It is often said that politics is the art of the possible. And part of that is that politics is also the art of the moment.
I am thinking of this a lot as I look at the debate over the path to impeachment for President Trump and the central figure in the eye of the storm in the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Many progressives, and increasingly moderates in the Democratic Party, are arguing that the actions of the president and his administration have long since crossed the bar to at least begin impeachment proceedings. They argue that the oath they swore to the Constitution is more important than the temporal political calculus of the 2020 election. They see this as is a moment that history will mark whether the Congress rolled over or stood up to a reckless and autocratic president.
The counter argument among those Democrats not publicly urging impeachment is that such a process could lead to political casualties for their side as well and that nothing is more important than defeating Donald Trump in 2020. Any risk to that goal should be thought of long and hard. You cannot unring a bell, so once you start the process of impeachment you have to live with it wherever it leads. They add that the Democrats gains in the 2018 election were built on issues like healthcare and other popular policy objectives. And they say whatever happens in the House is sure to die in the Republican Senate.
There are then counterarguments to these counterarguments. Progressives ask, are we sure impeachment will be a political loser? Wasn’t it a hatred for Trump that drove many people to the polls in 2018? And why not put pressure on Republicans in the Senate on this issue, and in so doing bring the already established malfeasances to better light?
So far, Speaker Pelosi is on the side of the increasingly-dwindling go-it-slow caucus. There are many reports of unrest among fellow Democrats. They argue that she is not living up to her constitutional responsibilities and is politically tone deaf.
I will leave it to others to weigh in on the merits of all of these arguments. But I wonder if Speaker Pelosi has something else in play. We have seen a marked drop in President Trump’s poll numbers in recent days. A momentary fluctuation or something more lasting? We don’t know. We have also seen no slowdown in the reporting on the Mueller findings and other legal challenges to the president. We have the first Republican to call for impeachment, the iconoclastic Justin Amash of Michigan who is torching the president and his enablers on Twitter.
And with each day we get closer to the election. Pressure builds on the President. Other examples mount of what many see as his unfitness for office.
As I said at the top, politics is the art of the moment. Is Pelosi guiding the process more than we see or is she woefully out of tune with her party and millions of Americans? Or both? Or neither? Time and events will tell.