by Jerilyn Bowen
The question of impeaching President Trump now hangs before the nation on every newscast. This is unsettling. More disconcerting, however, is the seeming inability of the Democratic Congressional leadership to take an unequivocal, principled stand on Mueller’s documentation of multiple attempts to obstruct justice by the man who occupies the White House, offenses that more than meet the impeachment standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Were this any other president, that personage would long ago have been subject to impeachment on a number of other grounds as well, including corruption and collaboration with foreign powers in service to a private agenda.
One truth stands out: if Trump is not called to account for his flagrant abuse of presidential power and his betrayal of the public trust, he will not only have succeeded in placing himself above the law, he will also have done so with the tacit consent of the Democratic leadership in Congress.
Under the Constitution, it is the duty of Congress to hold the president accountable for violating his oath of office. If Congress chooses not to do this, it will be setting a dangerous precedent that any president can remain above the law as long as those in Congress deem it too politically risky to do their Constitutional duty. In announcing at the outset that there would be no impeachment because of political considerations, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi played right into Trump’s hands by publicly relinquishing both the high moral ground and the Constitutional authority of Congress in favor of overt calculation and partisan politics. She doesn’t support impeachment because she foresees that it can’t succeed, says she, revealing to all that, when it comes right down to it, she’s as willing as her opponent to bypass the rule of law when doing so appears to be expedient. In one stroke that erases what should by rights be the telling difference between Democrats and Republicans in this intensifying struggle to save our democracy from the forces that aim to turn the U.S. into an authoritarian oligarchy.
People need something to believe in. When leaders actually lead by standing up for what is right and passionately making the case for it, they give voters something to believe in and help generate the grassroots support that is essential to any authentic crusade for a better world.
What Speaker Pelosi and her neoliberal allies are doing is taken from an old playbook in which straddling some elusive, ever shifting middle of the road is considered ‘pragmatic,’ regardless of how ineffective and immoral that strategy may be. In sticking to this ill-conceived modus operandi, they convey to the voters that, when push come to shove, they stand for nothing in particular. They also thereby allow Trump to determine the terms of public discourse and put him in the driver’s seat on that going forward. One result of this unfortunate default is that, as the drumbeat for impeachment from the Democratic base grows deafening, Speaker Pelosi looks more and more inept. Her credibility with the public sinks accordingly. This at a time when we very much need a House Democratic leader who is strong and proactive, who speaks with conviction about what is at stake for our country and who shows herself to be courageously on the side of what is ethical and legally just. When it comes down to right makes might vs. might makes right, a choice has to be made. When all is said and done, which choice will she–and the party–make?
If they choose to exercise it, prominent public servants like Pelosi have the power to mobilize grassroots support for righteous causes. In this case, it is in their province to go to the American people to make the case for impeachment in the name of our most sacred values. In doing so, it is incumbent upon them to set an example by taking a firm stand on upholding the rule of law at a time when it is being seriously challenged from on high. In such times the country needs Democratic leaders to become beacons of light. They can do this by advocating not only for impeachment but also for a just, humane, and sane society: Green New Deal. Medicare for All. Money out of Politics. Economic Justice. Visionary intersectional proposals like these give the base something to believe in and work for. And WE folks, are the base. We are thus called to require our leaders to do their part in this political tango that we’re fated to dance together.
With that in mind, consider putting your dance shoes on to urge your US House Representative 1) to speak out publicly for impeachment and 2) to support launching an official impeachment inquiry.
While you’re at it, please let Speaker Pelosi hear from you as well. Some points you might want to bring up: 1) how self-defeating her stand against impeachment is and what she could instead be doing to galvanize the base using impeachment as a motivating issue; 2) that, by being reactive rather than proactive, she’s constantly letting Trump set the terms, frame the issue, and drive the narrative; 3) that standing up and fighting for what is right might turn out to be the smartest, most effective political move she could make; 4) that at this critical juncture, people are looking for a party to believe in, not a party that talks out of both sides of its mouth and plays it ‘safe’ by stumbling along the murky middle, committing itself only to what the polls of the day seem to prescribe.
Let’s hope Pelosi and her DP cohorts will wake up and read the writing on the wall before they blow this opportunity to bring Trump to justice. No matter what Democratic Party leaders do, it should be clear by now that hardcore Trump voters are not going to come around. The people we should be trying to reach are the rest of the populace, and the way to reach them is to stand tall and wax eloquent rather than reacting to every Trump provocation with outrage and weepy fund appeals. Heroic, principled action carried out with the courage of conviction–that’s the kryptonite to Trump’s lying obfuscations. In upholding honorable standards of truth and giving him something to answer for, we can shape the public discourse and point it towards bringing about a society that allows its members to live lives worth living. If they want to lead us to victory in 2020, our political luminaries must find it in themselves to meet these urgent imperatives, and to do it in style.
To put a stop to Trump’s assault on the foundational institutions of our democracy, impeachment is the first essential step. Doing anything less is not only cowardly but also far riskier than taking our chances on public response to exposing the truth.
When the people lead long enough, the leaders will eventually follow. Maybe that’s where we are now, folks.
Contact House Speaker & Representatives:
US House of Representatives, Washington DC 20515
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, 202/225-4965
233 Cannon House Office Bldg.
NM District 1 Rep. Deb Haaland, 202/225-6316
NM District 2 Rep. Xochiti Torres, 202/225-2365
NM District 3 Asst. Majority Leader Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, 202/226-1528
Call or write to encourage House committee efforts to bring Trump to justice:
House Judiciary Committee
Chair, NY Rep. Jerrold Nadler, 505/225-5635
House Intelligence Committee
Chair, CA Rep. Adam Schiff, 505/225-4176
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Chair, MD Rep. Elijah Cummings, 505/255-4741
House Ways & Means Committee (re tax returns & financial records)
Chair, MA Rep. Richard Neal, 505/225-5601