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Opinion Give Pelosi what she wants on impeachment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) holds her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on Friday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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The 2009 summer recess was a nightmare for Democrats. That was the August of unruly town-hall forums around the country where constituents heckled their members of Congress over then-President Barack Obama’s push to increase access to health care. That was the summer when then-Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) was turned into a political piñata at one gathering when a woman thundered, “I don’t want this country turning into Russia, turning into a socialized country.” [Insert side eyes here.] And that was the summer when truth was trampled by the Republican vice presidential nominee who warned that part of Obama’s plan was to institute “death panels,” which only served to manufacture more outrage.

But as ugly as those days were then, they are incredibly instructive now. They changed the national debate on health-care reform. The demonstrations of raw anger and concern were impossible for Congress to ignore. Ten years later, rank-and-file Democrats who are now pining for the deserved impeachment of President Trump would do well to follow that playbook.

As of this writing, 101 House Democrats and one former Republican are on record supporting the opening of an impeachment inquiry against “Individual 1.” Yet, Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t one of them. While she hasn’t taken impeachment off the table, the California Democrat has made clear that she isn’t champing at the bit to exercise her constitutional right to pursue it. According to a Politico story on a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting after former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony Wednesday, “Pelosi has insisted Democrats need support from Republicans, or a shift in public sentiment, before even starting an impeachment inquiry against Trump.” This is where the lessons of 2009 come in.

Trump wins if you focus only on Mueller’s performance

Harvard University professor Danielle Allen says it is wrong to discuss impeachment as a purely political question, not a legal, moral, or constitutional one. (Video: The Washington Post)

Congress will be in recess for almost 46 days. It is during this time that pro-impeachment Democratic constituents should make their voices heard. Organize a march or demonstration. Show up at town halls. Go to their member’s district office and tell the nice person at the reception desk you support an impeachment inquiry and want them to support same. Can’t make it to the district office? Pick up the phone and call the district office. Call the D.C. office, too, while you’re at it. The message will get to them. Trust. The best way to demonstrate support for impeachment is to literally demonstrate. Show that there is strength in numbers.

Pelosi is a master legislator, and numbers are the coin of the realm. She knows her caucus and she knows where her members stand at any minute of any day. And she understands two things about politics. 1.) You need votes to get anything passed. 2.) To get the votes necessary to pass a controversial effort such as starting an impeachment inquiry you need enough public support behind it to deliver success.

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Responding to a question about impeachment and the growing clamor within the Democratic caucus to proceed, Pelosi was clear. “We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner,” the speaker said. “And everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined and positive way. Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage.”

So, rank-and-file Democrats, you really want impeachment and want it now? Give Pelosi more leverage.

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Read more:

Greg Sargent: It’s time for impeachment hearings on Trump. Here’s how Democrats may proceed.

Hugh Hewitt: The tide has turned, and Trump has the advantage

Corey Brettschneider: Mueller just showed why impeachment proceedings should begin soon

Jennifer Rubin: Mueller didn’t fail. The country did.

Dana Milbank: So this is why Mueller didn’t want to testify