John Zogby, Senior Partner at John Zogby Strategies
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress began and ended just it was anticipated. Mr. Mueller is an honorable, honest, and sensible man – too much to allow himself to become fodder for either side in this drama. He promised only to stick to his investigation and he did just that. The hearings provided an opportunity for Congressional representatives to speak (sometimes in shrill tones) and so they got their opportunity to shine. In the end, as we thought, there were no bombshells, no grand sound byte moments. Each side got nothing; each side claimed to be a winner. We are right back to where we started.
Here is what we know. President Donald Trump is a crud, very possibly a crook; an indecent human being; heartless; a terrible boss who surrounds himself with pliable buffoons. When he has hired smart and decent people, they have left in fairly short order. He has neither the intellect nor the demeanor to be President of the United States. Has he committed “high crimes and misdemeanors”, as the Constitution requires, to be considered for impeachment? Short answer: probably. Should he be impeached? Short answer: No.
Impeachment can certainly mean accountability for this President. No man should be above the law. But that is for the prosecutors and courts in the criminal justice system to decide – after he leaves office. Those of us who were around at the time saw how long it took to force President Richard Nixon to resign. More of us saw what a colossal waste of time the impeachment of President Bill Clinton turned out to be. Impeachment is not an agenda. It is a tool of revenge. It is a further excuse for blowing a winnable election. It is overturning the vote of an Electoral College. It does not move the ball forward. Rather, it provides an expensive high for those who hate any President, but nothing else.
Democrats should ignore the voices and passions of those in their ranks who demand impeachment because it will further split the nation – perhaps irreparably. As of this writing, Mr. Trump’s polling average is at 45% approval. Takeaway one polling outlier and his average is 46% — higher than usual and exactly where he was when he was elected. Mr. Trump thrives on driving the Washington establishment crazy and his anti-elitism is fuel for his anti-elite base. Pushing for impeachment only serves to rally that base and allows Mr. Trump to play the role of victim.
Rather, the Democrats should focus on why their party deserves to win in 2020. What exactly is their agenda? How do they establish enough credibility to be more than just anti-Trump? How do they unite? The Presidential debates among Democrats are about to get nastier. The progressive-establishment split within the party will only get uglier. Candidates have already begun to dredge up positions and issues that are decades old. But none of this will answer the question: how are you any better? Let the debates continue – on issues, not the personal. But in the meantime, representatives of the candidates should be meeting quietly to figure out how to bridge issues between the two wings of the party and how best to take elements from each side to build a coherent agenda. As they talk, they should also be testing optimum running mate team scenarios.
What should the Democrats not be doing? Wasting their time making Donald Trump a victim and diverting their time away from their agenda. Impeachment only plays into the President’s hands and will only fail – if for no other reason than any successful impeachment in the House of Representatives will only lose at trial in the GOP-controlled Senate. It will not bring Millennials and Gen Z out to vote. It will not appeal to independents and to other groups who need a government to do good things not waste everyone’s time. If Mr. Trump wins in November 2020 it won’t be because he wasn’t impeached. It will be because the Democrats could not close the deal. Again.
Let the courts decide.