Image based on photo from Eric Thayer/The New York Times/Redux
Lessig
Lessig
Jul 30 · 5 min read

The best way to get Pelosi to act against this President may be by supporting her Democratic opponent.

Nancy Pelosi is being played.

This extraordinary politician, a powerful and extremely experienced politician, is being played by the worst President in American history.

The nation needs to stay focused on this President’s corruption and incompetence. Yet time and time again, he succeeds in distracting us, by triggering us with yet another absurd outrage.

The strategy is obvious. Pelosi has failed to counter it. That failure must end.

The only way to keep America focused upon Trump’s failures is to do what the facts plainly show ought to be done: Launch an impeachment inquiry, immediately. At least a month this fall should be devoted to public hearings that review the many “high crimes and misdemeanors” that would justify removing this President—especially those that the courts refuse to grok. Obstruction, the Emoluments Clause, bizarrely extensive foreign influence: These wrongs would plainly justify removal, and they create an obligation upon the political prosecutor within our constitutional system — the House of Representatives—to do its job.

Yet Pelosi dithers. She betrays this duty because she does not believe it politically expedient. The expedient thing to do, this politically experienced leader believes, is simply to keep pumping great ideas into Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard. That is better, she believes, than voting Articles of Impeachment, which this Senate would simply reject, handing this President the political victory of “vindication.”

I get the argument. I think the political calculation is likely right (though maybe not). Acquittal in the Senate would translate into vindication. “Vindication” would only increase the chances that this incompetent and corrupt President would be reelected.

But this calculation ignores an obvious alternative to voting out Articles of Impeachment: Censure. As Bruce Ackerman has described, the House plainly has the power to hold hearings and then censure the President. Remember, that was the idea that gave birth to MoveOn — a movement to censure President Clinton, and then “move on” to address the many problems the nation then faced. That is precisely what Congress could do now—hold the hearings of an impeachment inquiry, and if, in the end, conviction by the Senate is not in the cards, resolve the inquiry with a resolution of Censure. That resolution would plainly pass. The nation could then move on to defeating this corrupt failure of a President next year.

Yet Pelosi refuses to do even this. She stalls when we need action. She negotiates when we need a clear declaration of war. She is Chamberlin; we need Churchill.

It’s not clear what would move Pelosi. But it is clear what we should try. Among her many extraordinary abilities is the power to raise ungodly amounts of money, for herself and her party. So let’s speak the same language in return: donate today to her Democratic opponent, as a clear way to say to Nancy Pelosi: ENOUGH.

Shahid Buttar, Democrat for Congress

Fortunately, her primary opponent is someone that should be supported anyway. Shahid Buttar is everything that Congress needs—brilliant, principled, young and incredibly committed, empathetic, insightful and especially articulate. I’ve known him well for many years, especially well since 9/11/2001: Shahid was a student at Stanford; I watched and admired him as he, a Muslim American, weathered the abuse of ignorance that that tragic event triggered. He was patient and informed, open and empathetic — as an American — in a context filled with people who only wanted to see him as something other than us. They went low; Shahid went high.

Since those days, Shahid has done nothing except fight a good fight—as a lawyer, and activist, and American. His latest stint has been at the extraordinary Electronic Frontier Foundation, building a national grassroots movement devoted to supporting civil liberties everywhere, especially online.

Shahid should be in Congress regardless. But he gives us an easy way to speak to Pelosi in a language that she plainly understands: If she won’t lead, then she should be replaced. If she won’t do her duty, then we should support someone who plainly would.

This is a difficult step for me to take. I’ve supported Pelosi in the past. I’ve admired and praised her leadership in getting HR1—the most important reform legislation in half a century—through the House.

But what I’ve come to believe is that we all must do everything we can to demand the justice that this President deserves. We can, and of course should, make that demand in the language of principle. But if she continues to treat duty as a matter of simple politics, then we should speak in the language of politics as well. And the simplest way to articulate that message is to support her challenger, Shahid Buttar.

I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t believe that Shahid would be among the very best in Congress. But because I do believe that he would be among the very best, I can also say this: If you want to tell Pelosi to do her job, then stand with her challenger. Send whatever you can to his campaign. Offer whatever support you can to spread the word.

We have waited long enough. It is time that Democrats practice the discipline that would keep America’s attention focused on the single most important fight in our lifetime: To show the world that America is better than Donald Trump, by defeating the bastard in the next election. Yet we will defeat him only by putting his wrongs plainly before the people, with discipline and care. That is precisely what an impeachment inquiry could do — even if it only ended in censure. (Even if: As Shahid has argued, the very effort could have an effect on purple state Republicans.)

You can help this fight by supporting Shahid’s campaign here.

Lessig

Written by

Lessig

law professor, activist.

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