Opinion

Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment

Democrats have nothing to gain by pursuing the matter

Before we start, let me say that I am not unaware of the hostility toward President Trump that is said to exist in certain quarters. It is my understanding that the vast majority of people who hold elected office and have a D after their names do not, in fact, like him very much. I have even read words — hundreds of thousands of them, probably — in which it is argued that doing things like complaining on Twitter or making personnel decisions fully within the scope of his authority as head of the executive branch are grounds for his impeachment. State legislatures are inventing wholly new crimes with the intention of charging Donnie with them after he leaves office.

As I write this, Democrats, from centrist hacks like Jerry Nadler of the House Judiciary Committee to that esteemed freshman critic of government waste Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are clamoring for Trump's impeachment on various ill-defined grounds. (So is Justin Amash, a Republican congressman from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who also believes that sending aid to the people of Flint is unconstitutional. It takes all kinds to make a #Resistance, I guess.) There is a reason Nancy Pelosi is ignoring them. It is the same reason that she is the speaker of the House. Pelosi understands that impeachment is a non-starter, something from which her party stands to lose a great deal and gain — well, what exactly?

To take them in reverse order, what is it that Democrats who are calling for the president's impeachment think is going to happen? Never mind the shaky arithmetic in the House — they would need 218 of the 235 current Democratic representatives to vote yes, 31 of whom represent districts won by Trump in 2016. The Republican-controlled Senate under Mitch McConnell is never going to remove a member of their own party from office; in fact, I would not be surprised if Cocaine Mitch simply refused to consider the articles of impeachment in the first place. Impeachment in the House would be a purely symbolic gesture, something that would excite grassroots types and the donor class. It would not diminish the president's power or weaken his standing among his own base. In fact, it would very likely have the opposite effect.

Hard as it might be for Nadler and AOC and the pink hat-Green Dream crew to believe, there are people in this country who do not quite share their assessment of the president. Most members of Trump's base are traditional Republican voters; many are not, and some of them will need reasons to show up on election day in 2020. It would be hard to think of a better pitch than 15 or so months of complaints about the need to take revenge for his illegitimate, phony, totally fake, bulls**t impeachment.

Far more important than what liberal resisters or diehard Trumpists think is the opinion of the great confused mass somewhere in the middle, who may or may not have voted for the president in 2016 but nevertheless find the idea of his being impeached ridiculous. The idea does not poll well. Millions of people were persuaded by what Democrats ran on in the 2018 midterms: actual concrete policies related to health care, entitlement programs, education, infrastructure, the environment, and loftier if hopelessly vague notions about “compromise” and “reaching across the aisle” and “getting together with the president to get things done on behalf of the American people.” Impeaching Trump for something you cannot explain in the space of a sentence or even a paragraph does not sound like fair play, an ideal to which many of these voters have some kind of delusional attachment.

So what happens when Pelosi emerges from this week's meetings with her members still convinced that impeachment is folly? A leadership coup? Calls for her replacement by Rosa DeLauro? The emergence of a new, ideologically purer Democratic party might be a good thing for some progressive causes, but somehow I doubt that the average rank-and-file Democrat in Congress cares more about these things than about beating Trump.

Which is exactly what Pelosi wants to do next November at the ballot box.

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