In eight days, the U.S. will swear in a new president and usher in a new political era. Oddly enough, Congress is preparing to impeach the current president — and keep us mired in the past.
It’s as if congressional Democrats have forgotten Donald Trump lost his re-election bid last Nov. 3. Or, for that matter, that they already impeached him — about a year ago, remember?
Americans want more than anything right now to see politicians stop squabbling and get back to work. Joe Biden has the opportunity to make that happen. He can usher in a new day in the country; call on Congress to find common ground; reach out to voters in both parties as well as independents nationwide to seek healing.
Instead, House leadership has pushed ahead with an article of impeachment. Among those leading the charge — almost all Democrats — are those who claim they are willing to pursue the extraordinary proceeding even under a new presidency to prevent Trump from ever seeking a second term in the White House.
That’s a very long shot to head off a remote possibility. What are the odds a now-74-year-old Trump will sit out four years and then seek a rematch — having to secure his party’s nomination, first? There’s at least as good a chance he’d end up playing spoiler — the third-party contender who can’t win but won’t go away — much like another billionaire turned pol, a generation ago, H. Ross Perot.
For their part, congressional Democrats would have to muster a two-thirds-majority vote for convicting the president in the U.S. Senate. Democrats’ previous impeachment case against Trump failed in the upper chamber, and given only a razor-thin Democratic majority in the newly seated Senate this time around, conviction and removal from office seem as unlikely. Come what may, removing the president will be moot after Jan. 20, and barring Trump from seeking the office again would require a separate vote by the Senate — only after it votes to convict.
So, what do advocates of impeachment really hope to achieve at this point aside from further dividing an already badly divided country? Those leading the charge offer dramatic but vague talking points like this chestnut from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday: “The president’s threat to America is urgent, and so too will be our action.”
Yet, they won the election. Trump no longer will be in a position to churn out the kind of incendiary bombast that stoked last week’s violent assault on the Capitol by a rioting mob. Democrats can rest assured this president won’t have his finger on the “nuclear button” anymore, a fear some of them have expressed. What part of “we won” do they not get?
Meanwhile, there’s the very real risk of riling the president’s many rank-and-file supporters, Republican and otherwise. Granted, many of us who supported a second term for Donald Trump and who found much to like in his first term, have condemned his appeal last week to suspicion, resentment, revenge and rage — when he should have weighed in with reconciliation and just plain reality. Yet, it would be a gross miscalculation for anyone to assume the president’s faithful have abandoned him in the wake of last week’s mayhem.
Wouldn’t a protracted and seemingly gratuitous prosecution of the president at this point serve to further upset many Trump voters and reinforce their deepest misgivings about the political establishment? Maybe even play into his ever-unsubstantiated claims he was robbed of re-election by ballot fraud? And the Grand Canyon-like divide in U.S. politics will deepen further.
Meanwhile, even President-elect Biden himself — never shy about taking jabs at Trump — has been coy about impeachment. A few days back he deferred to Congress on the whole matter. This week, he let on he’d talked with members Capitol Hill about dividing their time between impeachment proceedings and advancing their policy agenda; it was unclear whether he thought that would be a good thing or a bad thing. Our guess is he’d rather it all go away.
As for the mood back in Middle America? For what it’s worth as a bellwether, a Denver rally last weekend to demand impeachment drew only a few hundred. Kind of underwhelming in Colorado’s largest city, where Democrats dominate politics. Perhaps even the city’s most devoted Democrats realize what Pelosi has yet to: They’ve already won; time to move on.
Or, does Pelosi wish to hand Donald Trump the sweetest revenge of all — keeping him in the news and at the top of Democrats’ agenda, long after he leaves the Oval Office?