Opinion: Process is More Powerful Than a Magic Wand

The story of Ukraine proves that process is more powerful than a magic wand.  Indeed in the days since the first reporting about Donald Trump’s alleged attempt to extort dirt on Joe Biden from Ukraine in exchange for previously promised military aid, the momentum for impeachment has built unlike at any time during the Trump presidency.

As the clamor for impeachment grows louder and more urgent, there are some who blame Nancy Pelosi for Trump’s continued occupation of the White House, as if she had a magic wand to poof Trump away the day she became Speaker of House for the second time.

The earth shifted when the world learned Donald Trump tried to coerce Ukraine into handing him dirt on Joe Biden. According to reporting, Trump tried eight times, and that doesn’t include Rudy Guiliani’s in-person efforts or others we may not know about.

Unlike Trump’s complicity with Russia and his abuse of power in other respects, it is easy to understand the wrongfulness of trying to extort dirt in exchange for money to buy the weaponry they need to defend themselves from Russian aggression.

We’re seeing movement as seven freshman Democrats wrote an op-ed explaining how easy it is to understand, and how it goes against norms Americans hold dear.

“We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers, we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over. Now, we join as a unified group to uphold that oath as we enter uncharted waters and face unprecedented allegations against President Trump,”

Everyone understands what that means. No need get into the weeds, or dig beneath the surface because we can smell the treason from miles away. I say “treason” in the lay sense of the word.

Indeed, a few more members joined the impeach column as of this writing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues as she has been, building support for impeachment. No doubt, momentum is building and it’s possible Tuesday’s meeting will mark the beginning of a new phase in the impeachment process.

This is more likely now that we know for a fact that Trump froze more than $391 million in military aid to Ukraine days before he called their president. Ukraine needs this aid to fend off an increasingly aggressive Russia.

I am for impeachment because the absence thereof makes Trump’s betrayal and other corrupt acts okay. No president of any party is or should be above the law.

There is no moral counter-argument to impeachment, even though impeachment without conviction will not remove Trump from office.
Still, in her editorial,  Sarah Jones correctly stated that though it won’t save the country, impeachment should be done.

Trump “won” the 2016 election by the narrowest of margins. Since then, we’ve seen Trump slay norm after norm with the appearance of impunity. Our constitutional remedies proved lacking.

The process of impeachment assumes that lawmakers in the House and the Senate will put country over party, or for that matter over their own political careers. The Founders hadn’t anticipated the prospect of either institution being controlled by a party complicit with a corrupt president.

People are fed up with a president that kicks sand in Congress Members’ faces and openly insults the people’s intelligence with lies and corruption that make Richard Nixon look like a choir boy.

Anyone who is paying attention is as angry and as frustrated as the people I hear from every day in increasing numbers and with increasing hostility.
I get it and I feel it. Yet it’s time to gain some perspective: this is not Nancy Pelosi’s fault.

No doubt I’ll hear more from the people who believe a whole litany of things about Pelosi’s alleged motives and alleged position on impeachment. I blame the media for the erroneous framing that Pelosi was and is opposed to impeachment.

Yes, she is Speaker of a Democratic and democratic House. Speaker Pelosi doesn’t “rule” as Trump does. She governs based on the will of the people and her caucus. Nancy Pelosi promised to govern – of which part is oversight. Shortly after the 2018 election, she said she would support impeachment if there is popular support, which there isn’t at this point in time.

Still, it’s easy to blame Pelosi because she is Speaker and because she’s good at her job. It’s because she’s good at her job that one could be lulled into believing that she could make impeachment happen if she wanted it. The inference is if there isn’t immediate impeachment it must mean Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want it.

This stems from a desire to blame Pelosi for complicity in what Trump did and what McConnell didn’t and won’t do. After all, we want to blame everyone who is ostensibly in a position to make the betrayal, abuse of power, criminality and corruption stop.

The logic goes that because Pelosi wants much more popular support for impeachment, it must mean she doesn’t want impeachment. Actually, she’s protecting Representatives who are on the fence, facing the political reality that most of their constituents oppose impeachment.

These Representatives need to be attentive both to their constituents and to those who press for impeachment. And rightfully, they want to do the same things a juror in a trial would do: read the documents and hear witnesses first hand. No string of sound bites could be a substitute for the real thing.

By leaving leadership of impeachment efforts to House committees, Pelosi maintains a safe political space for fence-sitters to find the right moment to declare support for impeachment.

Emphasis on “maintains.” This is an on-going process, as we cannot know when a given Representative will see enough support to add their voice to the pro-impeachment camp. The process can only be strengthened as the Judiciary Committee gathers the evidence it needs.

Unfortunately, evidence gathering has bogged down. The House Judiciary and other committees have had to go to court to strengthen the legal foundation to compel testimony. Like it or not, everyone who is in a position to know anything about Trump’s corruption is as corrupt as he is and is as defensive of him.

Witnesses who put their loyalty to Donald Trump above loyalty to the country abuse Executive Privilege and a host of other things that those seeking to impeach Nixon and Clinton didn’t have to deal with. Executive Privilege does not protect those who do not and never did work in the White House, like Corey Lewandowski. It doesn’t protect testimony about anything Trump did before his presidency and protects very little about anything that happened during his presidency.

Anyone who saw the Lewandowski performance can rightly criticize the Judiciary committee for holding lightening round questioning first, then allowing staff attorneys to successfully take down Lewandowski’s b.s. One can also fault them for not being ready for Lewandowski’s hostility, insolence and lies. They should have seen that coming.

Be that as it may, pressing the cause in the courts works within the framework of a process. It is a deliberative and purposeful effort, with plenty of key events that would afford chances for reckoning whether to announce support for impeachment. And certainly the evidence eventually produced because courts made it possible adds further impetus.

Moreover, seeking rulings from an independent judiciary is how things are done in democratic countries. It holds a rightful place beside Pelosi’s consensus-building approach. All this is the best way forward for at least matters dealt within the Mueller Report.

Then news broke about the phone calls Trump had with Ukrainian president Zelensky, which were so obviously wrong that seven hold-outs wrote an article to explain the reasons they joined the pro impeachment camp.

This could scarcely have been predicted a week ago. Though the latest seven may soon be joined by many others, the number favoring impeachment is several dozen shy of the 218 necessary.

As easy as it is to see the wrongfulness of using taxpayer money as leverage to pry dirt out of a foreign government, there remain the acts of obstruction laid out in the Mueller report. The impeachment process must be played out with respect to those.

This is where Pelosi’s strategy remains important. As befits pragmatic politics in a Republic with representative democracy, Nancy Pelosi is building a consensus. She is building it not by bullying but by providing cover and opportunity and allowing the result to grow into its own strength.

This is a sort of empowering ritual, not the mere waving of a magic wand. While people often point out that Nancy Pelosi waved her gavel to get healthcare done, impeachment is very different. It’s a process, not a bill, not a campaign promise.

As a process, one outcome or another cannot be guaranteed. For that, it may be that the easiest and fasted means to remove Trump is the ballot box. I don’t like it, and no I’m not “for” waiting until 2020. I also don’t see a reality-based alternative constitutional remedy to elections. Impeachment can only be done by 218 Representatives, no sure thing at this writing, but possible if Nancy Pelosi’s strategy is allowed to play out.

But removal requires 67 Senators in a Senate controlled by Mitch McConnell and his Republican Party – not Nancy Pelosi. It may fall to voters to finish the job. Speaker Pelosi .only has a Speakers’ gavel – not a magic wand. She and the moderates she’s protecting need the people’s support to proceed. That’s how things are done in free countries.