Why There’s No Deadline for Impeaching Trump

Image for post
Image for post
Impeachment March by Indivisible, Flickr.com

That the clock is ticking when it comes to initiating impeachment proceedings against Trump is steadily becoming a kind of common wisdom among Democrats and media pundits alike.

Writing for AP News, Laurie Kellman captures this increasingly popular position, insisting that “the tick-tock of time is an inexorable one as the 2020 presidential and congressional elections cast a widening shadow over Washington. As it spreads, the window for launching any impeachment proceedings shrinks, making the prospect of doing so beyond December unappetizing for wide swaths of Democrats.”

Opining in USA Today, Jill Lawrence worries Democrats are opting for “waiting for a legal process that might never bear fruit, or that finally is resolved when it’s too late to matter.”

Ed Kilgore, writing in New York magazine, even suggests impeachment might most effectively be reserved for Trump’s second term, should his bid for re-election prove successful. He, too, has worries over how the impeachment process might impact Democrats’ chances in the 2020 election, writing:

It seems likely that impeachment could take over the 2020 election cycle, narrowing rather than expanding the Democratic indictment of Trump’s presidency. The obsessive media attention devoted to impeachment before, during, and after the formal proceedings might well step on the Democratic messages that worked in the midterms, overshadow the campaign of Trump’s Democratic opponent, and rev up the MAGA machine into a high-pitched chattering whine of turnout-generating hate-frenzy.

Here’s the thing, particularly when it comes to raising the prospect of impeaching Trump in a possible second term in office: It doesn’t have to be either/or.

Indeed, especially if there is talk of initiating impeachment of Trump in a potential second term, Democrats have all the more reason to initiate these proceedings as soon as possible without letting worries over whether or not “it’s too late” deter them.

The mantra for hosts of Democrats since achieving their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-terms has been that “they can walk and chew gum at the same time,” meaning they can still craft and pass a meaningful legislative agenda while holding hearings in pursuit of investigating Donald Trump’s mountain of suspected wrongdoings.

Why wouldn’t walking and chewing gum at the same time also apply to the ability of a Democratic candidate to run for President while the House of Representatives pursues impeachment?

That undecided portion of American voters, sliver-thin as it might be, might actually be swayed by whatever illuminating evidence rises to the surface of public knowledge. Such thinking is in line with the popular view that Robert Mueller’s public testimony is vital because the American public simply doesn’t read and will engage the report, despite its availability, only in a kind of move version, meaning a televised public hearing.

Already the position that Democrats should refrain from impeachment and wait for the election is fairly ridiculous in itself. Such a position suggests that pursuing impeachment in a possible Trump second term would not be possible, that Democrats would just accept election results, letting voters decide.

Impeachment proceedings and elections are two separate and distinct processes, one belonging to Congress and the other to the American people. Each constituency can do its job.

Should Congress really not proceed with impeachment, if members believe the President is guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” of abusing the office and threatening our national security and democracy, because voters tell them not to? Such a position hardly seems to make sense.

Better to have impeachment proceedings, and the all hearings they entail, drag through and beyond the election than to start them after the 2020 Presidential election. Such a strategy would truly look like sour grapes on the part of Democrats. Starting as soon as possible before the election, even if during campaign season, looks like what it should be — Democrats doing their job with integrity.

Impeachment proceedings do not need to overshadow the messaging of any Democratic Presidential candidate. Rather, they can enhance it, as any Democratic message must in part be an indictment and exposure of the damage Trump has done this nation and its people on any number of fronts.

And when it comes to the worry that impeachment proceedings will whip up MAGA frenzy and drive voter turnout for Trump, all I can say is “Puuulll-eease!” This crowd will be whipped up anyway.

Democrats must speak up with the hope of reaching those who are willing to listen but simply haven’t, because they need the movie.

There’s no deadline to start the impeachment process; just an imperative to do so as soon as possible.

Professor of Literature, Political Economy enthusiast, Dad, always thinking about the optimal world

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store