If you identify as a Democrat, the tweet below from the Democratic leader in the Senate probably causes more than a little consternation.
President Trump’s foreign-policy-by-tweet is doing serious damage to the country. My Republican friends, the time is now to stand up & say to President Trump: stop tweeting & start leading.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 3, 2018
Why is Schumer’s reaction to the Big Button tweet (below) so low key? Why isn’t the big gun blaring?
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Steny Hoyer over in the House mirrored Schumer when he took to Twitter. The Commander-in-Chief “ought to be showing real leadership–not making America less safe,” said Hoyer.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee repeated the refrain, calling for presidential leadership. “STOP the games and lead!,” exhorted the Congresswoman.
Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, chose to ignore Trump’s bombast, a decision that merits applause as far as I’m concerned.
California Rep Ted Lieu, master of social media, renewed his call for passage of a bill (H.R. 669/S. 200) that prevents Trump from launching a nuclear first strike without first getting permission from Congress.
But all in all and time and again, the tone of Congressional Democrats falls short of the rage expressed by its members. Most notably, you do not hear calls for impeachment of Donald Trump. In fact, when asked that question directly, many Democrats demur. A smaller number have mentioned the possibility or introduced articles of impeachment. The line issued from Democrats is counter-intuitive. Do your job. Lead, they tell the man in the White House.
What is going on? In the day of staccato-voiced commentators and Breaking News by the minute, the concept of long-range political strategy is hard to accept. It’s akin to Hillary Clinton’s pragmatic progressivism. However, the Dem leadership is deliberately pursuing this slow lane of opposition. It makes sense.
Schumer and his colleagues settled on a tactical approach based on several factors. First, Paul Ryan will protect Trump from impeachment. Second, Trump is a drag on the Republican Party. Third, the 2018 Midterms are ten months away. And finally, Bob Mueller’s investigation is incomplete.
The Slow Plan
FACTOR ONE: When asked, the Speaker of the House called impeachment of Trump “ridiculous” and has steadfastly refused to countenance the idea. Articles of Impeachment are drafted in the House Judiciary committee, a body dominated by the GOP and peopled with folks like Louie Gohmert, Blake Farenthold, Doug Collins and Darrell Issa. The chances that these men will betray their loyalty and move on impeachment is nil.
FACTOR TWO: Despite passage of the GOP tax bill, polls show that Trump’s status remains historically low for a first term president. Republican voters dislike for Trump is bleeding into state elections like Alabama and Virginia and bodes well for Democrats. Incumbents running for reelection are now more inclined to distance themselves from Trump, wary of his poisoned coattails.
FACTOR THREE: Talk of a Blue Wave or even a Tsunami casting Democrats into Congress come November will dramatically change the power structure of the Legislature. Should Democrats regain control of both chambers, then impeachment becomes a reality. But there’s a good ten months between now and then.
FACTOR FOUR: Calls for impeachment before the Special Counsel reveals the findings of its investigation is premature. Without provocative and firm evidence of criminal activity, any push to impeach will be staunchly resisted by the GOP. More significantly, the probe itself might be endangered. Calling for impeachment now – without concrete evidence – is emotionally satisfying. But immediate gratification does not substitute for hard-core documentation.
Events may change. They probably will. But if the end game of Congressional Dems is to impeach Trump, there’s no reasonable expectation this will happen as long as Paul Ryan protects Trump and wields the power of the majority.
The Democrats are playing the long game. It’s fraught with unforeseen happenings. Their premise could collapse in a days’ time. As an example, the denouement of Steve Bannon might create a Republican surge. The party might coalesce around the ‘swamp’ of the establishment. Trump could sabotage Mueller. Or drop a nuke on North Korea. Anything is possible.
Add it all up and the best the Democrats can do is to hold firm, demand leadership and hope time is on their side.