I’m amazed by the crummy tactical thinking of progressive pundits about the impeachment of Trump. Their commentary and reporting these days on cable news seems to be (1) the Democratic leaders are gutless, and (2) they don’t know what they are going to do.
Uh … maybe not. Maybe they are just a lot smarter tactically than the pundits.
It’s a forgone conclusion that the Republican Senate will never convict Trump and remove him from office. So for the Democrats, the actual goal of impeaching him must instead surely be to maximize Democratic wins in the November 2020 election – winning the presidency of course, and also a majority in the Senate as well as holding the House.
Down-ballot gains in statehouses across the nation are also important for Democrats, especially given the further possible impact of the now-SCOTUS-approved statehouse gerrymandering by the utterly anti-democracy GOP.
So a smart tactician in the party wants to work backward and time that Senate Trump whitewash vote for the moment in 2020 when it will do the most harm to the GOP’s political optics with potential swing voters in November.
Mitch McConnell will certainly jam the Senate acquittal vote through as fast as procedurally possible after a House impeachment vote, probably with no witnesses at all, and with only the minimum time allowed for any floor debate after the House presents the Articles of Impeachment.
That smart tactician will also want to time a dramatic House debate and impeachment vote at the best time possible to give Democrats the most positive optics and platform issues for their campaigns. And the Democrats House leadership can make sure that timing will happen.
It is plain what that date for this media-frenzy impeachment vote will be – ideally, the last order of business before the House breaks into recess for the Democratic National Convention in mid-July in Milwaukee. All the incredibly scandalous revelations from the House impeachment hearings about Trump’s Russian collusion with Putin, his family’s multiple felonious scams, and the innumerable perjurious coverups by all of them and their minions will fuel the Democratic convention’s drama as a crusade to save the nation from destruction.
Then when Congress reconvenes before the GOP Convention in late August, McConnell will be forced to hold the Senate trail and acquittal vote right away in the first three weeks of August – he can’t leave the impeachment issue hanging out there during the convention until a September vote at the start of the campaign.
But that pre-convention sham vote will make the Republicans look like the utter cowardly Trump toadies they really have become when they meet in Charlotte. It will hang around their neck like a dead albatross no matter how brave a face they put on for the TV cameras.
Any earlier Senate vote would be much to the advantage of the Republicans. They will insist the issues are over and “it is time to put this behind us,” and its impact will fade inevitably as months pass before November.
To get from where we are today in July of 2019 to an early July 2020 House impeachment vote next year is an 11-month timeline of continued investigations and steadily escalating hearings by the House, building to the crescendo of the full House’s impeachment vote. House committees are now in the discovery phase, going to court relentlessly with subpoenas to get access to all the vital evidence – like Trump’s tax returns – and witnesses. Trump’s top henchman, Attorney General Barr, is doing everything he can procedurally to obstruct this – and probably engaging in criminal obstruction of justice in the process too – but unless five members of the Supreme Court are utterly corrupt to the point of knowingly destroying America’s democracy and rule of law to enable a Trump dictatorship, Barr’s roadblocks will inevitably fall. How many months of legal proceedings that will take is a question, but it should be resolved by the end of this year.
And once the evidence is in the hands of House investigators, the first six months of 2020 are plenty of time for House committee hearings to fully investigate and expose the shocking revelations, leading to a June Judiciary Committee impeachment vote.
There is also the more-than-a-distraction-from-impeachment matter of the choosing the Democrats’ candidate for president during the same time frame in 2020. The March super-Tuesday primary may be conclusive, but if it is not resolved that will compete for public attention.
This tactical timeline is straightforward to think up, and no doubt Speaker Nancy Pelosi, committee chairman Jerry Nadler, and key House leaders have all talked it through at length privately and have at least a general idea of the coming year’s work. But they don’t want to tip their hand too soon, they need time to track down all the damning evidence, and they don’t want to fritter away the political impact of these revelations, an impeachment vote, and a Senate whitewash vote too far in advance of November 2020. So at the moment we see Nancy Pelosi slow walking the impeachment issue publicly – to the consternation of impeachment-hungry progressives.
And according to national polls, the American public overall is not yet ready to embrace impeachment. Building that “civic momentum” is going to take a steady drumbeat of disturbing revelations through this year and into the next. Those of us who witnessed Watergate well remember that steady buildup of civic alarm until, finally, the smoking gun of the “stonewall” tape was revealed at last – and Nixon fell. Pelosi and her leaders of that generation certainly recall this too.
So progressive pundits and folks: I think now is the time to stay tuned – and keep your powder dry.