Impeachment. The word has been mentioned so many times by politicians and pundits that it’s basically floating around the chicken broth like a big matzah ball. But there’s a reason why a powerful groundswell in Congress to set the wheels in motion for impeachment proceedings has yet to emerge.
And that’s as it should be, for bringing a president up on charges in Congress and removing him from office is an act of grave consequence. It is therefore proper to exercise a great deal of caution.
Connecticut, a white-bread Yankee New England state also known as the Land of Steady Habits, is a perfect case in point. With only one exception, the seven members of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation have tread lightly on the subject of the impeachment of Republican President Donald Trump.
Some have expressed surprise that the state’s most liberal members of Congress have been reluctant to call for an impeachment inquiry and generally avoid the subject. But it’s not terribly surprising, given that the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller found “insufficient evidence” to recommend prosecution of the president on a criminal conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The less serious obstruction of justice, of course, is another matter entirely.
Two of the state’s most liberal members of Congress, John Larson and Rosa DeLauro, who also happen to be among the oldest, seemed perplexed and perhaps even out of touch on the subject. At a West Hartford Town Hall earlier this month, tempers flared among Larson constituents who wanted him to voice unequivocal support for an impeachment inquiry. For his part, Larson insisted it was more prudent to wait for the results of multiple ongoing investigations of Trump and his businesses.
A Sunday profile of DeLauro in the Courant painted the picture of a liberal lion who feels oddly out of place among her more progressive peers, especially the four young female firebrands of color known as The Squad. She thinks it would be better to defeat Trump next year when he’s up for re-election, rather than focusing on the distraction of impeachment, adding that, “Rarely do I get an impeachment question from my constituents.”
Joe Courtney of the second congressional district, which is what passes for a swing district in Connecticut, urged caution in an interview earlier this month with the editorial board of The Day of New London: “We’re talking about something that is really the crown jewel, which is overturning an election, and you’ve got to do it the right way.”
First-term Congresswoman Jahana Hayes of the fifth district, who earlier this year found herself on the cover of Rolling Stone with two members of The Squad, actually issued a statement after the release of the Muller report acknowledging that “a change of leadership” is in order, but cautioned “that change should come through an election rather than impeachment.” Hayes has since indicated she is more open to impeachment than she was earlier.
Our two U.S. senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both of whom have been among the president’s strongest critics (Murphy even unfollowed Trump recently on Twitter), have stopped just short of calling for impeachment hearings in the House, where they must originate.
Strangely, the exception to Connecticut caution is a congressman who represents a district, the fourth, that still has a lot of Republicans. Jim Himes, who won his lower Fairfield County seat by defeating a longtime Republican incumbent in 2008, has issued a full-throated call for impeachment.
There are various theories out there as to why, after expressing initial reluctance to go forward a year ago, the moderate Greenwich Democrat has thrown caution to the wind. Perhaps it’s the fact that Himes sits on the House Intelligence Committee and has had a front-row seat to Trump’s misdeeds in matters of national security. But that hardly makes sense when one considers that the chairman of that panel, fierce Trump critic Adam Schiff of California, has questioned the efficacy of an impeachment process.
Joe Bentivegna, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Himes in 2014, has suggested that Himes’ move is a “smoke screen” by Democrats “to mollify their rabid base to avoid primary challenges.”
It could very well be that Himes is trying to shore up his progressive creds in order to stave off an annoying primary challenge, for surely he knows that impeaching Trump in advance of the 2020 elections is a lost cause.
Since the vote to remove Trump would have to come from the Republican-controlled Senate, impeachment in the House would be a futile effort that would serve only to bolster Trump by giving him an issue to run on and further motivating his core group of supporters to show up on election day.
The energy required to propel an impeachment effort would be better spent on defeating Trump next November. Besides, even if an impeachment inquiry were to start sometime this fall, does anyone really think it could be completed in advance of next year’s elections? Both the election and impeachment are political processes. I think we know which one is more likely to bear fruit.
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at CTDevilsAdvocate.com and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at email@example.com.
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