I agree with this bottom line, that the Dems should go for impeachment, although my reasons are more “rule of law” philosophical than political analysis. That is the luxury of not being in a position to make decisions or bear consequences as is Nancy Pelosi . Still, after the shock of 2016, I am very mindful of the risks.
In 2016, we saw Trump survive one campaign-destroying “gaff” after another. We paid little attention to the fact that although his ratings would drop after each of those, they would recover within a week or 2. Looking back, that was our clue that the political landscape was no longer what we had grown accustomed to. Not everybody interpreted those events or prioritized the “disqualifying” character that those gaffs revealed as we did.
Despite other relevant factors, e.g., Hillary and her campaign, and Russian manipulation, I do not believe his election was so much an aberration as a declaration that we have entered a different stage in our history, one characterized by tribalism, a clash of cultures, experiences, and perceptions. We no longer work from a shared set of facts or respond to facts in the same way even when we can agree upon them.
I come from a time where the Truth was something objective and led to inevitable outcomes. The mindset was to find the truth and expose it. That was enough. From that point on, the results were inexorable.
This is apart from considerations of the “fog of war” that will be the actual experience of any Trump impeachment hearings. We imagine that it will be like the Watergate hearings, which is our vision of what impeachment hearings of Trump would look and feel like. Watergate began in a partisan environment, but one in which the rule of law, truth and facts, and a common regard for our institutions were still intact, and so those principles were what allowed that process to yield the result that it did.
But this is a different time, a different world. We know that Trump and the GOP will manipulate those images to their advantage, and that our bifurcated media (is “multifurcated” a word?) will present completely different versions and interpretations of what we are seeing. Those will be consumed by the tribal masses, hungry for confirmation and validation.
It will not be an easy task for the Dems to break thru that fog. They will have to demonstrate that they are motivated purely by the desire to preserve the rule of law, even as it is pretty obvious that they are also motivated by a desire to remove him from office because they do not approve of him or his policies. The 2 motivations are not mutually exclusive, but they can produce behaviors and actions that are identical and therefore hard to distinguish in the minds of the public. This makes those behaviors and actions easily “spinnable.” That is why I always caution that if the Dems proceed with hearings, they must do so with clarity and skill.
But apart from those considerations, I wonder if the facts will actually matter, if they will be enough. Over and over again, I have run into the attitude that Trump might be a bad person but we support him anyway. It seems that there are many who are determined to strip away judgment of his character and perhaps even criminality from their evaluations of what he has accomplished and of his impact on the nation.
They are looking at a different narrative from us. Where we see chaos and destruction, they see change and the inevitable reaction of the Establishment against that change. To them, Trump is an instrument for “good,” although I have yet to hear a clear or realistic explanation of what that good will look like. But my understanding is irrelevant. Bottom line is that that narrative provides a framework that imposes a different set of priorities and interpretations to events from what many of us assume.
So will hearings prove to be harmful or helpful to our cause? I do not know. I do not think anyone really knows. It’s a risk, a calculation. There are facts and figures to look at, but if the assumptions are wrong, the interpretation of those facts will likewise suffer. From the comfort of my own irrelevance, I still maintain that impeachment is the right thing to do, yet I understand Pelosi’s caution.
I look to 2020 to give us a real reading of where this country is at, how far we have moved from whom we used to assume we were, and what the prospects are that we escape from this national trauma relatively unscathed.