I’ve been on the record as calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump since May, when the Mueller Report revealed that the president repeatedly attempted to undermine the investigation into whether he collaborated with Russian agents to interfere with the 2016 election.
I’ve leveled harsh criticism towards the Democratic establishment in the past, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for playing coy in the fallout of that report by saying events “may take us to a place that’s unavoidable, in terms of impeachment. But we’re not at that place.”
In the spirit of the holidays, I wish to say for the record that the House Democrats as a caucus deserve the nation’s thanks. We now have articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The president’s efforts to impede legal review of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election warranted impeachment, but his corruption of foreign policy to enlist the Ukrainian president to interfere in the 2020 election is even more egregious.
We seek responsive government, and when elected representatives take the action we demand, it is our obligation as citizens to stand behind them, even if, in Speaker Pelosi’s case, some of them had to be dragged kicking and screaming to take responsibility. In a functioning democracy, no one is obligated to love their representatives, but they need positive reinforcement when they eventually come around to the right position.
The impeachment of President Trump was never about a political calculation as to whether the outcome would enhance the Democrats’ or Republicans’ prospects in 2020 election. We send our representatives to Congress to do a job, whether it’s addressing gun violence or climate change, or in this case, safeguarding democracy. Doing the job might require an elected representative to lose her next election, and might even result in the Democrats losing control of the chamber.
We already know that the House will vote to impeach President Trump, and that the Senate will vote against removing him. It doesn’t mean that the impeachment process has been a wasted effort. It’s important to lay down a bright, red line to signal to future presidents that it is unacceptable for the executive to manipulate the national security and law enforcement apparatus of the nation for the purpose of destroying political enemies. Down that path lies authoritarianism. (Admittedly, the Republicans cheapened the brand in 1998 by impeaching President Clinton for lying about sex.)
We have no way of knowing today whether Trump will be re-elected to a second term, or which party will control the Senate and the House after Nov. 3, 2020, or indeed if any of these outcomes will be shaped by the impeachment process. Before the backbiting begins, credit the House Democrats for taking a stand on principle, and recognize that sometimes — no, oftentimes — doing the right thing comes at a cost. Save your ire for those members of the House and Senate who make excuses for Trump’s transgressions out of the craven need for political survival.
Today, we should salute Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the Michigan Democrat who announced her decision to vote for impeachment even knowing that many of her constituents are opposed to it, and that doing so could very well cost her re-election. Slotkin, first elected in 2018 with the backing of the centrist Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, was one of the so-called “seven national security Democrats” elected from swing districts, whose letter in late September gave Speaker Pelosi political cover to initiate the impeachment inquiry. Considering the past sins of the agency, it is an unsettling fact that Slotkin is a former CIA analyst, not to mention that Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a fellow signatory on the September letter, is a retired operative. They may be less than pure, but they happened to have been at the right place in the right time to make history.
There are those who say the House Democrats are being hypocritical by pursuing impeachment for the transgression of soliciting interference in a US election when the United States has a history of tampering with other countries’ elections and toppling their governments. These critics often argue that Trump should be opposed because of the degrading language he uses against immigrants, Muslims, women and people of color, and that he should be removed from office because of his white nationalist policies. Those are not impeachable offenses, however.
But if Trump is allowed to evade accountability for weaponizing foreign policy as a tool against political enemies and to flout congressional oversight, lawmakers’ protestations on matters of importance to their constituents will be reduced to political theater.
This is our moment of national clarity. Republicans in both chambers will, sadly, vote against impeachment. Where do the people stand?