OPINION: After Warren breaks the taboo on impeachment, Democrats need to take a hard look at strategy


Jose Luis Magana | Associated Press

Some top Democrats vying for the White House in 2020 are clamoring for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, but some congressional leaders who would have to manage such efforts are far more wary. On the same day that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged rank-and-file Democrats to proceed with relative caution after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Warren doubled down on her impeachment calls.

Elizabeth Warren took a bold stance in an April 19 tweet by calling for Congress to begin the impeachment process on President Trump. In the wake of a redacted version of the Mueller Report going public, many Democratic presidential hopefuls are avoiding taking a firm stance on impeachment. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are some of the only major candidates that have called on Congress to take steps toward impeachment. If Democrats want to avoid a Trump re-election, they should focus more on the information from the report that benefits their campaigns and less on the politically dangerous process of impeachment.

First, the process of impeachment will not be swift and politically successful if the Republicans control the Senate and the Democrats stay divided on the issue. If Elizabeth Warren wants to set herself apart in the race for the presidency, she should try other strategies besides calling for an impeachment.

“In the last primary debate, Warren spoke about the checks and balances process and the role that impeachment plays in that. She is right,” said DePaul political science professor Ben Epstein.

“However, if the question is only about helping a Democratic candidate win in 2020, then I don’t think impeachment proceedings are a strong political move. They would focus much of the attention in that direction and give Trump exactly what he wants most; an opposition that he can say is unfairly trying to single him out and take him down.”

According to Epstein, another significant argument against impeachment is the way it would play into Trump’s political strategies — some of which are the most divisive in history. “Trump stokes fear and plays to his base almost completely. He is about ‘us versus them’ and he is very successful,” Epstein said.

“Calling for impeachment would be a much bigger and more obvious ‘us versus them’ than the Mueller Report and would speak to many of the ideas of opposition from the Democratic party that he is constantly relaying to his supporters.”

When Warren and other Democratic candidates stray from their campaigns’ objectives and start using tactics that stoke distrust in Trump instead of trust in them as a candidate, they lose originality. The report is vast and offers up so many different avenues besides impeachment that could potentially be used as fuel for potential Democratic nominees. For example, Trump potentially obstructed justice and asked multiple members of his cabinet to commit illegal acts. Those are not qualities of a transparent and honest leader, so instead of stating how impeachment will hold the president accountable and lead to Democratic victory in 2020, which is not certain whatsoever, candidates should use their own strengths of transparency and honesty to counter Trump’s faults in the report.

Thomas Bowen of New Chicago Consulting, a political campaign consulting firm, reiterated the seriousness and political danger Warren would be pursuing in impeachment.

“Impeachment is the most serious act allowed in our form of government and it’s never successfully happened in our history,” said Bowen. “So candidates would do well to take the challenge very seriously and responsibly with the American people.”

“The responsibility that Warren is undertaking by personally calling for impeachment is a heavy load that historically leads to conflict and takes away from the actual campaign,” Bowen said.

In a recent editorial in the Washington Post by Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator and Democratic presidential nominee of 2016, she stated that “while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting healthcare to investing in infrastructure.”

This further supports the notion that rushing toward a stance of impeachment will not benefit the Democratic candidates. If the Democrats want to win the 2020 election, they need a vision that supports justice where it is due, but they also need an agenda that taps into the actual problems plaguing the country as a whole.