One week before President Trump’s inauguration, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA.) became the first Democrat to call Trump’s election victory “illegitimate.” Though many Congressional Democrats joined Lewis in boycotting the inaugural ceremonies, none echoed his rhetoric.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is among the Democrats still decrying any serious discussion of impeaching President Trump. In a July interview with Rolling Stone, Pelosi called such talk “a gift for Republicans,” adding that “we don’t really know what Mueller has.” After Tuesday’s twin courthouse bombshells, we now have a much clearer picture not only of what Robert Mueller has, but how it reflects on the entire Trump presidency.
Democrats are out of excuses.
Pleading guilty to eight counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and — most significantly for President Trump — campaign finance violations, Cohen admitted that he made payments “at the direction of candidate” to silence Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs. Whether or not you believe the revelation of Trump’s trysts with a Playboy model and an adult film actress, respectively, would have changed anything in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape, the president is now an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case.
Pelosi and her fellow Democrats believe that focusing on impeachment will animate Republican voters, but dodging the issue entirely may hurt their base. According to a CNN/SSRS poll conducted in June, 42 percent of Americans said they support impeaching Trump; that nearly equals the 43 percent who wanted the same at the height of Watergate fervor, five months before Richard Nixon resigned. It is sensible, then, the Democrats should seek to invigorate their base by being unafraid to use the only constitutional tool available to them for holding the president accountable.
Thursday morning on MSNBC, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il.) was adamant that the severity of impeachment means Democrats should not campaign on it. Durbin said he would “absolutely not” advise candidates to bring it up, and that he “can’t think of a more serious power in the Constitution than the power of Congress to remove a president. We should take it as seriously as written.” I wonder, though, why Durbin assumes that voters aren’t taking this as seriously as he deems necessary. Voters are the ones in the streets protesting white supremacy, raising hell about family separation and demanding that the Democrats whom they elected stand with them. Durbin’s response betrays the Democratic allegiance to a political system so flawed that it can be manipulated and abused by a man like Trump.
Trump, himself, addressed the prospect of impeachment in a Fox News interview that aired Thursday. “If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor,” Trump said, resorting to narcissistic hyperbole. “You would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe.” He also said that he would give himself an “A+” for his efforts thus far as president. “I don’t know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job,” he reasoned. Trump speaks as if his wrongdoing is known, and expected to be forgiven.
A competent Democratic party could not only combat such inanity in its sleep, but simultaneously make the affirmative case for impeachment. Even if Democrats don’t mention Trump colluding/conspiring with Russia, his abhorrent family separation policy and the various other ways in which Trump has been in dereliction of his duties, they could focus solely on the Cohen revelations and have enough to work with. Pelosi and her peers should use the remaining 11 weeks before the midterm elections to lay out their plan to voters for how they will impeach Trump in the House, and should they win enough Senate seats, ensure his removal from office. They certainly should talk about blocking not just Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, but any other judge whom this president nominates.
Republicans still feel obligated to defend Trump, who is in the worst political shape of his presidency. Democrats, known for folding and rolling over for said Republicans, have to demonstrate that they’ll actually abandon their abundant caution. Going into November telling Americans that you plan to impeach the president lets voters know that the party isn’t still a chain of fools, unable to grasp the urgency of this moment. Democrats need to stop being scared of what Trump supporters will do, and be a little more scared of how their own voters will react to them, for once, actually going soft on crime if they stand by and do nothing.