Benjamin Franklin once said, “When you’re testing to see how deep the water is, never use two feet.” That’s a bit of simple wisdom many in the current Congress should have heeded. As the long-awaited public impeachment hearings kick off, one thing has become painfully obvious: the Democrats are in trouble. They have gone all in on their quest for impeachment and now they have to deliver, not just to their base, but to the country. After three long years of promising proof of Trump’s corruption, collusion, and contempt for the very basic institutions of our government, Democrats now have to turn over their cards and show the country what they have. If they can’t produce a smoking gun, if they don’t have a knock-out punch, then their party is in serious trouble.
From “quid pro quo” to “extortion” to “abuse of power,” impeachment hungry Democrats have tossed around plenty of buzzwords and innuendo, backed up by hearsay, supposition, and biased opinion. Through carefully coordinated leaks and a selectively stage-managed production of transcripts, Adam Schiff and his team have been able to paint a very fuzzy picture of what they would like the country to believe, that President Trump used the full force of his office to pursue a political end. Yet what they have not been able to do is close the deal. They have not been able to establish that any of their beliefs are facts, that any of their dreams are realities. And it is not going to get any easier.
Nancy Pelosi has consistently promised that she would not pursue impeachment absent clear and overwhelming bipartisan support. With all Members of Congress able to review the transcripts of the closed-door testimony, as well as consider any other evidence thus far collected, Democrats have failed to sway even a single Republican vote, not to mention move the needle with the general public. That is not a good sign considering that Democrats have held all of the cards and controlled all of the optics thus far.
Now, open, public hearings are to commence. Still under the control of Adam Schiff, yet televised to an entire nation. Now, the general public will see a cross-examination of witnesses. The public will hear “my opinion” nearly as often as they have heard “quid pro quo.” The pubic will hear “I learned secondhand” at least as much as they have heard a compliant media say, “witnesses have confirmed.” Perhaps most importantly, the country will witness every single time Adam Schiff overrules a Republican question or request to call a witness to refute the narrative. In short, even though Schiff and the Democrats will still have an iron clad grip on the process, their unfettered control of the optics and narrative will fade, along with any hope of bipartisan support – public or Congressional. Their one-sidedness will be exposed for all to see.
The question then becomes, after failing to garner any Republican support, or to bring the public along on their quest, would the Democrats still move towards a formal impeachment? They will undoubtedly be able to muster the 218 votes in the House, but where would that leave them? The matter must, Constitutionally, move to the Senate, where impeachment minded Democrats are not in control. A Senate where a formal impeachment trial would generate considerably more national attention than the House hearings. A Senate where each and every witness Adam Schiff declined to call will be compelled to testify. A Senate where dreams of President Trump’s removal may be dead on arrival, but a very public acquittal and exoneration would surely ensue.
To be sure, an acquittal in the Senate will mean more than just the avoidance of removal for the president. It will be an enormous campaign ad on the largest possible stage. It will prove to be the culmination of a pointless three-year crusade to oust a president and overturn an election. It will come as six U.S Senators vying for the Democratic nomination will have to stand and cast a vote. And it will all come in an election year. Anyone who doubts Mitch McConnell’s ability to play the long game in an election year need only look to Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
When all of this impeachment hysteria has at last come to a close, when the last gasps of 2016 denial have finally subsided, Adam Schiff and the Democrats can attempt to answer the next great question: What have you been doing for the past three years? The impeachment distraction has provided a rather tenuous excuse for doing nothing else. Nothing in terms of working with the president. Prescription drugs, USMCA, and illegal immigration have sat undisturbed on the sidelines while they have recklessly pursued an undemocratic fantasy. The kickoff to an election season is probably the single worst time to have to answer for that. Beginning with the impeachment hearings the Democrats are in serious trouble, but they’re too deeply invested to turn back now. Any way forward, they lose.