I’m not sure that Gentle Readers will have seen Adele M. Stan’s note on Tapped Pelosi: If Things Were Different, I'd Want to Impeach. And I know many Gentle Readers have been wanting to get out the impeachment gavel for some little time, now. So I thought I’d chime in.
Ms. Stan asked the Speaker about “the tension between the pressure to pass an ambitious legislative agenda and simultaneously protect the Constitution,” because she, among others, fears that too much attention is being paid to the former, and not enough to the latter. Speaker Pelosi made it clear that her priorities really are legislative, but adds “If I were not the speaker and I were not in Congress, I would probably be advocating for impeachment.”
How to interpret that? It seems to me that Speaker Pelosi is saying that absent a mass movement to pressure Congress to impeach, there will be no impeachment votes. Those who want those votes should not look to the Speaker for them, she is saying, but should create a political climate where the Speaker will change her mind.
Or is she? Perhaps she is saying that she would advocate for impeachment, and she encourages others to so advocate, in the complete absence of any possibility of impeachment. That is, she wants a political climate where there is mainstream pressure for impeachment, but no impeachment. There are political upsides to this, actually, but it seems very risky. There are a fair number of people who have very little patience with the Democrats as an opposition Party, and of course it is difficult to argue against them. I like my Party, but I would like it a bit better if it had better judgement about when bipartisanship was a force for good, and when opposition was a force for good. And a bit more discipline, while we’re at it, guys. If this is her vision, it leaves the people who are actually creating it—the impeachment advocates—out in the cold. What reward do those people get for creating the third leg of the triangle? Another chance to vote for somebody who failed to bring about the impeachment they have been pushing? O Joy.
But perhaps that’s unkind. Perhaps there’s another interpretation: Speaker Pelosi, being in Congress and leading that Congress, has certain responsibilities peculiar to her position. Sure, she might be saying, she would viscerally like to see an impeachment vote, but there’s a big difference between advocating one and scheduling one, and she can’t do the first without doing the second. Your Humble Blogger can advocate for impeachment—Digression: I think the preponderance of evidence available to us shows that the Attorney General, the Vice President, the President and very likely the Secretary of State have committed High Crimes against this nation, and that therefore those persons should be impeached by the House and tried in the Senate, where more evidence can be obtained and judgment reached in the full view of the country—but I can also advocate for public transit, and I haven’t the faintest idea how to get people onto the buses. There’s a sense in which the Speaker of the House of Representatives should never advocate impeachment, until and unless she is ready to schedule a vote. Perhaps that will happen yet, but until then, she’s saying, she is precluded by her position from doing what the citizens can do.
Or maybe she’s saying that she just knows better than the average schmuck what is really important. If she weren’t in Congress, if she were just a private citizen, she might be silly enough to advocate for impeachment, but she is a very serious and important person, and far too important to fly kites or impeach cabinet officials.
You pays your money, you takes your chances. Personally, I take it to mean that she is (privately) baffled by the absence of mass unrest. And so am I! I know that in the late sixties the anti-war movement took a long time to get to the point of mass unrest. The unrest in the war over secession was quicker, and put down harder. Eugene Debs went to jail for encouraging people to dodge the draft, but then we don’t have a draft now, do we? And you know, I don’t like riots. I don’t like ’em. They scare me. I’m fond of marches and rallies and speeches, and we have had quite a few of those, although fewer than Speaker Pelosi might expect. But I don’t like mass unrest. I’m an armchair liberal, Gentle Readers, unshakable in my faith in Whitman’s swordless conflict because swords are pointy and get people hurt. But—are we all like me?
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,