Weighing the risks of impeachment

A month ago I wrote that Impeachment is a Political Act, therefore Pelosi was right to quash impeachment chatter at that moment. Yet starting impeachment proceedings is not the same as voting to impeach based on the president’s alleged obstructions of justice.

I write this now because it’s April, twenty-four hours after Robert Mueller’s report went public, and, fuck yes, this guy has to go even if it fails. Failure will not “embolden” the GOP. Failure to address the kind of lawlessness that would put get one of us burned alive and our smoking ashes sent to prison would be the failure. The level of criminality — aggressive, unabashed criminality — revealed by Mueller staggers me, and the prose in the report does not weasel; Mueller’s team writes with the clarity of Simenon.

Lawyers, Guns & Money’s Paul Campos parses the thinking behind the impeachment drive:

(1) The overwhelming, though not the sole, consideration when weighing this issue ought to be whether impeaching Trump will make it more or less likely that he will lose the 2020 election. (Conviction by the Senate is of course totally out of the question, which is one of many indicators of how the American constitutional system has pretty much outlived its useful life). My sense is that people appear to be overly confident, in both directions, about what the correct answer to this question is likely to be. There’s only one relevant precedent, Trump is in many ways a unique figure, 2019 isn’t 1998, etc.

(2) I don’t agree with the argument that Democrats have some sort of legal obligation, as a matter of principle, to go through impeachment proceedings, because Trump deserves to be impeached. Impeachment is a political process, no different in kind from passing legislation or considering executive branch nominations. It takes a quasi-judicial form, but it isn’t a judicial proceeding. And even in judicial proceedings prosecutorial discretion is always a huge part of the process.

Forget conviction — Democrats can’t hope for sixty-seven senators lining up against a president commanding at least an eighty-five percent approval rating among GOP voters. Even the attempt, naysayers argue, will stoke GOP voters into rallying around our thuggish leader, repulsing independent voters too.

Or will they? I have seen no polling yet that explains what’s on independent voters’ minds. To imagine that this prosecutorial boldness from Democrats might impress them doesn’t stretch credulity; we do know that past Democratic prissiness has led many an indie into the GOP camp, which suggests that the Republican program of class warfare, indifference to forthcoming environmental disaster, and contempt for non-whites who aren’t already in their camp had plenty of attraction for them anyway. As for Democratic voters, I found this data unsurprising, even granting that the conclusion came before the Mueller report.

Continue hearings. Accumulate a cogent historical record. Then vote on the merits.

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