Another day, another example of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doing anything she possibly can to avoid the question of what it will actually take for the House to finally impeach the motherfucker.
Pelosi was in New York on Tuesday when the issue was raised again. “Trump is goading us to impeach him,” she said (apparently she is falling for dumb guy eight-dimensional chess shit now). “That’s what he’s doing. Every single day, he’s just like taunting, taunting, taunting because he knows that it would be very divisive in the country, but he doesn’t really care. He just wants to solidify his base.”
Pelosi’s comments come on the heels of comments she made to the New York Times for a story published over the weekend, in which she repeated her belief that the only way to remove Trump from office is through “owning the center left” in the 2020 election and winning by such a large margin that Trump can’t contest the election results. “Our passions were for healthcare, bigger paychecks, cleaner government — a simple message,” Pelosi told the Times. She then took her now-standard shot at the Democratic left, saying, “We did not engage in some of the other exuberances that exist in our party,” a clear shot at the Medicare for All and Green New Deal-touting progressives. (Considering congressional support for Medicare for All was as large as it had ever been leading into the 2018 elections, and the Green New Deal was spearheaded by someone elected in that freshman class over a powerful Pelosi ally, that’s not exactly true!)
The question of impeachment, however, is not exactly a left/right issue within the Democratic Party, but rather one of people who understand that House Democrats throwing up their hands in confusion as they get repeatedly rolled by Trump is a bad look in nearly every way versus people who, well, don’t understand that. Pelosi, it appears, is in the latter camp.
It’s clear at this point to anyone with a functioning brain that Trump is worthy of impeachment, not least of which for anything detailed in the Mueller report (which, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren rightly noted, would land anyone else in jail). This is a man whose virulent racism led him and his administration to throw kids into cages and completely abandon Puerto Rico during the worst natural disaster it’s suffered in human memory. Anyone can see that Donald Trump is unfit for office; Pelosi herself says it on a regular basis.
By recognizing this, and saying it out loud, but also saying that nothing can be done, what the Democrats are doing is implicitly acknowledging that the system is ill-equipped to handle a problem like Trump, and/or explicitly acknowledging their own worthlessness as an opposition party.
So what are Pelosi and her fellow Democrats scared of? Unless they see themselves as Lincolnesque figures fighting to hold the union together by a thread, this has to be a political calculation informed by their memory of the Republican impeachment efforts of Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and how spectacularly that backfired on Newt Gingrich. If Democrats focus on impeachment, the argument goes, they’ll get distracted from healthcare and the environment and all of the other things they want to do. Furthermore, they might alienate “moderate” Republicans or Republican-leaning independents who might be inclined to vote against Trump the next time around; it doesn’t seem to matter much that as it stands, that’s less than 10 percent of the Republican Party.
As someone who frequently argues that the Democrats should pursue a bold, left-wing agenda and try to win elections by meeting people at their material needs, like healthcare and wages and civil rights, I think this is a bullshit reason for avoiding this fight.
The purpose of controlling the House, as it stands now with a GOP-led Senate blocking anything that’s going to come out of it, is for putting forward a positive vision for what your agenda will look like. A positive vision for the future includes powerful people answering for crimes any of the rest of us would do jail time for. A positive vision for the future includes not losing every single political fight that you’re involved in. A positive vision for the future includes Donald Trump not being president.
Impeachment proceedings alone won’t make that a reality, at least not without Senate control as well. But picking a fight with and exposing a deeply unpopular president is far from the worst thing House Democrats could do to handle this situation, which is close to what they’re doing now—admitting the president of the United States is a crook, while forcefully pledging to not do shit about it.