Default to Pence is no solution
Though the toothless, underwhelming Mueller report blunts the impeachment rush, let’s keep the longer term, big national picture in focus. Dumping one conspicuous sleaze ball won’t reverse 30 years of oligarchic, autocratic, right-wing domination, nor the awful, cumulative negatives that ripple forth. Two centrist Democratic presidents failed miserably to change overall dynamics, namely to fashion a New New Progressive Deal to resurrect the American Dream for the many, not the few. If the despicable Trump isn’t a grievous step backwards, nothing is.
The Senate, the cabinet, the judiciary and Supreme Court, plus state houses, are still worse than ever. Citizens United payola still reigns, and not enough states have agreed to commit all their electoral votes to the popular presidential vote winner. However appealing, forget ending the Electoral College in our lifetimes – or any other Constitutional amendment. Ditto, reparations or federal terms limits. That way lies distraction and divisiveness – reminiscent of hundred-to-one lottery plays.
Even if Trump and Pence were tomorrow seized by extraterrestrials (even quicker than impeachment!), what about the 40% of aggrieved loyalists who stand by a criminal administration and party rewriting records for lying, high crimes and bad faith? Until years of gross Republican malfeasance in governance is exposed and discredited (like cutting health care, vote-fixing or denying a legitimate supreme court hearing), the USA will remain the most divided, globally dangerous and morally backward of affluent western nations.
The most important progressive task is to convince unhappy centrist Trump supporters, even a few disheartened zealots in key states, how miserably the Great Hustler has failed to deliver on every major, people-serving promise: better, wider health care, balancing the budget, fairer taxes, critical infrastructure, growing quality jobs, or reducing outsourcing woes, let alone building that outlandish Wall Horror or even one step forward in serious overseas conflicts. Did I mention counterproductive tariff wars or environmental blindness?
So the target must always be larger than Trump – not just if or when it’s strategic for the House to impeach. We’re not talking moral or legal purity but the majority of voters taking back government – and with a coherent, strategic plan that culminates in legislative advances. Frankly, I prefer a full year of House inquiries that could well shred Trump and Republican re-election chances. Of course such inquiries will have to be sting more than the costly, way-too-time-consuming Mueller bomb. I happen to think a disgraced Trump – however destructive overall – has been and will continue the best lever for advancing progressive agendas and candidates.
So I caution against righteous indignation towards the most powerful Democrat simply because she wasn’t (and isn’t) gung ho for amping up impeachment talk. Mueller, alas, reinforces what now looks like her prudence. A successful POLITICAL impeachment (and that’s what it is, not legal convictions “beyond a reasonable doubt”) does need more than the Democratic minority to produce long term, systemic payoffs.
So I challenge Marc Ash’s RSN essay, though he’s hardly the only leftist rejecting Speaker Pelosi’s latest expression of her impeachment reluctance. More hyperbolic, and sounding more upset than most, he concludes that Pelosi’s stance “makes a mockery of everything.” “Everything” covers a wide swath and “mockery” seems overblown. Can’t one disagree without overstatement? Need we remind everyone she wasn’t tossing off personal opinions, but representing her now formidable Congressional faction?
In any case, Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.) and others won’t give up: “If the facts require us to initiate removing the president, we are obligated to do it.” Or Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.), who criticized Pelosi’s suggestion that Trump is not “worth” impeaching: “The question is whether the republic is worth it.”
Impeachment activist Tom Steyer blasted out his predictable, and not unjustified outrage, “is defending our legal system ‘worth it?’ Is holding the President accountable for his crimes and cover-ups ‘worth it?’ Is doing what’s right ‘worth it?’ Or shall America just stop fighting for our principles and do what’s politically convenient?”
Certainly “worth it”!
Pelosi’s “not worth it” language was at best ill-advised, even artless. However, I read this putdown as her way to reduce the media-obsessed, “Trump personality/brand” leverage. Skilled at crude PR moves, he’s more charismatic for his crowd than any Democrat is yet for their voters. Is it untenable for her to demand some Republican support before firing off the House majority’s most potent cannon? “You’re wasting your time, unless the evidence is so conclusive that the Republicans will understand,” she told USA Today, otherwise, impeachment is “a gift to the president.”
I understand and sympathize with the absolutely justified hordes, right or left, who want to obliterate the swampy stench from our worst, most divisive, least capable president. And I don’t, like Pelosi, criticize the important impeachment threat for that will continue to restrain the president from even worse, more disruptive behavior. As Congressman Brad Sherman commented, otherwise Trump “would have fired Mueller. He would have done at least a dozen other terrible things. Who knows what crosses his mind?”
At least Pelosi was clear what (electoral, governance) standards for her outweigh doing “minority” impeachment, as national polling still falls short of the 50% threshold: “Our focus is on what we said we would do: health care, job creation, cleaner government, gun safety, issues like that . . . if I’m somebody in the public who is feeling that financial pain, and I see us focusing on one thing or another – but not on my financial interests – that is not a source of hope for people.”
I hardly agree most of the time with the establishment Pelosi, but I do support focus not on what now seems a more precarious “negative” process, and focus on what improves people’s lives. My progressive politics says nothing surpasses motivating the majority to the polls to express what they want. National surveys overwhelmingly support what Dems defend, especially on key issues, especially health care and drug costs. That only happens if Trump loses badly in 2020 and the Senate control changes. Those are prizes worth savoring, resetting a national direction way over due.