Democrats responded to the whistleblower scandal surrounding Donald Trump’s contacts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky almost as fast as they could. In fact, even as Trump attempted to set the narrative before they got a chance to see the “transcript” of their July call, with the expectation of defining the coverage, Democrats were relentless, and they were the ones who defined the narrative. If one is going to impeach a president in these times, that is the way to do it.
This response was a far cry from the response to the Mueller report, when Democrats allowed Trump and his cabal to define the narrative. I wrote then,
I want us to impeach and convict the president. Unfortunately, our country is so uninformed that I know Donald Trump and his cabal will take advantage of the impeachment better than we will. Why? Because it is already happening.
The Mueller report was devastating. But the Trump show, the preamble to the release of the redacted report, was more effective than most thought it would be. The percentage of Americans wanting impeachment declined slightly.
Democrats should have been waiting for the Mueller report like a staged event. They should have taken delivery. Given a big speech. Asked reporters to come back in four hours where they would give a preliminary take on the report after their experts examined it. They then should have, in front of cameras, acted with incredulity that William Barr could characterize the story as exonerating with topic points and graphics. At that point, they should have declared that they would begin hearings immediately because the country cannot wait any longer as it is clear Trump damaged our national security with his suspect relations with foreign agents, corruption, and obstruction of justice.
But instead of putting in the work to clothe and sell the product to the American people, they allowed the Trump plot to succeed. Democrats lost the ability to believably inculcate in the minds of Americans that the Trump ordeal is anything other than politics, dirty and corrupt, but politics nonetheless.
Suffice it to say, this time around, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ready with the big speech. The most powerful Democrat, who previously tempered talk of impeachment, was now ready to impeach. This is how one wields power with a narrative. All the leaders of the Democratic Party are on board, and every day sidelined timid Democrats are coming on board.
This is a necessary excitement for the progressive base of the Democratic Party. Many whom I've spoken to feel that the unwarranted fear many felt about the president's false prowess was being broken. Democrats must remember that Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million people and won the Electoral College by 80,000 votes, and has never cracked 50% in the polls. He should have never been feared. Obama won by millions more. Did Republicans ever display fear? Hell no. And that is what Americans like: strength and belief in one's convictions.
So what now? One hopes Democrats will display strength. Most of Trump's bad deeds are known and documented. Draft the articles of impeachment, vote on them, and send them to the Senate. Each Democrat should then go back to their district and campaign like hell.
Here is the deal: Impeachment will do little to move the poll numbers on Trump or on members of Congress. Trump is a known quantity. Even his supporters know he is a corrupt human being. Unless each Democrat gives a compelling and convincing argument that a vote for a Democrat will make their lives better, they will continue to vote for our corrupt president and his cabal.
We have some party operatives who continue to balance those who promote more progressive policies against the policies mandated by their corporate masters. They continuously object to policies that empower the poor and middle class. Don't be fooled: Some of those you least expect to would tolerate a Trump. Progressives must get their act together strategically and put winning above everything else. That is what each member of Congress running must do: make the case unabashedly.
Impeachment behind us, presidential candidates, politicians, activists, and activist progressive media should be out there detailing how Medicare for All will ensure real health care without breaking the bank, leaving most with more money in their pockets. They should do the work to sell the Green New Deal in Appalachia and the Midwest by explaining to voters there precisely what it would mean for them. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives should go to Kentucky and other states where they “don't belong” and visit the coal miners and other workers and take the time to explain how Green New Deal policies will make them healthier and wealthier. They may sneak in wins where least expected. They should sell college-debt forgiveness as no different than what we do for corporations.
It is amazing what simply showing up may do for Democrats in this cycle. Show up in the ghettos, in the barrios, and in Appalachia. That is the coalition. Unfortunately, we tend to either cede or disregard the voters in these regions.
Understand that Tulsi Gabbard's sentiment has some validity: “I think when you step out of the bubble here in Washington and you get to where most people in the country are; look I am not a lawyer but most people reading through that transcript are not going to find that extremely compelling cause to throw out a president that won an election in 2016.”
Activists and pundits understand this stuff. But most Americans are not all that interested, as NBC journalist Steve Kornacki found out. The media and politicians have normalized Trump so much so that it is unlikely much of this would change as it did in the days of Nixon.
So yes, impeach the president. Yes, do it quickly. But note that the sole purpose of this impeachment is for Congress to do its constitutional duty and deservedly mark this president as one who broke the law. But to win, Democrats and progressives have got to go out there and earn it by convincing Americans that they are the existential option.