History teaches caution, especially on impeachment. Impeachment is sliding sideways on House Democrats, and nerves are now fraying. Impeachment is never a happy event, and this one is particularly discomfiting. Increasingly, it appears highly personal – a dangerous precedent.
One recent headline read: “Nancy Pelosi Lashes Out at Reporter Who Asks if She Hates Trump.” As poll numbers invert, more disfavoring impeachment than favoring, the bedeviled House Speaker seems to be in trouble. Emotions are rubbing raw.
She has walked her party down this plank and must either jump or turn around. The plank is narrow, time is short – and she appears to have miscalculated. The chief problem is that many Americans, including dozens of Democratic House members, have reservations about the wisdom of her course.
Some believe an “impartial” inquiry might have been worthwhile but feel burned. The Speaker and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff did not conduct a “fair and impartial” inquiry. They led a political hit on a sitting president. Personal venality overtook any pretense to objectivity.
For many Democrats, that conclusory process is now difficult to defend. It will only get harder. The process – from Intelligence to Judiciary – has proved a bungled, muddled mess. It is now their mess.
Specifically, they know – since most are lawyers – that this process did not conform to established standards of due process. Most Americans saw the process as unfair. That is true even for those who do not like the president.
Worse for Democrats, many Americans see the president as a victim. The more Congress reiterates longstanding prejudices, mentions the fruitless Mueller probe, props up weak witnesses, recycles old press releases, and tries to silence calls for fairness, the more Americans doubt their motivation.
The more witnesses are suppressed, questions about whistleblower complicity ignored, civil rights violated by subpoenas and release of private calls – the more Americans wonder.
Truth is that Speaker Pelosi – and the Democratic House – are at plank’s end. In a time of traditional Christmas joy, Democrats are pitching disunity, disdain and political condemnation. They are dividing us, as Trump stays positive.
With the US economy soaring, objective indicators of our future bright, Democrats are peddling negativity. Among Democrats – especially the 43 who took Republican seats in 2016, 31 in districts won by Trump, 13 by more than six points – nervousness is high. They have real misgivings.
The state of Democratic unity is not good. Impeachment was a big gamble, an unorthodox way of reversing an election. Now, the dice are showing weak numbers.
History is against the Democrats – and many know it. Never in American history has an impeachment been executed on a purely partisan basis. Never has one been pursued trampling due process, ignoring minority rights, precedents and procedures. Never has one been undertaken to reverse the electoral college or without a sound legal basis.
Never has a party tried to disenfranchise the American People, with a year to elections. Never has a party misused this Constitutional provision so clearly. Never has the judicial branch been so swiftly sidelined – subpoena cases preempted by impeachment. Never has there been such a rush to judgment, driven by raw politics.
In short, this impeachment is a bust. It may still happen. The process is down the plank. The US House has 233 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one Independent, and four vacancies. Pelosi must get 216 Democrats. If she loses 17 – she is in trouble.
That is why Americans should ask: What is behind all this? That is why one reporter asked, does she hate Trump. The question was reasonable; the response was disproportionate. Pelosi went haywire, attacking the reporter, just as Joe Biden attacked an Iowa questioner last week.
Pelosi’s hostility toward the reporter was revealing. She lost her cool. She asserted her faith as proof of no personal antipathy, adding she prays for him. The answer was not convincing. In fact, it appears to have validated the question.
So, where does impeachment go? Our Founders would be aghast at a personally motivated impeachment, at the ousting of an opponent for purely political reasons.
In 1796, John Adams beat Thomas Jefferson to become our second president – by 71 electoral votes, one more than a majority. Jefferson did not suggest the outcome was illegitimate, or that impeachment would settle scores. Jefferson never thought like that.
When Jefferson later served as America’s third president, he did so after an election thrown into the House, and 35 ballots. Politics aside, Jefferson’s archnemesis Alexander Hamilton cast a vote for Jefferson – to end the impasse. No one imagined impeachment would remedy that outcome.
So here we are, Democrats wringing hands as they stand at the end of a plank – one their leader walked them out on. They face an uncomfortable decision: Jump into this mess or turn it around.
Just as discretion is the better part of valor, integrity and turning around would help 31 Democratic members hold their seats. But do not count on it. Hate – that is, personal disaffection for President Trump – runs deep.
We are likely to see a personally motivated impeachment – setting a dangerous precedent. The reporter who asked about motivation was right on. Americans know the answer, the Speaker’s denial notwithstanding this is about 2016, and personal antipathy. Sad but true.