Many comrades have trouble getting their arms around the removal of the most depraved, reactionary president in memory. Not surprisingly, nobody in their right mind wants to launch a new Cold War against the Satanic Russians. Nevertheless, heartfelt encouragement of impeachment from the Left is fully warranted.
As the impeachment process struggles to be born, Democrats in Congress are cautiously constructing a case against the president on the narrowest grounds available – his attempt to extort the government of Ukraine to assist his 2020 re-election campaign.
It has not mattered that Donald Trump manifested his crookedness from day one, not to mention earlier. As one pundit noted, New York area elites have a lot to answer for, in failing to restrain this creature decades ago. His racist rhetoric, his vicious assault on immigrants, his indulgence of violence-prone right-wing street goons, his blatant attempts to obstruct justice, his myriad acts of garden-variety graft, none of this was enough to jump-start impeachment.
We have a lot to be bitter about. It’s turning out that the Democrats are impeaching Trump for being a bad Republican, for betraying the conservative principles of Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, and their foreign policy attack dog, John Bolton.
Nevertheless, we are where we are. Democrats have Trump dead to rights on Ukraine. A vote to impeach in the House of Representatives is likely. Democratic Speaker-of-the-House Nancy Pelosi is not known for calling votes she will lose.
On the Senate side, of course a vote to remove Trump is unlikely. However, a weekly ventilation of evidence over the next six months cannot but have a salutary political impact on public opinion and on Democratic prospects in 2020. Recent Democratic electoral victories in Virginia and less likely places like Louisiana are encouraging in this regard.
One dubious objection is that failure of the Senate to remove Trump would enable him to claim vindication. As we speak, the president is shoveling money to Republican incumbent senators in danger of defeat next year. The legitimacy of their votes to keep him in office is vulnerable to derision. Trump’s burgeoning record of dishonesty increasingly diminishes the veracity of claims he will make between now and next November.
Another objection is that removal would give us President Pence. Of course, if the Senate doesn’t vote to remove, there will never be a President Pence. If it does, however, the ensuing intra-Republican bloodletting would cripple the party for several electoral cycles. Resentment of Pence and any traitors by Trump’s core deplorable voters would lead to a Democratic tidal wave of victories in 2020. Odds are that an embittered, vengeful Trump would facilitate it.
In criminal proceedings, it is common for lawyers to impugn the credibility of witnesses or defendants by reference to acts outside whatever offense is in question. Sometimes this is legal and sometimes it isn’t. The relevance is that while the House Democrats are pursuing a political project – impeachment – on the narrowest of grounds, no such scruples restrain the Left.
A full-spectrum assault on the Republican Party’s depredations over the past three years, under the leadership of their poster boy, Donald Trump, facilitates impeachment in the same way aspersions on a defendant’s character reduce his or her standing in the eyes of the jury. In court this can be unfair; in politics, it is fair. It also supplies much-needed progressive context to the proceedings.
The specifics of the Ukraine affair should not be off-putting on the Left. Whatever you think of the U.S./EU aligned government of Ukraine, itself chock-full of dubious characters, there is no good reason to favor Russian aggression against it. Nor is criticism of Russia really redolent of Cold War hysteria. Russia is no longer Soviet or Red. Arguably, it has drifted quite far from any such station. It is merely one of the larger autocratic adversaries of the U.S. Foregoing any sympathy for its conflicts with less-powerful, neighboring countries is no indulgence of U.S. imperialism.
So impeachment can be fun. Others may take different sorts of satisfaction with it, but our own interests can be furthered as well. Democratic Party victories open up space for challenges to incumbents from the left. It’s easier to consider a progressive challenger when the potential Republican alternatives have little hope of benefitting. A higher margin of D votes in Congress, as well as possession of the White House, puts a greater obligation on the party establishment to produce results for the working class. Instead of being embroiled in arguments with ridiculous Trumpist loons, we can look forward to more serious debate with Democratic centrists on neoliberalism vs. democratic socialism.
The alternative to progressive engagement in the impeachment drama is progressive invisibility, just as public opinion is moving left and crying for change and leadership.
It doesn’t pay to get too far ahead of where the heads of most people are at. Back in the day, at a certain point the anti-war movement that the Left had done so much to germinate became mainstream. Some radicals became bored when everybody started agreeing with them. It was no longer cool. They moved on to more distant concerns.
That was a mistake.