When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did an about-face and blessed the impeachment inquiry, it was suggested that she knew Trump would never be convicted. Instead, she and other Democrats decided that tainting him forever with the scarlet “I” would be reward enough. Her comments over the past few days reinforce that notion, most recently during an appearance with comedian Bill Maher, in which Pelosi did not contain her glee.
“You are impeached forever,” Pelosi said with a broad smile, addressing her message directly to the president and laying waste to all preceding claims of prayerfulness and solemnity. She added, “No matter what the Senate does, it can never be erased.” What will also never be erased is Pelosi’s stamp on a purely partisan, politically motivated impeachment.
As much outrage as it would spawn in the short term, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would best serve the nation now by engineering an immediate dismissal, or at least a rapid acquittal. Treating the impeachment of Trump as a serious endeavor will encourage what is intended as an extreme remedy to be wielded as a political weapon time and again. A quick end would establish the needed precedent that future Houses considering impeachment had better build bipartisan support.
It has been fascinating that in just three years in the White House, Trump’s bellicose and profane temperament has quickly metastasized throughout the body politic, including among Democrats — from Pelosi’s unseemly gloating to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) declaring, “We’re going to impeach the [expletive deleted],” to Biden boasting that if he and Trump were in high school, “I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” It’s as though everyone has been itching for years to drop the charade of statesmanship and decorum, and Trump has set them free.
Some welcome this as a positive development, reflective of how most Americans think and talk. It is part of Trump’s appeal to his base, and maybe Democrats find it attractive, too, when voiced by their own heroes. Perhaps it is a healthy acknowledgement that we are, in fact, a low-brow society, despite occasionally putting on airs to pretend otherwise.
Others bemoan the loss of civility amid the dying embers of polite society. In fact, civility has been gasping for breath since the advent of left-right spats on 24-hour cable news, the outrageousness of reality television and the new standard of gauging the importance of events based on whether they “go viral” on social media. Donald Trump is the embodiment of the tabloid society we’ve created. Instead of offering a better example, Democrats have engaged in a race to the bottom — which Trump is preternaturally programmed to win.
Rather than a response to an actual constitutional crisis, this impeachment is a reflection of the revenge culture in which we live. Democrats would probably gain more respect by simply admitting they impeached Trump because they consider him loathsome — a judgment with which many Americans concur — and because he ruined their dreams of electing the first female president. At its core, this impeachment represents a grudge — let’s “impeach the [expletive deleted]” and “beat the hell out of him.”
Many commentators will pretend this impeachment is about high-minded constitutional ideals and accuse the Republican Party of a “coverup.” If Republicans don’t agree to call witnesses, Democrats and many in the media insist, the trial will not be fair — ignoring the fact that the House could have waited for the courts to decide the question of witnesses, and overlooking the fact that, as the defendant, Trump is the one entitled to a fair trial.
Because both sides are masters of the game, Republicans understand that Democrats want witnesses not because they think it will help convict Trump but to collect more sound bites for the campaign against him — a campaign made difficult by a robust economy and a lackluster field of challengers.
“We are better than this,” various Democrats like to claim when discussing Trump’s policies or behavior. In fact, we are not better than this, as this vindictive impeachment proves now, and as Trump’s likely reelection will demonstrate later.