Commentary: 'The Case For Pelosi's Impeachment Decision' by Michelle
First, let's sort out what we mean by impeachment. I use analogies mostly so I'll begin with one of those.
Congress is a good place to start. The Legislative branch comprises the US Senate and the US House which together form Congress. That's its primary meaning. However, the US House on its own is also called Congress, inaccurately perhaps but frequently nevertheless. (This confused me no end when I first took an interest in American politics.)
Impeachment also embodies two distinct meanings which causes a good deal of misunderstanding. It is the term given to the process designed to toss out of office nefarious members of the Executive or Judiciary branch. In order to involve the whole of Congress, that process was divided between the two chambers, in short: the House draws up the articles authorizing the investigation and the Senate conducts the trial.
However, the process undertaken by the House also became known as impeachment. Bloody confusing, that!
The other common misconception about impeachment concerns its purpose. It isn't a criminal trial (though there are elements of this), it's purely a form of dismissal. Elected persons are voted out. A dodgy employee is fired. Presidents are removed via the full process of impeachment. (Note the emphasis on full.)
When Speaker Pelosi was talking about impeachment, she was referring only to the US House's role, and what the House contributes to the process cannot, by itself alone, remove a president. It didn’t remove President Bill Clinton in 1998.
Furthermore, Nancy Pelosi knows the current Senate will not convict and, even more pertinent, she has a damn good idea why McConnell’s corrupt and treacherous colleagues won’t convict. She isn’t alone either. Everyone with their finger on the political pulse knows the current Senate will not convict (though few really understand why).
So why would Speaker Pelosi commit the time, effort and enormous taxpayer funds to doing only half the job? When has anyone received any kind of commendation for doing just half a job when they know for a certainty that the critical second half will not be done? It’s like sticking a roast in the oven for just half the cooking time (and it’s not recommended that you eat the result).
Pelosi is also right about impeachment being divisive, particularly in the current political environment. So why would she risk employing a hugely divisive move which would rightly and justifiably be labelled partisan political theater?
Worse still, why would she saddle the Democratic Party with a resounding failure to remove Trump just before a crucial general election? Because that’s exactly how the media and TrumpGOP would sell it. Negative publicity on the grand scale that the TrumpGOP and US media would dish out on a daily basis would be guaranteed to depress the vote rather than fill voters with enthusiasm for the Dem ticket.
I acknowledge that there are those who are passionately pro-impeachment and anti-Pelosi, who warn that the Dem Speaker’s decision will lose some voters. But when your choice is between risk losing some or risk losing it all, Pelosi’s decision was the best possible under the circumstances at this time in history. Sometimes reality just doesn’t give you a win-win option.
However, it should also be noted that nobody gets to be as smart and politically savvy as Pelosi without knowing that circumstances can — and do — change. There’s a great many ifs hanging in the air: if Mueller is allowed to do his job, if NY AG Tish James decides to take on the Trump corporation, ifTrump has a serious health issue (feel free to add other possibilities as you think of them), impeachment may not be needed. There might even become a time when impeachment becomes viable.
The future will unfold and we will see what we will see. But for now, in this moment, I stand with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at the Daily Kos, which specifies that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified."
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