding this corrupt and lawless (and dangerous) President, the Democrats are blowing it.
Someone I respect highly, for example, has declared himself bewildered by why the Democrats would have capitulated to Hope Hicks on letting her testify behind closed doors. The whole point of these hearings is supposedly to expose to the American people, through the television cameras, the powerful picture of Presidential criminality that’s in the Mueller Report (but has not gotten through to the people as it must). What’s the use of a written transcript when we’ve already more than enough written testimony from Mueller’s team—enough to persuade 1000+ former DOJ officials of Trump’s criminality. Surely the Democrats have long understood that the American people need to see it. So, behind closed doors?
I feel heartsick, wondering just what kind of thinking is going on with Pelosi, Nadler, et al. that would lead to a decision to allow their hard-won witness to hide from the people—hide whatever she would disclose, and hide the indefensible Trumpian stonewalling, obstruction of justice, and contempt of Congress’s proper constitutional role.
I’d rather be wrong when I’ve lately argued that the way the Democrats are handling impeachment is clear evidence that the Democrats need new leadership. I’d really love to see our present leadership marching us into the battle that the nation desperately needs for us to fight and win.
So it gives me no pleasure to hear another commentator I hold in great respect suggesting that the Democratic leadership – far from being frustrated by Trump’s attempts to delay and run out the clock – actually seem to share that goal of running out the clock, playing the whole process out over so much time that the Democrats need only go through the motions of holding this lawless, corrupt President accountable.
That was a suspicion that had crossed my mind, but I had generally tried pushing it away. But now I’m not sure.
The Democrats are certainly not working very hard to bring things to a head, as they surely could by invoking “inherent contempt” and sending the sergeant at arms to arrest people to be held by Congress until they comply with the congressional subpoenas — subpoenas that are not the least bit optional.
(And I gather that even when the Democrats are taking things to court, they are not jumping right on it, as if they were in a hurry to conduct business essential to the protection of the Constitution and the nation, but are proceeding in a more desultory way.)
And of course they could also press the battle to bring things to a head by launching an impeachment inquiry. The idea about Democrats needing new leadership, is founded on my other main point: that impeachment is absolutely clearly necessary for a whole host of major reasons.
(Any step that calls attention to their rightness — their doing what our founders wanted them to do — and to the criminality of the other side is politically a good move to make.)
The failure to press the battle in such ways represents — I’ve also been arguing for a very long time (“Hoping this Time Democrats Will Avoid Their “Characteristic Error”) — the perpetuation of the disastrously weak and ineffective way the Democrats have been fighting for a generation against a Republican Party that’s been taken over by a destructive spirit like nothing we’ve ever seen in a major American political party.
The Democrats shouldn’t be governed by hear in dealing with this clear necessity for impeachment. But clearly, theyare – as we hear how they fear what will be the political consequences for them in 2020 if they fulfill their oath of office.
(Their fear has led them to seriously misread the balance of opportunities and dangers with the path of impeachment. – See my “The Real Political Peril in Impeachment is to the Republicans— Not the Democrats.”)
But I get it that the Democrats are being led by people of the generation that’s been outfought by the Republicans for decades, and that for whatever reason has regarded the battle with fear– regarding the prospect of intensifying the battle as a dangerous thing they’d shy away from. So it is necessary to take that fearfulness and hesitancy into account.
E.J. Dionne has proposed an approach that could help the Democrats get over the hump.
The intermediate approach proposed by E.J. Dionne In a Washington Post column, the other day, Dionne proposed an intermediate approach: give Trump an ultimatum, demanding that he fulfill the constitutional requirements of the President in dealing with Congress exercising its constitutionally mandated role(s) of congressional oversight and perhaps the body with the legal authority to deal with any issue of Presidential criminality. Demand that Trump completely end his various forms of unjustified (and often unprecedented) presidential stonewalling and contempt of Congress and obstruction of justice – and open up all necessary doors (access to witnesses and documents) within 60 days .
And the “or else” behind the Dionne’s ultimatum is that if he fail to do so, that will trigger the beginnings of the impeachment process.
Which is entirely correct: After all, what Trump is doing now is in violation of a significant piece of the Constitution and is all by itself not only an impeachable offense but quite sufficient grounds to impeach.
So the Democrats can extend to Trump a choice between shaping up and fulfilling his oath of office, or triggering the Democrats doing what they — and everyone else, Republicans as well — are required to do by their oath of office.
Dionne’s approach has the virtue of making Trump himself the guy who triggers the process, sparing the Democrats from taking the initiative they seem to be afraid will not sit well with the voters they want handing them power in 2020.
(I would wager that that fear about the voters represents another one of those bogus, fear-driven misperceptions that weaken the Democrats: given that the picture of Trump’s impeachability is almost beyond what Americans could have previously imagined in a President, why should it not be possible to present to the American people a picture whose dramatic and blatant and ugly qualities come across powerfully to the great majority of the public. What does it say about either the people or the Democrats that the Democrats are more fearful than confident about getting the public behind saving the very heart of the nation our founders gave us?)
So Dionne gives the Democrats a way to get where they need to without taking any bold initiatives.
But it’s not clear whether the Democrats are working to find a “safe” way to do what needs to be done, or whether – under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership – they are trying to avoid dealing with the absolutely necessary impeachment of Donald Trump – necessary for so many huge reasons – and to focus instead on getting victory in the electoral process.
(And by the way, I think that it is a most foolish electoral strategy. It is my impression that a large chunk of the people they are worried about care more about their leaders showing strength than about their showing much of anything else (including the kind of virtue Nancy Pelosi is trying to enact when she complains about how “divisive” impeachment is, when the need is to impeach a President who does nothing but work to divide us.). And so – if the Democrats, of fear, refrain from impeachment when this President is trampling all over them and the Constitution – these voters will look at the Democrats as weak and decide they don’t want weaklings like these acting as their champions, and protecting them in a dangerous world.)
Taking care of the Trump challenge and taking care of 2020 are really two sides of the same strategy: the battle against Trump, rightly fought, will boost the Democrats and might help demolish this toxic and morally bankrupt Republican Party.
Which is why I’ve called for Elizabeth Warren – whom I have come to believe may well have the right stuff to provide that “new leadership,” and who, while circumspect, seems not to be governed by fear – to deliver a speech to the nation to push for impeachment, trying at once to get public opinion where wise American public opinion would be, and to push the Democrats out of their posture of forfeiting the battle and into proper battle mode against a President Trump, and a Trump Party.
It is that Party and that President that have brought us to this time described by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler as “the time of testing whether we can keep a republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government, as other republics have over the centuries.”
Until the Democratic leadership takes us in the direction of pressing the battle that American desperately needs for the Democrats(and us Americans generally) to fight and win, I expect I will be feeling this very painful, heartsick feeling. This is not the kind of world that I want to be living in, the one described by W,B. Yeats — in a line I’ve been quoting regularly since W’s second term:
“The good lack all conviction, while the worst // Are filled with a passionate intensity.”
Oh how I yearn to get to a time when the Good are swept up in a “passionate intensity” (one fully matching what has been filling those aligned with the force of destruction that has gained so much power in America)— a time when the Good bring in the drama in our world a depth of conviction that inspires such passionate determination to defend the Good against the Evil.
It would do my heart so much good.