The party needs to focus on winning elections, not removing Trump.
by Jeet Heer
Amid a stream of revelations, arrests, and plea bargains from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump campaign’s connections with Russia, liberals are becoming giddy at the prospect of impeaching the president. “Can Democrats finally start talking about impeachment, Nancy Pelosi?” Errol Louis asked in a column for CNN, referring to the House minority leader. On The View, Joy Behar bubbled with delight when she was handed the news, now revealed to be inaccurate, that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was willing to testify that then-candidate Trump had instructed him to make contact with the Russians. (The report was corrected to say that Trump had done so as president-elect.) Some Trump opponents are already looking upon impeachment as a done deal. “He’s going to be impeached, I believe,” Crispin Sartwell wrote at Splice. “I’ve thought so since the election. Michael Flynn is singing. Jared Kushner is likely to be charged in the coming weeks.”
The impeachment frenzy has gone so far that even the normally sober Ezra Klein, Vox’s founder, argued last week that impeachment be normalized as a regular procedure in American democracy. He implicitly acknowledged that we haven’t yet reached the stage where Trump’s impeachability is beyond reasonable dispute (as it was, for example, with Richard Nixon in 1974), but wanted to redefine the rules for impeachment so they apply to Trump, a president who has demonstrated that he is manifestly unfit for office. “Impeachment is not a power we should take lightly,” Klein wrote. “Nor is it one we should treat as too explosive to use. There will be presidents who are neither criminals nor mental incompetents but who are wrong for the role, who pose a danger to the country and the world…. Being extremely bad at the job of president of the United States should be enough to get you fired.”
While it is true that Trump is “extremely bad at the job of president,” using that as grounds for removing him from office would be revolutionary, moving the criteria from the constitutional requirement of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which is already vague, to the utterly nebulous and subjective “extremely bad.” Klein recognized that normalizing impeachment would turn it into a political weapon, but didn’t wrestle with the fact that this normalization already happened—with the spurious impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1999. That precedent suggests the dangers of further normalization: It will worsen the extreme partisanship and gridlock that is making American ungovernable.
SOURCE: New Republic
Jeet Heer is a senior editor at the New Republic.