'Let them own their own bad consciences': Columnist makes the pragmatic case for revisiting impeachment
Composite image of Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi, photos by Gage Skidmore.

On Wednesday, Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker wrote a fresh analysis of the reasons for and against impeaching President Donald Trump — and offered a key reason that tips the scales for him in favor of impeachment.


"The prudential argument, against impeachment, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to favor then and seems to favor still, is that the crucial thing for those who resist Donald Trump — stipulating in advance that he’s an autocrat at daily war with the basic premises of liberal democracy — is to win elections in 2020," wrote Gopnik. He noted that many Democrats in swing districts ran against the idea of impeachment, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wouldn't even hold a legitimate trial anyway.

He pointed to the example of Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), who won a deep red Staten Island district in 2018, has spent his term beautifying his district — and getting funding for Porta Potties at soccer games — and doesn't want to derail the dialogue with his conservative constituents with a partisan impeachment hearing. "The prudential case against impeachment and for democratic reform is all the Porta Potties on Staten Island soccer fields, multiplied by a thousand other soccer fields in a hundred other places," wrote Gopnik. "Victory for the big cause depends on small successes, not one big failure."

"The principled case, now and then, is summed up in three words: Trump’s a crook," continued Gopnik. "If the phrase deliberately left open by the Founders to be defined as 'high crimes and misdemeanors' does not apply to the evidence of Trump’s conduct over the past three years, then it would seem to have no meaning at all. Any one of half a dozen scandals that would have been the immediate cause of an impeachment inquiry into — and, before that happened, of universal cries for the resignation of — any previous President are still open."

The key fact that swings the debate towards impeachment for Gopnik? Impeachment would put on record every Republican who protects him from conviction and removal.

"Nixon may have been a bad man, but he was not an incompetent President. Pretty much every Republican in Congress knows that Trump is a dangerous and unfit President, and clings to him only out of partisan loyalty and fear of his or her own base," wrote Gopnik. "Making Trump’s Republican defenders own the truth does not sound like bad politics. The future success of the Democratic Party relies on the perpetuation of democracy. The normalization of Trump and Trumpism — allowing those things to be defined merely as a political problem needing a political cure — degrades democracy."

"And for the Max Roses of the world to be seen to be on the side of the angels — not the exterminating angels of political partisanship but those better angels of our nature that Lincoln cited — may not be a bad place to run to, or, really, a bad place to run from," concluded Gopnik.