In theory, the Democratic Party is engaged in a debate about the merits of impeaching President Donald Trump right now. In practice, however, practically no high-profile Democrat is arguing that the president is undeserving of impeachment. Instead, many are arguing that impeachment is unwise.
The negative version of this case is that attempting to impeach Trump would backfire—the GOP-led Senate would never convict him and remove him from office anyway, and voters would view the whole procedure as a politically motivated waste of time. Critics see a couple of flaws in this negative case. First, Trump is already unpopular, and so unlikely to rally public support; second, the case is premised on the idea that hearings won’t sway anyone.
Joe Lockhart, who was President Bill Clinton’s press secretary during his impeachment, attempts a positive argument against impeachment in The New York Times Tuesday, and it’s baffling. Lockhart believes that the case against Trump is fairly strong, but doesn’t favor impeachment. Rather than contend that it would hurt Democrats to try impeachment, he says it would help them to abstain:
For Democrats, leaving Donald Trump in office is not only good politics — it is the best chance for fundamental realignment of American politics in more than a generation. Mr. Trump is three years into destroying what we know as the Republican Party. Another two years just might finish it off. Trumpism has become Republicanism, and that spells electoral doom for the party.
This is rather nihilist. The old maxim is that when your opponent is making a mistake, don’t interfere, but Democrats broadly agree that Trump is doing serious damage to the country at large. So Lockhart’s contention is that it’s okay to allow that damage to the country in the short term for the greater goal of finishing off the Republican Party in the long term.