When needed to prevent catastrophe and preserve the rule of law, impeachment is both a necessity and a superior political strategy...
By Ernest A. Canning on 11/18/2017, 2:44pm PT  

Earlier this month, billionaire Democratic Party donor Tom Steyer unleashed his $10 million nationwide "Need To Impeach" campaign (1-minute video ad is posted below). He recently purchased another $10 million in ad time, bringing the campaign total to $20 million.

In targeting Donald Trump for accountability, according to the Los Angeles Times, Steyer "raised the ire of both President Trump and the president's Democratic nemesis, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi."

"The president," the Times reported, "lashed out at Steyer in a tweet, deriding him as 'wacky & totally unhinged'." Trump also appears to have managed to convince Fox "News" to stop running the ad on his favorite channel, which claimed it was banning the spot "due to the strong negative reaction...by our viewers."

Trump's distain for the ad is understandable. Pelosi's opposition, however, while consistent with her historical record, should be regarded as unacceptable.

Avoiding real accountability for this President --- and calling on others in her party to do the same --- is deeply flawed and misguided political calculus, calling to mind the admonition of Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

In this case, impeachment is needed to preserve the rule of law and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. Contrary to Pelosi's calculations, it is both a necessity and good political strategy...

'Elite consensus'

One troubling element of Pelosi's opposition to impeachment is that, rather than open a public debate on the substantive validity of Steyer's campaign, the House Minority Leader has done so largely behind closed doors. The Times cites her objections as coming during a "closed door" meeting with "Democratic leaders", where she "expressed her displeasure" by complaining that Steyer's ad "could distract from tangible Democratic efforts to stifle Trump's Washington agenda."

Noam Chomsky astutely observed: "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." Elsewhere, Chomsky refers to what falls within this dictated range of acceptable discourse as the "elite consensus".

At the very beginning of its article, the L.A. Times sets forth that "elite consensus" with their comparison of the collective hackles raised by both the Republican President and the Democratic House leader. The implication is that if these two competing, elected elites are both offended by the ad, Steyer's call for impeachment should, perhaps, be summarily dismissed as "hyper-charged partisan" hyperbole. In avoiding the validity of Steyer's actual message and questioning his motivation --- the paper argues that it "has stirred speculation over whether Steyer might launch a bid for office in California" --- the ad's message is further discredited.

On the other hand, the Times fails to even question Pelosi's assertion in that closed door conversation that Trump would "self-impeach". That position absolves her caucus of what Pelosi apparently sees as a "controversial" mandate given exclusively to the House of Representatives for those rare instances where the survival of our republic, and perhaps, in this instance, humanity's survival is threatened.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the California Democrat has placed political calculations of what is expedient before Presidential accountability and the preservation of the rule of law.

Pelosi's wishful thinking ("self-impeachment") calls to mind a basic political truth, long ago recognized by the former slave, Frederick Douglass: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will."

Clear and present danger

Perhaps the most disturbing point at the center of both Pelosi's behind closed doors objections and the L.A. Times' cavalier dismissal of impeachment, is that neither examines the substantive urgency for Trump's removal from office.

In addition to the Team Trump/Russia probe, there are already multiple grounds for impeachment. These include, but are not limited to, abuse of power; "withholding appropriated funding 'for the purpose of destroying authorized programs'" (e.g., withholding subsidies as part of an effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act); violations of the U.S. Constitution's Emoluments clause; Trump's use of his office as a vehicle for self-enrichment; and an egregious breach of the Presidential duty to protect the lives of American citizens in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Yet, none of those serious grounds for impeachment capture the urgency behind Steyer's plea to "tell your member of Congress that they have a moral responsibility to stop doing what's political and start doing what's right."

The dissembling sociopath in the White House, according to 27 of this nation's top psychiatrists and mental health professionals, represents a clear and present danger not only to democracy and the rule of law but also to the very survival of humanity. Indeed, Trump may have already brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war.

