Long before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report dropped, it became crystal clear that the sitting president of the United States has committed serious crimes. We need leaders in Congress who are ready and willing to rise to the occasion by checking and balancing the executive branch. Failing to impeach will only embolden our kleptocrat-in-chief.
Many supporters of impeachment proceedings have suggested that the House begin the process immediately. The potential grounds for impeachment seem endless: the president has obstructed justice, colluded with a foreign power, violated the emoluments clause by enriching himself through office, and made a litany of documented lies to the public, the press and policymakers themselves.
But Democratic Party leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have insisted that impeachment proceedings are not a priority. While impeachment is still technically on the table, Pelosi claims that Trump “just isn’t worth it.”
Her view seems to be that, since impeachment would face a tough road in the Republican-controlled Senate, this process would be doomed to failure, and thus, would become a waste of resources. That view, however, rests on several fallacies.
To whatever extent Pelosi resigns impeachment to a partisan stonewall in the Senate, she ignores the profound effect the proceedings would have on public opinion — including sustained news cycles that could mount over months — in shifting political possibilities. She and other Democratic Party leaders are conceding our most fundamental principles, not mounting the kind of bold resistance that we need in the face of rising autocracy.
Some have suggested that impeachment proceedings would alienate critical voters and inflame Trump supporters, damaging the party’s chances to reclaim the White House in 2020. But these are the same voices who never saw Trump coming, and whose generational deference to corporate predation has left our country at the president’s feet.
There is not only a legal basis to move forward with impeachment, but also a constitutional imperative. Every time Trump takes the Secret Service to one of his luxury resorts for a golf vacation, or greets foreign dignitaries at one of his hotels, our kleptocrat-in-chief is effectively putting taxpayer dollars in his pocket.
Failing to act simply because it does not appear politically expedient effectively invites this corruption, and renders useless the most powerful tool available to Congress to check and balance the executive branch. It also risks emboldening the president, encouraging further crimes and setting a dangerous precedent for the future.
If simply doing what’s right isn’t enough for Democratic National Committee leaders, let’s take a closer look at the political imperative for impeachment, starting with the canard that impeachment would risk alienating voters. I can’t think of anything more repugnant than four more years of this blundering and dangerous buffoon in the Oval Office — which is why it’s so important that we get this right.
It was anti-Trump energy that fueled the remarkably successful 2018 midterm elections. And there is no better way to continue keeping a spotlight on Trump’s crimes than through impeachment proceedings, which would force attention from news outlets in every story mentioning him.
Impeachment is a lengthy process and will take many months. Sustained news cycles reporting on impeachment proceedings will make the administration toxic on Capitol Hill and energize anti-Trump voters.
Centrist strategists who think that leaving Trump in office will enable an easier target in the 2020 elections forget how he outflanked them in 2016, and also the lessons we were supposed to learn then: that the U.S. public wants change, not more of the same.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has cautioned that if we focus solely on impeachment instead of policy, we run the risk of failing to meet the needs of our neighbors. I fully agree that our focus must be on policies, but it would be foolish to resign ourselves to only one or the other. We can promote our values and our policies while still holding corrupt leaders like the president accountable for their violations of the public trust.
The fears of out-of-touch Democratic Party leaders brought us our criminal president in the first place. We should pay them no heed now. Given his continuing self-dealing and documented lies to the public, filing articles of impeachment against the president is both a constitutional imperative and a political one.
*Disclosure: The author is running to represent California’s 12th congressional district in 2020 and was Pelosi’s leading challenger from the left in the 2018 primary.