“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”
It’s finally happened. Trump’s crimes have led the media to criticize the Democrats. I’m not talking nutty right-wing, but the mainstream. Not that I ever care what Nicole Wallace says, but she’s calling Democrats “as cowardly as the Republicans”:
“If impeachment were politically popular, I promise you the attack on Democrats would be that they were pursuing it because it was politically expedient. If she believes that crimes were committed and that Mueller unearthed them in the second volume of the obstruction report, I don’t understand why the fact that impeachment is polarizing is some sort of — it makes them just as cowardly as the Republicans.”
Instead of covering the narrative of Trump’s misdeeds, or the damage of his presidency, tasks that might actually fall within duty of the press, Wallace she calls for the Democrats to act. Her assumption–I’m guessing–is that it is Democrats’ individual, electoral self-interest that is preventing them from impeachment. This is a common assumption of people in the media. Wallace’s guest, Professor Eddie Glaude, agrees:
“It is incumbent on the Democratic Party — the party that runs the House, the House of the people — to be the standard bearer of the Constitution, our democracy.”
That’s right. Democrats must be the “standard bearer of the Constitution.” What does that even mean? Beware of people who offer abstractions as reasons for actions.
Even the inestimable Charlie Pierce is in on the game. In his Esquire piece, he bemoans Jerry Nadler’s admittedly not very forceful statements about impeachment:
I think Nadler is a decent chairman. I don’t think he has any illusion about the ferocity of the forces arrayed against him. But, dammit, he holds the majority on the House Judiciary Committee and there is power in that.
Robert Reich piles on, though he actually acknowledges that impeachment won’t affect anything. He claims, wrongly I think, that the Framers of the Constitution foresaw a president like Donald Trump and have a “duty” to impeach. Correct me if I’m wrong, but “duty” is something that one must do, not the power to do something. The Constitution does not require Congress to impeach.
I’m not arguing that Trump should not be impeached. I’m very familiar with his crimes. In fact, I was pointing out his compromised position with regards to Russia and his general criminality here, a month after he was inaugurated. But the idea of “duty” is a canard. Power doesn’t imply duty. And the Framers didn’t anticipate the almost complete capture of the federal government by a political party. My guess is that the punditry sees something extreme happening and believe an extreme response is required. And instead of doing an effective job presenting a clear, narrative context for viewers to understand the damage to American democracy and the import of Trump’s crimes, and they bloviate about Democratic courage and duty. (Rachel Maddow is the admirable exception to the media’s failure in this regard).
Reich is, at least honest, when he says nothing. He may be wrong. It would be nice to believe that impeachment would convince the electorate not to elect Trump, which Reich admits that’s unlikely. It would be nice to believe the GOP could be shamed into convicting our clearly criminal president but they lost their sense of shame long ago. It would be nice if Congress, carrying out its alleged “duty” as a standard-bearer could bring back a healthy, functioning democracy. But it won’t.
Instead of the glittering generalities and half-thoughts of the pundits, I’d like to suggest a question to answer as the Democrats decide to impeach:
What, if anything, will impeachment accomplish?
That’s not a rhetorical question. Democrats need to ask it, answer it to the best of their ability, and decide.
And one factor to consider–something that matters much more than a dutiful, standard-bearing impeachment–is Democratic control of the federal government after 2020. If we lose Congress, we may lose the country. And that is far more important than an empty exercise in Congressional ceremony.
(NOTE: I’m more concerned with the way we evaluate impeachment, not whether Congress impeaches Trump.)