Photo: Susan Walsh (AP)

One of the recurring themes in the many “will they or won’t they” impeachment intrigue stories about Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats is the idea that Pelosi is protecting members in swing districts, particularly freshmen, from making a tough vote. The New York Times published a story on Sunday focusing on these Democrats, annoyingly termed by writer Sheryl Gay Stolberg as “majority makers.”

Stolberg writes:

In a House that can be dominated by loud voices on the left, these lawmakers — all freshman Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018 — form the backbone of a quiet power center, and centrist “majority makers” like Ms. Sherrill, Ms. Slotkin, Ms. McBath and Ms. Spanberger, all from districts won by Mr. Trump, will most likely have the final say on impeachment.

[...]

More than 40 Democratic newcomers captured Republican seats last year, and nearly all are on a list of 44 incumbents known as “front-line Democrats” who are deemed endangered by the House Democrats’ campaign arm. Many say their constituents have expressed little interest in impeachment, and polls back that up: A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday found that Americans oppose opening an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump by nearly a two-to-one ratio.

First off, the Quinnipiac question was actually, “Do you think that Congress should begin the process to impeach President Trump, which could lead to his removal from office, or don’t you think so,” which is not the same as “oppose opening an impeachment inquiry.” When Quinnipiac asked whether “Congress should investigate to determine whether or not to bring impeachment charges against President Trump, or don’t you think so?” the response was statistically tied.

Beyond that, the Times story has all the tropes about the House caucus that are rapidly becoming overplayed. These are the members of the “quiet power center,” for example, unlike the “loud voices on the left.” Those who urge a more conservative line on the impeachment inquiry question are “deeply troubled” with the Mueller report’s findings that Trump repeatedly tried to obstruct justice, but nonetheless think Congress needs to “bring the public along.” There are calls for more evidence, even though Trump has ordered former White House officials not to comply with subpoenas.

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And there’s this, which pops up incessantly in comments made by members of the Democratic leadership and House Democrats looking to avoid the impeachment question, to the point where it’s almost a punchline despite the seriousness of both of these things:

Representative Abigail Spanberger of Virginia swats away the question: “I’m focused on prescription drugs and infrastructure.”

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The next time my editor asks me when I’m filing, I’m going to tell him I’m busy working on prescription drugs and infrastructure.

The subtext of all of this is that unlike the more progressive House freshmen—namely Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—these Democrats are thoughtful and don’t want attention, which is supposed to be a good thing.

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While it’s true that Ocasio-Cortez might be the most covered House freshman ever, Rep. Mikie Sherrill—who features prominently in this article—was termed by Politico as the “most important new woman in Congress” a month after taking office. These people aren’t lacking for media attention; Ocasio-Cortez is just better at using the media to further her goals.

And in case you thought this was some independent conclusion that was reached by a bunch of House freshmen, Stolberg reports that two freshmen Democrats told her that the the DCCC “suggested they tone down their language on impeachment, or steer clear of it.”

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It doesn’t matter who it’s coming from—Nancy Pelosi, other members of the Democratic leadership, or freshmen who are transparently just trying to keep their careers afloat by holding onto their House seats. At this point, not pressing for a harder line and just letting Trump continue to walk all over them is looking increasingly pathetic.