08 Jan Mollineau Op-ed: Democrats: Concentrate on defeating, not impeaching
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that when I first read that freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) told a crowd of supporters that “We’re going to impeach the motherf—-r,” I laughed and carried on with my day.
After months of “Lock her up!” chants, learning that the president called NFL athletes who kneel “sons of bitches” and made numerous other degrading comments about women, people of color, immigrants, Gold Star families and war veterans, I have become more thick-skinned to hearing salty language coming out of the mouths of our elected representatives. Also, I previously did some political work in Tlaib’s district and heard worse on a daily basis.
I certainly can empathize with a newly-sworn congresswoman (Congress’s first Palestinian woman) being caught up in celebration and playing to a crowd; conversely, I can dismiss the rhetoric of a new member so green she might still need help finding her way around the Capitol.
My concern is not with the perceived gaffe itself, but the faulty logic and bad politics that have led some Democrats to permit cries for impeachment to dominate their messaging.
To be clear, the Democratic-led House must exercise its constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. This starts with rigorous scrutiny from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, as well as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee.
And there is nothing to say that this oversight must be limited to the present or to prospective actions. Over the past two years, congressional Republicans routinely shirked their responsibility to hold the current administration accountable for its missteps, instead choosing to rally around President Trump and avoid incurring his wrath. Democrats are well within their rights to review those past wrongdoings. In some cases, such as Congressman Devin Nunes’ handling of the Russia election interference investigation, the process was so sloppy and partisan that it lacked any credibility and should be started over from scratch.
Democrats also must be patient and let special counsel Robert Muellerfinish his work. Regardless of what we think we know — what we have seen and heard on TV news, read online or in newspapers — we do not yet have the full picture. Mueller’s conclusions may very well bring forth the fodder needed to make Tlaib’s prophecy come true, but until then our party must support the due process the president apparently never would afford us.
In the absence of a smoking gun, and to the extent that all Democrats want the same thing in 2020, I’m not convinced the impeachment of Donald Trump would bring us closer to that goal — although it’s probably more accurate to say “attempted impeachment.” The new Democratic majority consists of 31 House members who are representing districts Trump won in 2016. Simply put, a vote of this magnitude likely would tear apart this majority, and there is no certainty of 218 votes to accomplish the task.
While some have made the argument that impeachment would further weaken President Trump going into the next presidential election, it more likely would cause further polarization of the electorate, lend credence to the absurd talking point that “the system is rigged” and stiffen the spines of otherwise Trump-weary Republicans. Trump is the least sympathetic political figure in my lifetime; we shouldn’t give him any room to change that narrative.
Finally, on behalf of the umpteen Democrats preparing to run for president in 2020, talk of impeachment is not helpful. No serious candidate wants to spend months litigating this issue on the campaign trail when it is more important to provide a stark contrast to the current leadership of the White House and a positive vision for where a Democratic administration would lead America.
Voters elected Democrats to Congress for a reason, but regardless of how you read the mandate, impeachment was not at the top of the list. The anger and frustration we feel over the actions of the current administration are understandable, but we should focus that energy not on impeaching but on defeating this White House occupant in 2020.
Rodell Mollineau is a partner at ROKK Solutions, a bipartisan public affairs firm. He was communications director for former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and staff director of the Senate Democratic Communications Center. Follow him on Twitter @rodell.
Read the full op-ed at The Hill