A dilemma now stares at an increasingly divided Democratic party, having now been handed by Robert Mueller, a road map for impeachment of Donald Trump, a bible, if you will, of misfeasance and lawlessness, Nancy Pelosi and her minions must now decide which route to take--the dreaded "I" word or a substantive campaign for electoral victory.
On the one hand, many advocates for impeachment, including Elizabeth Warren, argue that it is the constitutional duty of the congress to protect our democracy from an unfit president by introducing a bill of impeachment. Nancy Pelosi believes that it is too soon to decide, knowing full well that the election is only 18 short (or long) months away, depending upon one’s point of view, and that impeachment hearings will create a distraction, paralyzing government, playing into Trump’s wheelhouse exacerbating his victimhood. He still holds his 40% approval among his base, many of whom believe in the Trumpian ability to shoot someone on 5th avenue, and suffer no consequence, possibly Nancy Pelosi or an undocumented immigrant, take your pick.
Moreover, the two-thirds vote for removal in the polarized senate is probably not possible, magnifying the arduous, Sisyphean moral imperative of how congress should act under present circumstances.
Others believe that this President is dangerous and is capable, through his masterful control of his base, able to manipulate public opinion escalating his “poor Donald” into another term. Nothing frightens Democrats more.
Watergate-like hearings take time. The parade of inevitable witnesses creates boardrooms full of fulminating cable network executives exalting over the volume of pharma medications they can sell to old people, watching 24/7. On the other hand, a full examination of the facts and testimony might very well convince many voters to vote against the president even if a bill of impeachment is not passed in the house or that he is not removed by the senate.
A currency to the moral obligation of congress quickly to proceed now with impeachment is persuasive. There is clarity to removing a president who, many think, has no regard for our institutions, the law or the consequences of his narcissistic fulminations. Mueller’s argument that DOJ regulations prohibit the indictment of a sitting president, because he would not be able to “clear his name” through a trial, resonates to some. Therefore, the only remedy is a trial in the Senate through impeachment.
Machiavelli proposed that governments do not function well on morality. Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, and after Pearl Harbor Franklin Roosevelt interned loyal Japanese Americans in camps, ripping families apart and from their homes without judicial process. Clearly, these two actions violated the Constitution, but saving the Union or national security was the imperative, not historical rectitude. That came much later as would many questions about the stains of the American past, including slavery.
Legions of governments in the world modeled their constitutions after ours, and the lack of forbearance among the polity effectively abnegated the paper document, allowing the rise of totalitarianism. In our country, argue Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in a new book, How Democracies Die, argue that our institutions are under threat by the loss of forbearance in our polarized society. The more polarization results in less forbearance, increasing the threat to our institutions. The tolerance needed to listen to others with whom we disagree is the foundation of our democracy, not a paper document alone, they argue. That tolerance has lately disappeared, to our detriment.
So, what is Congress to do? Bringing a bill of impeachment now, many think, poses a political risk to the Democrats but not bringing it poses a risk to the Republic by leaving an unfit president more time to erode our institutions, the very ones congress is charged to protect. Democrats must think long and hard whether the moral choice will ultimately lead to a more perfect union or whether it will lead to more disunion. A long and nasty impeachment resulting in the removal of this president might provide more fodder for his base than a resounding loss at the polls a mere 18 months from now.