Posted on

Come on, impeachment’s a “loser” and we all know it

Well, most of us know it, anyway. The Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper sat down to discuss a variety of topics with Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, from media coverage to circumcision (no, really). When it came to the subject of impeachment, Yang grew particularly frustrated with his fellow Democrats, calling the effort “a loser” — even though he also described himself as “pro-impeachment.”

All this will do, Yang told Taibbi and Halper, is cement voter impressions about Democratic impotence and self-absorption:

Andrew: I’m pro-impeachment, but this is going to be a loser.

Katie: How dare you!

Andrew: Not a single Republican has given any indication that they’re in fact-finding mode. They’re all in defend-the-president mode. You need literally dozens of Republican senators to switch sides when the trial starts, which we’ve gotten zero indication is going to happen. The more this drags on, the more danger there is of two things: Number one, Donald Trump comes out of this and is vindicated, totally exonerated. Number two, we are wasting precious time where we should be creating a positive vision that Americans are excited about solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected, and beat him in 2020. If all that happens is all of the Democrats are talking about impeachment that fails, then it seems like there is no vision. It seems like all we can do is throw ineffective rocks at Donald Trump, and then it ends up leading unfortunately toward his re-election.

Katie: It’s like good PR for him.

Andrew: He’s a creature that thrives on attention, and so the more attention he gets, the better for him, the worst for Democrats.

It’s not just that it will play to Trump’s benefit, either. Both Taibbi and Yang agree that Democrats have used Trump hysteria to paper over their own disconnection from voters in large parts of the country, and keep thinking that all that’s needed is a little more amplification of partisan Beltway warfare rather than focus on voter priorities:

Matt: After 2016, the first thought I had was, “Well, this is going to inspire a rethink in the Democratic Party. They’re going to re-argue their case. They’re going to find a way to tell people how they’re going to fix the problems of ordinary people across America.

Immediately they point to Russiagate, now impeachment….They’re focusing on this thing that, to a lot of people, is an internecine phenomenon, a Washington drama.

Andrew: Unfortunately, Matt, my team and I have been part of some of the planning sessions, and that’s not changing. Their take on it is, we argued against Trump wrong last time — this time we’re going to really stick it to him by talking about this. You’re like, “Oh, my gosh. We’ve learned nothing.”

That will certainly earn Yang some enmity from the crowd at the next debate, assuming he qualifies for it. In their most recent debate, everyone on stage offered at least lukewarm support for the impeachment of Donald Trump, even if it was just to frame it as part of the case they’ll make against him in November 2020. This is the first time that a contender for the nominee has openly and sharply criticized this strategy as counterproductive, especially in regard to the upcoming election strategy.

The big question, as I ask in my column today at The Week, is this — are any House Democrats coming to the same conclusion? The very existence of the hearing yesterday suggests that Nancy Pelosi is worried the answer is yes:

The day before Judiciary’s hearing, The Washington Post called the aggregated polling “stable” on impeachment and removal, but House Democrats needed much more than stable. They needed a major shift toward a consensus for removal, especially among Republican voters. Not only did that not materialize, the Post notes, but a clear majority of voters from swing states still oppose impeachment, despite Schiff’s insistence that House Democrats had made an open and shut case for removal.

Thus we come to the real reason for Wednesday’s hearing which heard testimony from four constitutional law experts, only one of whom was called by Republicans, according to Nadler’s rules for the event. Rather than attempt to shore up the case with direct evidence and first-hand testimony, House Democrats wanted to spend a day arguing that they’d already made their case.

So who was the target audience? It seems very doubtful that voters — especially those who don’t already have their minds made up — would tune in to mull over the finer points of the Federalist Papers and the origins of impeachment in English common law. This spectacle seemed much more designed to reinforce Schiff’s claim for some members of the House Democratic caucus who might have gotten cold feet. …

In the end, both House Democrats and voters finished the hearing in the same place they began. Partisans on both sides breathed fire, while the case itself hasn’t changed at all. Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues have no choice but to plow ahead, but do they even believe in what they’re about to vote for?