Democrats’ Refusal to Impeach Trump Could Be the Death of Them in 2020

“The general sentiment of mankind is that a man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others, and this sentiment is just,” Frederick Douglas said in 1857. “The poet was as true to common sense as to poetry when he said, ‘Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.’”

Do not call for a battle for which you are not willing to fight yourself. To do otherwise is to earn contempt.

For three years Congressional Democrats repeatedly took to the nation’s airwaves and prose media outlets to tout the Mueller Report and their certainty that the former FBI director’s team would uncover proof that Donald Trump and his team were traitors because they conspired with a foreign adversary, the Russian Federation, to steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton. Mueller would provide the evidence needed to justify impeachment.

Though Democrats dropped the I-word from their rhetoric near the end of the campaign, Democratic voters’ support for impeaching Trump motivated voter turnout in the 2018 midterms and led to Democratic gains. A June 2018 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 70% of Democratic voters wanted Democrats to retake the House of Representatives so they could hold impeachment hearings.

Like a dog who caught a car (like Trump caught a presidency he reportedly didn’t want), Democrats captured the House. But they don’t want to impeach. Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders say impeachment would divide the country, turn off swing voters and risk the kind of backlash Republicans suffered in 2000 after they voted to impeach Bill Clinton. As New York Times columnist Gail Collins, a Democrat, advises, “Let’s just vote the sucker out” next year.

Refusal to impeach is a serious tactical error. It could cost them the 2020 election.

Like most bad tactical decisions, this one follows a faulty analysis of the past and applying historical lessons to a present under which conditions have changed. First, Republicans hardly got destroyed in 2000. They won the presidency (albeit via a judicial coup d’etat), held on to the House following the net loss of one seat and the Senate went to a tie following a net four-seat loss. Second, polarization has resulted in the virtual extinction of the once mighty swing voter. Third, there was no bipartisan consensus that lying about receiving oral sex was impeachable. Trump didn’t collude with Russia but even many Republicans have trouble with Trump’s WWE temperament, early morning tweetstorms and overall erratic personality (personality, not politics, would form a solid foundation for impeaching the current president).

Trump is in a much better position than he was in 2016. Now he leads a united GOP. He probably won’t face a significant primary challenger. His base adores him. Though many have been left behind, by most measures the economy is booming. And he hasn’t started any big new wars. By historical standards this feels something like peace. Democrats should not underestimate him again.

Presidential elections are referenda on the incumbent. Incumbent Trump is sitting pretty, especially now that he can credibly claim exoneration on claims of Russian collusion. Unless something big happens, inertia rules; enough Americans go ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it to reelect him.

As the party out of power, the only chance Democrats have is to promise a future that’s dramatically more appealing as well as practical to create. Most of the major Democratic presidential contenders have embraced Bernie Sanders’ holy trinity: Medicare for All, $15 minimum wage, free public college tuition. Improvements to be sure, but exciting enough inducements to defeat a strong incumbent? I doubt it.

This is where Frederick Douglas comes in. Democrats have a well-earned reputation for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory, often due to a failure of nerve. Democrats whine. They preen. But they don’t fight.

The Republican Senate guarantees Trump wouldn’t be removed from office, yet impeaching the president would help assure the Democrats’ repeatedly-disappointed progressive base that the party’s long run of appeasing Republicans had finally come to an end. Democrats don’t stand a chance against a unified Republican party without firming up their base too.

Moreover, Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. They pimped the Mueller Report and Russian collusion as the road to Trump B Gon only to have that narrative evaporate in light of the facts. Douglas was right. Asking the voters to do next year what they’re not willing to do themselves this year—get rid of Trump—is an invitation for nothing but the brutal contempt of mass indifference.

(Ted Rall, the cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)


  • > A June 2018 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 70% of Democratic voters wanted Democrats to retake the House of Representatives so they could hold impeachment hearings.

    Unfortunately, the House doesn’t hold hearings – the Senate does. That would be the GOP-majority Senate.

