Why Democrats shouldn’t impeach Donald Trump

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And what the Democrats want is the spectacle — a way to bring the enormity of the Mueller report onstage and into the full view of the American public.

And who can blame them? It’s all so frustrating. And it gets more so every day. Especially when the petulant President throws a tantrum in the Rose Garden and threatens Congress: Either you stop investigating me or forget about our plan to fix America’s infrastructure. Translation: my way or no highway.

And it’s especially galling since the administration is happy to go to court and drag things out, say, until December 2020. It’s Congress’ job, after all, to oversee the executive branch — especially when there is potential criminality. But one more problem: they’re out there alone. Most Republicans are apparently allergic to any executive branch oversight.

And here’s the answer: Don’t do it. Not now, and maybe never.

It’s hard, especially given Trump’s daily acts of blindness towards the Constitution. But in a way — despite his daily protestations — the President is daring them to do it. He’s goading them with refusals to comply with any requests. He understands a couple of things: the public doesn’t want impeachment, nor does it believe that Congress can do anything well, or in a nonpartisan way.

Right now, the polling is on the Democrats’ side. One recent poll shows that 54% of Americans say they would “definitely not” vote for Trump for president. And while Trump may scream “no collusion, no obstruction” daily, the public thinks Mueller did a good job and that Trump didn’t deal honestly with the inquiry. In other words, they don’t trust him. So why maneuver a self-defeat of historic proportion and play into Trump’s losing hand, turning it into a winner?
Trump and Pelosi face-to-face after Speaker's cover-up charge
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi constantly says, impeachment requires public support. (Never mind that it won’t go anywhere in the GOP-controlled Senate.) And right now, the public is exhausted. Consider this: only 37% of Americans favor impeachment, with 59% opposed, and that includes a quarter of Democrats and two-thirds of independents, according to a recent CNN poll. So, as William Galston of the Brookings Institution puts it, “the President has not received the total exoneration he craves, but Democrats eager to impeach him are left without the broad public support they need.”
It’s a conundrum. But face it: Congressional Democrats aren’t considered the most honest brokers. Back in April, a CNN survey reported that 44% of Americans believe that the Democrats are doing “too much” to investigate the President. Many members say they can do it all — that is, investigate and legislate — despite the President’s declaration that they can do no such thing. But Pelosi knows only too well that the investigations will get all the oxygen (and you can blame the press for that if you want) and the slew of bills House Democrats pass to the Senate — where they will languish — will get little notice. And the more than a dozen Democrats who won in Trump districts last year could become an endangered species — putting control of the House in play. Overall, Democrats could become less popular, heading into an election year. And Trump could get re-elected.

And for what?

Joe Biden — nearly 20 points ahead of the pack — has clearly tapped into something with Democratic voters. More than anything else, they want a candidate who can win, and that’s how Biden portrays himself. And for those independents who may be tired of the daily circus, he says he represents some calm, something they crave. He’s shrewdly seized on a political reality: widespread exhaustion with constant conflict.

Of course, there’s no way to say “never” to impeachment. One Democrat not inclined toward impeachment asks what if the President refuses to comply with a binding court order? Sure, seems like a red line. And there’s always the possibility that some new information is so stunning it tips the scales — and makes the public (or even some Republicans) reconsider its clear verdict that impeachment is not the way to go.

And that’s what has to happen. Democratic congressional efforts at oversight should continue, but without a rush to impeach. Pelosi can’t — and won’t — corral her caucus to her point of view. But she won’t lead them off a cliff, either.

In the meantime, understand the history that Pelosi knows all too well: When Bill Clinton was impeached by Republicans in 1998 his popularity skyrocketed, Democrats won seats in the midterms and House Speaker Newt Gingrich left Congress. The Trump and Clinton cases could not be more different, but the lesson is the same: Play the long game, or risk losing the big one.

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