Patience is not the same as passivity or acceptance. Let’s investigate Trump and tell America what we find, without making our divisions even worse.
As knowledge of President Donald Trump’s misdeeds mounts, some of my colleagues have teasingly asked, “Are you still against impeachment?” My response is always “I am not against impeachment, I am against impatience.”
In November of last year, Americansdescended upon voting booths across the nation to fulfill their sacred right to elect the individuals who would govern on their behalf. After months of contentious campaigning, the people ultimately entrusted the Democratic Party with control of the House of Representatives.
As incumbents and newly elected members reported to Washington to pledge their oaths to defend the Constitution, there was sincere excitement to start work on the plans we campaigned on: protecting Americans with preexisting conditions, lowering prescription drug costs, combating climate change, implementing commonsense gun reform, ensuring an economy that works for all Americans, and yes, providing a check on the Trump administration’s blatant, almost daily demonstration of government corruption.
Over the past six months, House Democrats have worked tirelessly to advance this agenda, passing more than 100 bills that address some of the greatest challenges our nation faces today and will face in the years to come. All the while, the relevant committees —Judiciary, Oversight and Intelligence — have consistently and methodically investigated any and all abuses of power the Trump administration has committed.
With these efforts, as well as the incredibly important and courageous work of former special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, much has come to light in regard to the president’s extraordinarily unethical, if not illegal, behavior. Democrats are, naturally, debating their path forward.But, just for the record, not even one of my conversations with colleagues about this could be described as “heated.”
America is already divided, why make it worse?
Patience, I would suggest, should not be viewed as a synonym for passivity or acceptance. Moving at breakneck speed toward impeachment will not enhance the chances of Senate conviction; in fact, it could have the opposite effect, reinforcing the president’s ludicrous claim that he has been exonerated of obstruction of justice despite Mueller explicitly stating the opposite. I would argue you have a better chance of awaking one morning with a newfound ability to fly than witnessing a Mitch McConnell-led Senate conviction of President Donald Trump.
Rushing through impeachment could have long-term quarrelsome consequences for an already corrosively divided nation. So what then?
Why not systematically use the constitutionally awarded power of oversight to investigate and inform the nation, not only about the complete contents of the Mueller reportbut also never before publicized information? As I see it, if there is not more potentially illicit information still to be uncovered, the administration would not be working so hard to obstruct the House’s efforts to hear from witnesses and obtain documents.
Investigate and tell America what we find
I am under no pretense that this will be a quick and easy process; it most certainly won’t be. However, if we truly want to get to the bottom of the president’s potential high crimes, our best opportunity is through the investigative powers afforded to the People’s House.
It’s not 1998 anymore:Democrats need to get past impeachment jitters.Trump is no Clinton.
And we must not understate the importance of effectively communicating all findings to the American people. As I write, the overwhelming majority of Americans have not read the Mueller report. Therefore, the House must, with great deliberation, provide clear and trustworthy communication to thoughtful Americans. Those are the two main ingredients needed to halt the profound and poisonous, politically provoked divisions that are rocking our nation.
This will surely take time, as narratives have already been written and echo chambers will be difficult to pierce. However, if we cannot effectually display to the American people the abuse of power committed by this president, then any attempt at impeachment risks being perceived as a partisan statement, rather than a legitimate attempt at upholding the rule of law.
I’m not ready to say impeachment is best course
I understand that in the high-tech world of 2019, there are large segments of the population who prefer instant gratification, who would love to see the president impeached tomorrow. The easiest thing for me to do politically would be to call for impeachment, but I’m not ready to say that is the best course for our nation. While impeachment can never be taken off the table, the idea of removing a duly-elected president cannot be tossed around without the incredibly serious deliberation it deserves as well as the support of the American people.
Only two presidents in the history of our nation have had the scarlet “I” engraved on their résumés, and neither of them were removed from office. That is why I call for restraint while we continue to unearth and shed light on this president’s misdeeds.
Our democratic institutions have been put to the test under this administration. Undoubtedly, there will be lasting damage that may take years to repair. Yet this is not the first time our democracy has been tested, and it certainly will not be the last. Despite the turbulent and trying times that this administration has brought, my faith in the American people and the democracy we hold so dear remains resolute. I have no doubt that this president will be held accountable for any crimes he may have committed, but in order to ensure that transpires, we must be patient.
Democrat Emanuel Cleaver II, a United Methodist pastor, represents Missouri’s 5th Congressional District, where he has served since 2005. Follow him on Twitter: @repcleaver
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