Texas Democratic Rep. Al Green wanted to make one thing clear when he appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Tuesday: He was ready, willing and able to impeach President Donald Trump if Democrats take back the House majority in November.
Here’s the exchange between Green and host Pedro Echevarria:
ECHEVARRIA: “If Democrats take back the House in November, what is the likelihood that Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings up an impeachment charge?”
GREEN: “I’ll let Speaker Pelosi address her actions. But here is a point that I think is salient and one that ought to be referenced. Every member of the House is accorded the opportunity to bring up impeachment. This is not something that the Constitution has bestowed upon leadership. It is something that every member has the right and privilege of doing. I am not sure that there will be members who are going to wait for someone else if that someone else, doesn’t matter who it is, is declining to do it. We can all do it. And I think there is a good likelihood there will be Articles of Impeachment.”
That’s not a new view for Green.
Last December he failed in an attempt to bring articles of impeachment to the House floor. “I love my country,” Green wrote in a letter to his colleagues at the time. “For this reason, I will bring articles of impeachment to a vote in the House of Representatives.”
And, as far back as May 2017 – less than four months after Trump was sworn in as the 45th President – Green was on the House floor calling for his impeachment. “The President must be impeached,” Green said. “For those who do not know, impeachment does not mean that the President would be found guilty. It simply means that the House of Representatives will bring charges against the President. It’s similar to an indictment but not quite the same thing.”
Green’s focus on impeachment – and promise to pursue it if Democrats win back the House – stands in stark contrast to the view of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who has repeatedly made clear that she believes impeachment talk is not only counterproductive but could hand Republicans a ready-made issue in the fall campaign.
“Unless you have bipartisan consensus, impeachment is a divisive issue in the country,” Pelosi said. “In my district it’s a very popular issue, but it’s not the path we should be on.”
There’s polling data that suggests Pelosi is right. An NPR/PBS survey in April showed that 47% would definitely vote against a candidate who wanted to move toward impeachment of Trump while 42% said they would vote for a candidate advocating for Trump’s impeachment. Almost half of all independents – 47% – said they would oppose a candidate who wanted to impeach Trump.
The issue here is the path back to a Democratic majority does not run through districts like Green’s. Hillary Clinton won Green’s Houston area district with 79% of the vote in 2016. Green took 81% of the vote against the Republican nominee in that race; he’s never won the seat with less than 72%.
The districts that Democrats do need to retake from Republicans are far more evenly split between the two parties – and many even lean toward Republicans slightly. And, while voters in those seats may not love – or even like Trump – talk of impeaching him strikes them as just more of the same pointless partisanship that has put us in this place.
And the more people like Green speak out about their plans to push impeachment, the easier it becomes for Republicans to use that threat as a motivator to their own less-than-motivated base voters.
“The threat of impeachment provides Republicans their best point of attack looking toward the midterm elections, and I think we’re going to hear a lot more about it from their arsenal as they try to isolate the Robert Mueller investigation and delegitimize it,” Lee Miringoff, the pollster who conducted the NPR/PBS poll, said of the results. “If there’s a silver lining for Republicans in this data, it’s the impeachment question.”
Then there’s this from an April New York Times story headlined: “Republicans Seize on Impeachment for Edge in 2018 Midterms“:
“As Republican leaders scramble to stave off a Democratic wave or at least mitigate their party’s losses in November, a strategy is emerging on the right for how to energize conservatives and drive a wedge between the anti-Trump left and moderate voters: warn that Democrats will immediately move to impeach President Trump if they capture the House.
“What began last year as blaring political hyperbole on the right — the stuff of bold-lettered direct mail fund-raising pitches from little-known groups warning of a looming American “coup” — is now steadily drifting into the main currents of the 2018 message for Republicans.”
Every time someone like Green goes on TV and promises impeachment – or at least impeachment proceedings – it makes Pelosi’s life that much tougher. And Republicans’ electoral chances that much better.