Nancy Pelosi believes that Donald Trump is unqualified to be president of the United States, but in dealing a harsh blow to the Democratic Party’s powerful far-left faction, she offered an interesting perspective: “He’s just not worth it.”
Pelosi has made a bold play to assume the mantle of a serious, pragmatic, and centrist statesman; someone who is not willing to subject the long-suffering American public to a highly partisan spectacle that is bound to only further sharpen the divisions between rural Red America and coastal urban Blue America.
No one has ever disputed that Pelosi is a shrewd political operator.
While this does appear to be the death knell for the 100 odd Democrats in the House of Representatives who would support impeachment at this time, there is another school of thought on the matter that suggests that Pelosi may be making this pronouncement out of temporary, current political calculation.
What might Nancy Pelosi be up to?
To begin with…let us propose Hypothesis A. Under this hypothesis, Nancy Pelosi really does want to avoid a political Armageddon-type scenario. Democrats control the House, they have at least a 50/50 shot of capturing the White House in 20/20, and an outside chance of taking back the Senate.
An impeachment drive at this time would only serve to diminish the Democrats’ chances of controlling the executive and legislative branches simultaneously; something they have not achieved since Obama’s first term, from 2009-2011.
That is a reasonable interpretation and analysis. Political commentators can ascribe Pelosi’s motives to the former, or the latter, to varying degrees.
As a corollary to Hypothesis A, we might even conjecture that Democrats have done their own private polling and have determined that their chances are far better facing Trump in 2020, than facing former Vice President now (interim) President Mike Pence.
However, let us consider another hypothesis, under which Pelosi’s dismissal of impeachment in the current Congressional term is merely part of a larger plan to remove Trump from office and inflict maximum damage on the Republican brand heading into the 2020 election.
Pelosi is abundantly aware that her recent words will immensely disappoint a good solid half of her caucus. She will now be the target of ire and disdain from grassroots activists who see her as a mere continuation of HRC.
Rest assured, the heart and soul of today’s Democratic Party does not lie with your Clinton Democrat, your Wall Street Democrat, your corporate Democrat, your centrist Democrat.
The heart and soul of the activist base of the Democratic Party lies with the democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders and AOC.
That is likely troubling to Pelosi and friends (just as it is to Republicans and independents).
Pelosi would love to pursue her own triangulation strategy, shedding her unbelievably high negatives with the American public as an out-of-touch San Francisco liberal, and finishing up her lengthy political career by basking in the glow of a fawning mainstream media and an appreciative American public.
How would impeachment play into this?
Under Hypothesis B, Pelosi’s first play is to dismiss impeachment, and shroud her decision in concern for the wellbeing of the American public. She stood up to the irresponsible far-left in her own party, she can now tell us.
Impeachment involves a very high bar, and there wasn’t enough evidence to meet that high Constitutional threshold.
Now…let’s imagine that several months, or even more than a year down the road, (just in time for 2020 election season), new “evidence” comes to light, that shows new “contact” “collusion” “conspiracy” (whatever term they come up with) between Trump and the Russian government.
Pelosi now must play the part of solemn statesman who must revise her original assessment, and (even though she was originally against it) fulfill her Constitutional duty as Speaker of the House, and initiate impeachment proceedings given the new evidence that has come to light.
The Key Variable
There is one key variable upon which the success of this plan hinges: Trump’s approval ratings. Now, with Trump’s approval ratings consistently hovering near the mid-40s, he is just too popular too impeach. If the American public turns on Trump, that will certainly change.
Pelosi would be thrilled to impeach Trump; it’s just that, for the time being, the Republican base is sticking with him in a big way.
Pelosi would need a sea change in public opinion, as well as the defection of a couple of key moderate Republicans, in order to proceed with impeachment.
(Of course, the Senate’s confirmation of that impeachment is likely untenable. Just look at the Republicans’ 1998 impeachment proceedings).
The Democrats will (wisely for them) only pursue impeachment if it is going to be popular with the American people, and give them greater chances in 2020.
At the present, the calculation is clear: impeachment would be disastrous for their 2020 electoral chances.
That may change.
The “Russia investigation” has amounted to precisely what Van Jones said during an impromptu street interview: a “big nothing burger.” Short of a “smoking gun” that would definitively change American public opinion, and offer conclusive proof of a malicious plot by Trump to use the resources of the Russian government to “steal” “hack” or change the results of the election, that will not happen.