When Nancy Pelosi was finally dragged into launching an impeachment inquiry last month, it felt as though the Democrats had finally turned a corner from talking about the existential threat to the country posed by Trump to acting like they might do something about it. And despite the worries from Pelosi and other House moderates that pursuing impeachment would be politically unpopular, it appears that a combination of the snowballing Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry has already turned dismal polling on its head.
This is supposed to be a serious deal. Presidents aren’t typically doing things that Congress suspects might be impeachable, even if there’s no shortage of moral failures that presidents take part in every day that should be impeachable. And it stands to reason that if Democrats really think Trump should be removed from office, they should attempt to limit his influence going forward, at least until the question of impeachment is resolved.
That’s pretty much the opposite of what’s happening. In fact, the Democrats are poised to help Trump pass a sweeping new trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, which is being touted as a replacement for NAFTA. The New York Times reports, emphasis mine:
Top lawmakers in both parties and others closely following the talks said that substantial progress had been made in resolving the sticking points, and that a decisive House vote on the accord to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement could occur before Congress departed for Thanksgiving.
The deal may be a rare bright spot in an otherwise dysfunctional dynamic that has taken hold in the capital, and it owes its progress to a coincidence of timing, productive negotiations that have unfolded behind closed doors for months and political necessity for two parties that each has distinct reasons to hope it succeeds.
“We are on a path to yes,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week in one of the strongest signals yet that she would put the full weight of her leadership behind passage of the agreement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“We are going to demonstrate simultaneously that you can govern,” House Ways and Means chair Richard Neal, who took months to try to compel Trump into releasing his tax returns despite having clear legal authority to do so, told the Times. This echoes Pelosi’s insistence for months now that despite wanting the president to be thrown in jail, she also wants to do prescription drug and infrastructure deals with him.
The Times portrays the Democrats helping Trump pass NAFTA 2.0, a promise from his 2016 campaign, as something that’s necessary not just for Republicans but Democrats, who are apparently supposed to be terrified of this famed mythical voter who both loves Donald Trump and cast a ballot for the Democrats in 2018:
For Democrats, the accord is a way to give lawmakers from swing districts a broadly popular achievement to show constituents, and a way to counter criticism that they have accomplished little during their time in Washington, which has more often consisted of passing legislation that dies in the Republican-controlled Senate.
While we don’t have much polling from these swing district seats, one taken by Change Research in the days after Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry found support and opposition for impeachment roughly divided. And setting aside from the question of whether or not both parties relentlessly obstructing each other is a sustainable way to run the federal government, this version of politics ignores that this is exactly what Republicans did during the last six years of Barack Obama’s presidency, to great political effect. If obstruction was the political landmine that Democrats think it is, they would have taken back congressional power way sooner than 2018.
As Times writer Jamelle Bouie pointed out: Assuming some worldbending event doesn’t happen between now and the time the 2020 election rolls around, the most significant variable that’ll determine how Democrats do is just how noxious Trump is. One way to limit the effect of impeachment is to assist him in achieving one of his signature campaign promises, making him look like the President Deals he’s been pining to be this entire time.