    The final nail in Nixon’s coffin was his *attempt* to fire Cox, that was considered enough to establish Obstruction of Justice at the time – even to (many) Republicans. Trump did fire Comey. He did a lot of other things that certainly look like obstruction. But as Ted noted, times have changed, Republicans are no longer outraged by such behavior. (I should say “publicly outraged” – they’ve never been privately outraged thereby.)

    Shocking as it may sound, Pelosi actually floated the I-word recently. Even if it died in the Senate, it would be nice to get the individual GOP Senators’ votes on record.

    Interesting note: a lot of findings of the Mueller Report hinge on ‘criminal intent’ … I mean, seriously? Are you familiar with the overgrown Cheeto known as “Donald Trump?” Has the man *ever* had an intent which *wasn’t* criminal? Ever? Anybody?

    • alex_the_tired
      April 24, 2019 9:59 AM

      Two points.
      1. I don’t think a lot of people know HOW impeachment works. I think a lot of people are still thinking that having the House of Reps start it would be sufficient to end in a Nixonian resignation. It’s a complicated process, considering how poorly educated most people are in the mechanics of our republican form of government.
      2. As for criminal intent. I find this to be a vastly under-covered issue in the media. When Hillary “Kissinger Is My Hero Because He Killed So Many Children” Clinton got those questions for the debate, and when the dnc, which she co-owned with her husband, completely subverted the concept of what voting means, surely there was criminal intent there. Or did she HONESTLY think that she was SO QUALIFIED that she had to completely do an end-run around the whole electoral process? So where’s the screams and shrieks that she be indicted for PROVEN election tampering? And I haven’t even gotten to the Clinton Foundation and the criminality of helping the powerful pass legislation favorable to them in exchange for “donations” to “help” the less fortunate. If Hill and Bill had simply gone into evangelism and done their version of the Jim and Tammy Faye scam, I might have a little more respect for them.

      • Much agreement and some further thought…

        I can’t see Trump resigning. There are undoubtedly people out there hoping he would, but his ego wouldn’t allow it. Perhaps he’d fake his death like Ken Lay. 😀 (then show up at Mar-a-Lago a week later, smart he ain’t)

        Yep, the DNC lied and cheated and generally played dirty. But I don’t seriously believe they could be charged with election tampering or any other criminal behavior.

        At worst, they could be sued in a civil suit for breach of contract or some such. Their defense would be that they were just doing their jobs of ensuring that the ‘right’ candidate was chosen. (Note to deniers: I am not making that argument, I am merely predicting that would be the defense they would use. Moreover, that it would probably work.)

      • Just for jollies, I tracked down the DNC Charter. I believe this would be the relevant section:

        “Establish standards and rules of procedure to afford all members of the Democratic Party full, timely and equal opportunities to participate in decisions concerning the selection of candidates, the formulation of policy, and the conduct of other Party affairs, without prejudice on the basis of sex, race, age (if of voting age), color, creed, national origin, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic identity or disability, and further, to promote fair campaign practices and the fair adjudication of disputes.”

        Well, it doesn’t actually say anything about prejudice against candidates who care about the electorate. 😉

        But it seems pretty clear that they did violate their stated principles. Given that the party faithful sometimes donate directly to the party, it would seem that there is a basis for a civil suit.

  • alex_the_tired
    April 23, 2019 11:11 AM

    1. Trump’s strategy is simple and effective and has worked for his entire life: scream and carry on and people will give you what you want just to shut up. He’s the rich kid with the lousy parents. When he wants something all he has to do is carry on until they crack.
    2. The dems bet it all on the Mueller Report and its ability to prove a very unsexy case of collision. The Pee Tape never materialized and, for a lot of people, listening to the left’s Universal Outrage Machine has become a lot too tiresome in an economy where 401(k)s are tapped repeatedly for funds to stay alive and home ownership is a cruel joke. Now, the dems have their flaccid Mueller Report and nowhere to stick it. If they impeach, they’ll fail, which will give Trump all he needs. If they succeed? They won’t. And they realize it. Trump outplayed them by taking advantage of all their unforced errors. Just like in 2016.
    3. Watching “My Cousin Vinny” the other day. There’s the lines about disclosure of all evidence to both sides. Ted, if the cop who arrested you had a 14-year-old audio recording of you, how many other cases had potentially exculpatory evidence? Did those recordings get disclosed during those trials? Does your case have the potential to invalidate tens of thousands of other cases due to non-disclosure of relevant evidence?

