After the release of the redacted Mueller report yesterday, there was a groundswell of progressive activist sentiment for countering William Barr’s lies and Team Trump’s wild celebrations of a fake “exoneration” with that ultimate-if-risky weapon of impeachment proceedings in the Democratic-controlled House. But the two Democratic leaders with the most power over the decision to pursue, forget about, or hold in reserve impeachment proceedings, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, didn’t sway from their earlier position that the time was not ripe for impeachment, so long as Republicans continue to show no interest in holding Trump accountable for his misconduct (Pelosi’s top lieutenant Steny Hoyer even ruled it out as an option).
My guess is that Team Pelosi figured they could wait out the initial angry excitement over the Mueller report and return to their previous strategy of investigating Trump and attacking him on a broad front, but not constraining themselves with an impeachment proceeding that was guaranteed to fail in the Senate, if not earlier.
But now there is a new dynamic, as one prominent 2020 Democratic presidential candidate has cast her candidacy into the whirlwind of the impeachment debate:
Warren embraced other arguments popular in Impeachment Now circles, such as this one:
And this one:
Cynics may decide that Warren is using this stance to give fresh momentum to a campaign that had (in the polls at least) underachieved in the early going. But in rebutting that argument, she can draw upon the reserves of respect she has earned by running what is without much question the most substantive, policy-heavy campaign in the 2020 cycle’s early going. Her posture on impeachment fits her better than it might a rival with a reputation for opportunism.
For the moment, her stance creates a strong likelihood that other candidates could follow; there could perhaps even be a stampede that eliminates Warren’s tactical advantage while confirming her status as a party trendsetter. And if she and other presidential candidates create a wave of support for impeachment that breaks down Pelosi & Co.’s resistance, Warren may have to deal with the ironic consequences of a development that blots out the sky and reduces the attention her policy proposals will receive.
If some candidates hold out against Warren, and impeachment remains a demand that enlivens grassroots progressives while terrifying pols, we may have a new point of division in a huge Democratic field.