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Impeaching Trump Shouldn’t Mean Abandoning Other Key Battles

Democrats have to do both, because the alternative is disaster.

President Trump speaks at the White House on April 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) participated in a five-candidate CNN town hall on Monday night. When asked about the push to impeach Donald Trump in the aftermath of the Mueller report, Senator Sanders sounded an appropriately cautious note.

“[I]f for the next year, year-and-a-half, going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump,” said Sanders, “and Trump, Trump, Trump, and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, and we’re not talking about health care, we’re not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we’re not talking about combating climate change, we’re not talking about sexism and racism and homophobia, and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans, what I worry about is that works to Trump’s advantage.”

He is absolutely correct about those issues, along with others such as immigration and the deliberate cruelty being inflicted at the southern border, being important to the electorate. The question of Trump’s serial lawbreaking as depicted in the Mueller report is also important, not only to the electorate but to the continued existence of the rule of constitutional law in the United States. Impeaching Trump is not about “want to,” but “have to.” Otherwise, we’re placing the entire point of this national exercise in democracy in mortal peril.

I argued yesterday that, in order to be successful in both fulfilling their obligations to the constitution and in defeating Trump next year, Democrats “need to walk the impeachment process while chewing the campaign gum.” They have to do both, not because it is politically expedient, but because the alternative is not merely an invitation to defeat, but to disaster.

I have to ask: Really, just how difficult do they think this two-pronged approach would be? Robert Mueller and his investigators have already done most of the heavy lifting on gathering impeachment-related evidence, and the agencies Mueller handed matters beyond his purview to are still busily working away. Yes, the Trump administration will fight subpoenas from House committees, but that is also a fight worth having. The White House is not Camelot castle, and we must stop treating it as such. Oversight in this republic is an imperative, full stop.

Besides, the 2020 presidential election is a full 558 days away. House Democratic leadership and the elected officials following their tepid lead have an enormous swath of time to use all the weapons they have been handed, including the necessity of impeachment. There are many grounds for impeachment that span well beyond the Mueller investigation. If Democrats can’t or won’t figure out how to do so, they have the option of resigning and finding gigs at a petting zoo or someplace similarly benign where they won’t do any more damage through their glaring cowardice.

Candidates seeking to unseat Trump in 2020 don’t really have to break much of a sweat finding arguments for why he has to go, either. Take, for example, this story recently published in The Hill. The president, by way of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is poised to institute a new rule that “would make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender patients, as well as women who have had abortions.”

If it seems to you that this administration is comprised entirely of homophobic transphobic misogynists, that’s because it is. Rallying voters who support LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive freedom for women (read: young voters, women voters, anyone with a functioning moral compass) should not be a Herculean task if these lawmakers are truly committed to confronting these issues and taking their cues from those most impacted — especially with 79 weeks to go before the election.

In the same vein, campaigning on the explosion of racist rhetoric and policy from the Trump administration should pose no challenge for the Democrats. Just this week, the awful Fox News host Tucker Carlson took a run at Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minnesota) for being, well, Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar. “Here’s someone who was brought to the United States at public expense simply because we’re a kind country that accepts a lot of refugees,” he said without a hint of shame. “And rather than being grateful for that, she’s spent the rest of her life attacking this country.”

The words “kind country” jump out at you when they appear next to headlines that read, “Trump Reportedly Considered Detaining Kids at Guantánamo” in your news feed. According to Common Dreams reporter Jake Johnson, the administration gave serious consideration to “detaining migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, the 17-year-old U.S. prison in Cuba that human rights advocates have condemned as a horrific stain on American history.”

Meanwhile, the flood of asylum-seekers from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border are fleeing more than economic deprivation and U.S.-created gang violence. Many of them left home for the north because of the ongoing effects of climate disruption.

“These are all countries that straddle the ecologically fragile ‘dry corridor’ that has been hit in the last few years by alternating droughts and drenching precipitation,” writes Erik Kobayashi-Solomon for Fortune, “which climate scientists have shown is related to warming global temperatures. Because around a third of the population of these countries is involved in subsistence farming, slight perturbations in harvests can have a large effect on the populace’s capacity to subsist. Faced with breathtaking violence and corruption, many displaced rural peasants make the rational choice to head north in hopes of finding economic security and the rule of law.”

Here are the climate refugees we have been warned about, running into the buzz saw of Trump’s racist, nationalist border policy at the risk of losing their children to Guantanamo Bay. Yet Trump and his allies still claim climate disruption is a myth or a hoax. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil is investing in solar farms as fast as it can spend the money, but only to power its hydrocarbon and fracking operations at less overall expense, because irony has very sharp teeth these days.

If the Democrats are incapable of forming a winning coalition out of voters concerned about climate disruption, racism, immigration policy, institutional Islamophobia, LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights and the crimes described in detail by the Mueller report, not to mention issues like student debt, gun violence and worker’s rights, they will join the Whigs in the dustbin of history, and they will deserve it.

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