The question of whether or not to press for impeachment has risen to the surface for Congressional Democrats with Speaker Nancy Pelosi trying to hold the line. Her point is that, because of the divisiveness that will ensue, impeachment is a “last resort” strategy. Way back in early January, I asked in this space, where you—dear reader—stood on impeachment. It seems like a lifetime ago, and while the context has changed somewhat, the question is still alive, more relevant than ever, and needs to be asked again: where do you stand on impeachment.
The President’s stonewalling strategy in response to Congressional oversight has caused a new level of frustration among Democrats, an ever-expanding silence among Republicans and the notion that this delaying tactic will extend the debate deep into (or past) the 2020 election—and will thereby work to the President’s advantage. So, should the House of Representatives launch an impeachment inquiry or continue down the investigative path that has, so far, been the preferred strategy of Democratic leaders? Many, led by Speaker Pelosi, are concerned that concentrating on impeachment plays directly into the President’s hand and is doomed to failure since the Republican-controlled Senate has shown no indication that it would support articles of impeachment. The whole exercise would thereby be rendered a fruitless, vacuous enterprise with no chance of success.
Recent events, though, point to deeper, long-term implications, creating an even more pressing sense of urgency among House members: what impact does lack of action on this front have on the long-term health of our democracy?
My own thinking has shifted. For years, I have been frustrated with Democrats’ historic lack of political discipline, their inability to keep their caucus together, their almost obsessive desire to be all things to all people (and hence, nothing to anyone). I have continually marveled at the Republicans’ ability to stay on message and to offer a united front. While Democrats have expended significant energy in herding cats, Republicans have been laser-focused on clear messages. While I have almost always disagreed with the substance of those messages, I have admired their ability to remain united, thereby increasing their influence in ways that often far outweigh their numbers. So, historically, I have been in the Pelosi camp. Do what is politically practical. Stay the investigative course. Don’t fall for the bait!
However, Trump has—yet again—shifted the ground rules. The President’s increasingly egregious behavior makes this time qualitatively different from prior crises. And we—not only members of Congress, but each of us—must realize the challenge that confronts us as a nation and do our part to change direction. The President reiterated at a press conference on Wednesday that if the investigations continued, there will be no legislative action, even on relatively non-controversial issues like infrastructure. If he stonewalls the investigations, they become meaningless. Once again, the wheels of government have ground to a halt, and his rhetoric indicates that, if anything, he will double down on his threats and ignore Congressional oversight in a host of arenas. His actions are clearly not about what is best for America, but what is best for the President and his ever-shrinking inner circle.
It is essential that each of us examine our own role in steering the ship of state in these perilous times. If a chief executive can get away with the things that have become normative—violently separating children from their parents at our Southern border, flagrantly disregarding subpoenas from the legislative branch, consistently lying to the American people, dismantling regulations that safeguard the health and well being of our workers, leading cheers to “lock up” political opponents, promoting policies that continue to marginalize immigrants, people of color, Muslims, the LGBTQ community and others who have been historically disenfranchised—then how do we limit whatever extremes are perpetrated by the next tyrant (God forbid) who occupies the White House?
This administration has so damaged governing norms and the rule of law, that the long-term health of our democracy is far more important than any short-term political strategy. I know the risks of division such a course of action portends, but I also see us as a nation, like the proverbial frog in slowly boiling water, sink deeper and deeper into a sea of acquiescence to warped principles that render us less secure, less compassionate and less resolute in addressing the profound challenges that face us at home and throughout the world. The time to launch an impeachment inquiry is now.
On a much lighter note, thanks to everyone who supported the New York City premiere of my play, Let Me Fluff Your Pillow, which concluded its Equity Showcase on Sunday. We had enthusiastic crowds, full houses, stimulating talk-backs. The company offered a welcoming environment and oversaw seamless performances.
The cast, under the direction of Chuk Obasi, was magnificent. Thank you all so much. We’re even talking about a reprise. Stay tuned!