4 min read


As you might guess from the subject line, I'm going to talk about politics in this one. If you want to skip it, there certainly won't be any hard feelings on my part.

This morning Special Counsel Mueller gave his first and possibly only public statement about his investigation into the President's obstruction, and to my ear he made as direct a nod to impeachment that he likely can make, noting that he did not clear the President of wrongdoing, that he wasn't allowed to accuse the President of wrongdoing, and that if the President were to be accused of wrongdoing that "the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system." Shortly afterwards, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that paid lip service to the idea of holding the President accountable but very clearly and pointedly highlighted legislation and specifically HR. 1 as Congress's call to action. Legislation, not impeachment.

Mind you, a bunch of Democratic Presidential candidates are now openly calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. And House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler responded to a reporter's question about impeachment by saying "With respect to impeachment, all options are on the table and nothing should be ruled out." But the Democratic House leadership and particularly Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are still resistant to starting impeachment proceedings. And a lot of centrist Dems, including my Congressman, want to focus on things like healthcare, immigration reform, and infrastructure. The idea being that impeachment is too politically dangerous and would rile up Trump's base (and, apparently, undecided moderates), while focusing on legislation would show the American people that Democrats will actually solve problems and govern properly.

That's a very lofty and high-minded approach that, in my opinion, is most likely to result in a second Trump term.

Here's the thing: legislation and policy are very important and have real, lasting, material consequences for people's actual lives. But most people don't know that and don't care. The only people actually paying attention to legislation are politicians, lobbyists, and people who have already made up their minds about the President one way or the other. (Yes, I pay attention to legislation. Yes, I have already made up my mind.) More to the point, none of the Democrats' key legislation this year is going to make a damn bit of difference in the election, because none of it is going to actually be enacted.

House Dems have passed 112 bills this year, among them some excellent and necessary bills protecting and expanding our democracy, banning LGBTQ+ discrimination, addressing equal pay for women, and requiring common sense gun violence prevention measures. These are important bills that we desperately need, that stand absolutely no chance of passing the Republican-held Senate. So far, nine Democratic bills have passed the Senate and become law. None of them are the kind of bill that swing elections. To the extent that any national attention has come to House legislation, it's been because Republicans have attacked it as socialist, messaging repeated extensively by the press which is certainly not going to do anything to help elect a Democratic President. And to the extent that any House bill does make it through the Senate, those bills are absolutely going to be co-opted and claimed by the GOP, who will take all the credit for anything good that comes out of it. That this will be a lie won't actually matter to most voters, who have no interest in following the day-to-day process of Congress.

Not only will centrist Democrats' preference for focusing on legislation fail to deliver them any significant goodwill (because, again, voters don't notice or care about legislation and Republicans will take credit for anything good anyway), but by failing to pursue accountability in the strongest possible way—that is, impeachment—House Democrats are actually sending the message to voters that the President's lies, obstruction, corruption, and collusion are just not that big a deal. I know, I know, the word "normalize" has been repeated so many times lately that it's just become part of the cosmic background radiation of our political discourse. But voter attitudes matter, and encouraging people to view the President's misdeeds as not worth following up on is effectively conceding the matter.

And then what's left? Having defanged their own biggest criticisms of the President and having been unable to actually make any meaningful difference in voters' lives, and being faced with low inflation and low unemployment (numbers that are deeply deceptive that are nevertheless going to be successfully used by Republicans to manipulate public opinion), what are Democrats going to fall back on? What's the story that's going to make people care?

Because that's what makes people vote: stories. Not statistics or data or bills. Narrative. Right now we are faced with the most corrupt, vile, dishonest, destructive President in living memory, a villain so cartoonish that you wouldn't believe him if he were fictional. And yet instead of rising up to fill a heroic role that people can rally around, Democrats are terrified of opposing him too strenuously.

We need impeachment and we need it to start now. Not because it's going to get him removed from office—impeachment has no more chance of getting through the Senate than any of the House's other important measures—but because this is the thing people need to see in order to have hope, and, in turn, to show up and vote for something better. And because failing to impeach, failing to even try to impeach, is the surest way to guarantee a second Trump term.