(Updates at end: 11:15am, 5/18/2017)
The “I” word.
It’s time to talk about it, Democrats.
As stories mount, and mount, that Donald Trump has not been faithful to the oath of office, one House Democrat (not named Maxine Waters), one House Republican, and one Senate independent have broached the subject. Yet, most Democrats refuse to even talk about it. Nancy Pelosi won’t. Bernie Sanders, a not-quite Democrat, says he’s “not there, at this point.”
Well, they better get there, and quick.
It is time for Democrats to call for an impeachment inquiry – hearings that investigate these matters, gather the facts, and determine if they warrant impeachment – all at the same time.
As this situation grows more serious, a few things are becoming clear:
- More is going to come out about Donald Trump and Russia, as the intelligence community hurries to gather evidence.
- The Democratic base is starting to ask why Democrats won’t talk about the painfully obvious – that, if true, what’s been reported would be impeachable charges.
- The GOP will not stop protecting Donald Trump until they have no other choice. And even then, they’ll do the bare minimum to hold Trump to account, relative to the Democrats’ position, so they look like they’re compromising.
- Until/unless there’s a smoking gun, the GOP will not start up impeachment.
The last point is the most important. The GOP is not going to actually cave to Democratic calls. So, get out of your head any idea that hearings will start too early, and end up fruitless. Impeachment inquiry hearings won’t happen, unless there’s no room left for the GOP to wiggle.
But even without hearings happening, just calling for an impeachment inquiry addresses the other three points.
First, it gives something for the Democratic base to get fired up for. Everyone I speak with in progressive politics is telling me that they’re seeing some of the enthusiasm of “The Resistance” starting to wane, a bit. Calls for an impeachment inquiry gives them something solid to rally around.
Second, it strengthens the Democrats’ position, pressuring the GOP. By that, I mean that when the GOP finally decides to do anything on TrumpRussia, it will be relative to the Democrats’ position. If Democrats call for a special prosecutor, Republicans will do something less than that.
It’s not so different than the passage of Obamacare. The mistake Democrats and President Obama made was opening their negotiations with what they saw as an acceptable end-position. The Republicans weakened it, forcing Democrats to take out the public option, and more, and still voted against. The result was a bill that Democrats didn’t really love, that Republicans opposed, and that was full of holes.
If Democrats’ opening position is a special prosecutor, or an independent commission, it leaves too much room for Republicans to do something weak, but still look like they’re compromising. But, if Democrats’ opening position is an impeachment inquiry, suddenly the GOP has to do a lot more, to look like they’re compromising. Perhaps the GOP answers the calls for an impeachment inquiry by impaneling an independent commission.
Finally, the Democrats will be out ahead of the curve, not chasing the news as it gets worse and worse for Trump. They should call for an impeachment inquiry now, and let the news catch up to them. Every new revelation will justify their position.
Democrats need to stop running away from their own shadow, and they need to stop negotiating with themselves. It hasn’t served them well before, and it isn’t serving them well, now.
In the end, that smoking gun may come along, forcing about actual impeachment. But Democrats do not need to wait for that, nor should they. In fact, every day that they wait is a day where their position grows weaker, and their base becomes more and more turned off to them. That doesn’t help their cause.
It only helps Donald Trump.
UPDATE: A special prosecutor, former FBI Director Mueller, has been called. Nancy Pelosi, smartly, does not give up her call for an independent commission. But that begs the question, “If you’re going to hold firm, why not hold firm on the strongest negotiating position?”
UPDATE 2: This story is so depressing. Anonymous staffer after anonymous staffer essentially cites not having enough evidence to convict as a reason to not call for an impeachment inquiry. This misses the point – the GOP is not going to call an impeachment inquiry. On Earth 2, some alternate universe where Democrats do control Congress, then sure, maybe you want to hold off on convening an impeachment inquiry. But, they don’t. It simply makes no sense to strategize off fantasy scenarios. Yet, that’s what Congressional Democrats are doing.
As I laid out above, the point of calling for impeachment is to create pressure and an undertoe that drags the GOP towards an independent commission, as a middle ground. The GOP is always going to do less than the Democrats want. If the Democrats start off with an independent commission, the GOP will do something less than that. It’s amazing how many times that has played out, and how many times Democrats do not learn the lesson.