The Corner

Politics & Policy

Impeachment as Charade

This item from the NBC newsletter First Read this morning highlight something important: Democratic presidential candidates aren’t taking impeachment very seriously, another indication that it’s a check-the-box exercise in the House. If voters were really consumed by impeachment, or if the process in the House were as grave and consequential as Pelosi and Co. make it out to be, or if there was a whisper of a chance of conviction, this might be different, but the presidential candidates are going about their business as usual and talking about things even Democratic voters care about more:

If the Democrats have the substance on their side in the impeachment fight — in terms of the public testimony, the released documents and all of the text messages — Republicans are now the ones with the more unified message.

Case in point is what’s playing out on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, with the Democratic candidates talking about health care, tax policy and racial equity — but barely mentioning the biggest political story in Washington.

Indeed, consider the Democratic candidates’ answers about the impeachment in last month’s presidential debate in Atlanta.

Elizabeth Warren said she would work to convince her Republican colleagues to vote to remove President Trump from office. “We have to establish the principle: no one is above the law. We have a constitutional responsibility, and we need to meet it,” she said.

But then she changed the subject to the amount of money that wealthy donors contribute to get plum ambassadorships — like Gordon Sondland did for his post to be U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

Bernie Sanders called Trump “corrupt” and a “pathological liar,” but he argued that Democrats can’t be consumed by the president.

“Right now, you’ve got 87 million people who have no health insurance or are underinsured. We’re facing the great existential crisis of our time in terms of climate change. You’ve got 500,000 people sleeping out on the street and you’ve got 18 million people paying half of their limited incomes for housing. What the American people understand is that the Congress can walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.”

Pete Buttigieg delivered a similar response. “We are absolutely going to confront this president for his wrongdoing, but we’re also each running to be the president who will lead this country after the Trump presidency comes to an end one way or the other.”

And on the campaign trail in Iowa last week, Joe Biden said, “The question [from voters] is not first and foremost: ‘What about impeachment?’”

Bottom line: Republicans are messaging the existential threat that impeachment brings, arguing that the entire process subverts the will of voters.

But Democrats aren’t messaging that same existential threat. In fact, they’re ALSO arguing that the best way to defeat Trump is at the ballot box in 2020.

At some point, that messaging disparity is going to be unsustainable for Democrats.

How do you make the case that the sitting president of the United States can’t run for re-election when your party’s presidential candidates aren’t making that same case?

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