  • To Hurricane Crazy:

    You appear to be very confused about impeachement/trial/hearings.

    Yes, Ms Pelosi DID recently “float the I-word.”
    On Mar11, 2019, in the online NYT she was quoted as saying
    “I-word is just NOT (my emphasis) worth it.”

    Do you have a more recent quote?

    • Just for reference, I consider “hurricane” to be a compliment.

      They were calling me that at the dojo twenty years ago ‘cuz of my spinning backfist. I’m nowhere near as fast as I was then, but my accuracy is still 100%. If you’re standing behind me, back off or kiss the mat. It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.

      But anyhoo, I must admit I can’t find the reference I thought I saw earlier. Damn. One can always hope.

      • To Hurricane Crazy

        “(Hope) in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up first,”… ESPECIALLY when dealing with the exceptionally treacherous USA Democratic Party.

        Paraphrased from
        ― Stephen King, The Dark Tower

        (no, I did not read the book [series?] but
        the attribution appeared in search results.
        Life is too short to read fiction.)

      • Thank you for the repeated compliment, it’s nice to be recognized.

        Yep, I agree that the Ds are treacherous, but no, I have not given up hope – ‘cuz when I do it will be time to lie down and die.

        That’s just not how I do things, I’ll keep fighting as long as I keep breathing.

    • “Just for reference, I consider “hurricane” to be a compliment.”

      So, you are actually proud of being a right-wing Democratic Party loyalist apologist and a spinner full of hot air.

      I always prefer to think of you as more of a pirouetting ballerina dizzy from your spinning.

      It takes so little to set you spinning, and is such fun to stand back away from and observe.

      • I’m curious, Glenn – what, exactly, do you think the word “spin” means? ‘cuz it’s obviously quite different than what most people think.

        Every time a new revelation came out about DastardlyRussiansGate, you always tried to explain it away as something other than what it looked like. THAT is called spin, my little ballerina.

        I, on the other hand, suggested that it meant what it looked like it meant. That is the precise opposite of spin.

        Your earlier post this morning trying to minimize the Russians’ actions is another form of spin. I, on the other hand, neither try to exaggerate or minimize those efforts. Again, the precise opposite of spin.

        Let me give you a little pointer about insulting people, purely in the spirit of improving the flame wars on this site. Insults only sting if they have some basis of truth, or possibility of truth. e.g. if you call a Jew a “Zionist” he will most probably take offense. But if you call him a “Nigger” he will look at you funny and respond, “Arooo?”

        Being called a ‘spinner’ by a whirling dervish does not sting. It merely highlights the little ballerina’s own sloppy pirouettes. Go ahead, if it makes you feel all manly and stuffs, but it does nothing for me.

        OTOH, calling me “Hurricane” does remind me of my glory days. So thank you for that.

  • Interesting analysis, Ted. I suspect one would see a blip upwards in figures for the Democrats were the House to impeach, Mr Trump, but what happens when the Senate – as it will ; keep in mind that «the concurrence of two thirds of the members present» is required – quashes the attempt to remove him from office ? Would the let-down on the part of those whom you call the Democrat’s «base» negatively affect their candidate’s chances in the US presidential election of 2020 ?…

    Impossible to say, but were I in charge of strategy for that party, I’d rather choose to go for policies to deal with the severe economic and not least, environmental problems facing ordinary people, and for a reversal of the on-going militarisation of the country….


  • […] uncover proof that Donald Trump and his team were traitors because they conspired with a foreign adversary, the Russian Federation, to steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton. Mueller […]