It is this existential threat to humanity's survival, be it from nuclear annihilation ("fire and fury)" or the more subtle, if insidious, threat posed by climate science denial, that materially distinguishes what is occurring now from 2007, when then House Speaker Pelosi was also criticized for taking impeachment "off the table."

Then, as now, Pelosi placed political calculus before the rule of law with her decision to take impeachment off the table for Democrats during the George W. Bush regime. That decision, coupled with the Obama Administration's subsequent failure to prosecute the Bush/Cheney cabal for war crimes --- their initiation of a war of aggression in Iraq and torture policies, among them --- provided a foundation of Presidential impunity under which the current occupant of the White House seeks to destroy every Constitutional roadblock to unchecked executive power and every liberty guaranteed by our constitution.

In avoiding accountability then, both Pelosi and Obama paved the way for the nightmare that now confronts us now.

Nonetheless, whatever else may be said of the Bush/Cheney cabal's abhorrent and illegal practices (e.g., extraordinary rendition and CIA black sites), none of these carried with them the existential threat to end all life on this planet.

Bad politics

Pelosi's 2007 decision to take impeachment off the table preceded the 2008 election of President Obama and Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress. But that doesn't mean that Pelosi's 2007 political calculus was a causal factor that contributed to the 2008 Democratic electoral success.

There were a multitude of reasons, unrelated to Pelosi's 2007 decision against impeachment, that resulted in the Democratic wave of 2008.

For starters, one year before Pelosi took impeachment off the table, in 2006, the American electorate had already grown weary of "Congressional misconduct and the war in Iraq". They voted at that time to end 12-years of uninterrupted Republican control of the House.

Moreover, by November 2008, the economy was in free-fall as the result of Wall Street's fraudulent schemes. Jobs were evaporating at the fastest rate since 1974. That, coupled with exposure of the lies that had led us into the Iraq war, so tarnished the Republican label that Bush's approval rating plummeted to 34%. Cheney's plunged to a "staggeringly low 13%". The electorate was desperate for Obama's "hope and change". Democrats in both Houses of Congress rode yet another wave on the coattails of his winning message.

Unfortunately, even with corporate-money compromised Democrats in power in the White House and Congress, meaningful "change" proved elusive.

Operating within the narrow confines of the "elite consensus" these past eight years, the Democratic Party Leadership cost Democrats the Presidency, both Houses of Congress and over 1,000 state legislative seats.

Pelosi's concern that impeachment would now detract from Democratic opposition to Trump's agenda provides a classic example of what economist Bruce Bartlett, a Republican-turned-Independent, derided as a profound weakness in Democratic Party strategy. "The party doesn't really stand for anything other than opposition to the GOP." What he sees as lacking is "muscular Democrat[s] with the courage of their convictions."

One of the cornerstones of a democratic society is a commitment to the rule of law. There can be no better way for the Democratic Party to demonstrate such a commitment, than by wholeheartedly supporting the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. By doing so, the party would truly be displaying the courage of its convictions.

Litmus test?

The L.A. Times' article reveals that Pelosi and other establishment Democrats have expressed a concern that impeachment, like Medicare-for-All, could become a litmus test for Democratic Party candidates. Yet, the decision as to what does or does not become a litmus test is not one that is left to party "leadership".

It seems a safe bet that Congressional Republicans will not join with their six Democratic colleagues, who, last week, defied Pelosi by introducing Articles of Impeachment in the U.S. House.

Given the threat to both the rule of law and our survival, citizens have every right to consider whether impeachment of both Trump and Mike Pence should not only become a central issue of the 2018 election, but also whether it should be treated as a litmus test for Democratic Party candidates. Indeed, there's an increasing probability that rank-and-file Democrats will apply that litmus test. As of August, 72% of Democrats (up from 58% in February) want to see Donald Trump impeached and removed from office.

The "elite consensus" may be to avoid impeachment. The consensus of Democratic voters, however, is just the opposite.

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Video of Steyer impeachment ad follows...

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Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968) and a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. He has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing

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