Saturday, January 9, 2021

Political Effectiveness Vs. Political Theater

People's anger at Trump has gone through the roof and for good reason. The seething masses of Democrats--and many independents and Republicans--want Trump impeached and they want it *right now*.
But is this actually a good idea from a political standpoint? Will it actually help the country turn away from Trumpism and help Biden deliver the progress the country desperately needs and without which his administration and the Democrats could go down in flames?
There are good reasons to doubt this.
My old friend and occasional co-conspirator John Judis makes the case cogently at Talking Points Memo.
"If Democrats vote this week to impeach Trump, the Senate won’t take up the question of conviction until after the inauguration. The Georgia election may not be certified until January 22, so at that point, the new majority leader Chuck Schumer can take up the question. A trial could take weeks, and would consume the news and the attention of Congress.....
Politics is not a simple matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of priorities. Yes, Trump did wrong, he is a bad guy. But the country is in the grips of a pandemic – over 4000 people died on Thursday – and in December, the country lost 140,000 more jobs. The Democrats have to focus on that not on Trump. The country has spent four years focusing on Trump. It’s what he loves. It’s his briar patch. Enough is enough, as Lindsey Graham put it.
There is a simple political lesson here. By giving all their attention to halting the pandemic and making sure the economy bounces back, Biden and the Democrats will be doing what the nation needs and wants. It is also what the Democrats need to do if they want to retain control of the Congress in 2022. If they allow the budget fight to drag on, and the pandemic and recession to drag on, they could lose control of the Congress in 2022 – recall how narrow the margins are. In that case, whatever good they will be able to do can easily be undone by Republican majorities in the House or Senate. And Democrats might lose the White House in 2024. Think again of Obama’s first year and how by not paying sufficient attention to the politics, the Democrats lost the House in 2010.
Sure, people in Washington and Democratic activists around the country want to punish Trump. In that case, censure him. But don’t allow him to continue to dominate the nation’s political agenda for the rest of the month. Don’t throw him in his briar patch of attention. Believe me, people outside the Beltway who make up the majorities Democrats need to govern are far more worried about the pandemic and recession than they are about impeaching Trump. And the Democrats can’t do an adequate job of both."
As Barney Frank once put it: "When you're engaged in a political fight, if you're doing something that really, really, really makes you feel good then it's probably not the best tactic." This could be one of those cases.

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