Otto von Bismarck once famously said “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.”
That may have been true in the 19th century, when the Prussian statesman dominated German and European affairs.
Increasingly and unfortunately, however, 21st century American politics has often become the art of the impossible, the unattainable, and the grand but empty gesture.
This devolution has gone on for decades and there’s ample blame to be shared between both major political parties.
The latest incarnation of this phenomenon is the ill-considered push by many in the far-left wing of the Democratic Party to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
Regular readers know I have little regard for “The Donald” and some of the coarser elements in the Republican Party to which he appeals.
These are not the musings of a partisan leaping to Trump’s defense, but of a pragmatist who hates to see time and money wasted on something counter-productive on multiple levels.
The impeachment contingent alleges numerous misdeeds rendering Trump unfit to hold the Presidency.
The most frequently cited—and most plausible—accusations include inappropriate financial dealings with foreign governments and interests, collusion with foreign powers to influence U.S. elections, and inappropriate if not illegal interference with investigations into this alleged collusion.
Trump’s financial empire has a worldwide reach. While his refusal to release his income tax returns has obscured the full nature and extent of that reach, his extensive dealings with American rivals Russia and China were public knowledge prior to and during the 2016 election.
The fact Trump won anyway indicates outrage over this issue is largely partisan.
Allegations of collusion and obstruction were exhaustively investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Most experts who have attempted an unbiased analysis of Mueller’s report state there is a strong suggestion of Trump culpability with the election interference and impedance of the subsequent investigation, but probably not sufficient evidence to conclusively prove illegal conduct.
So the current case against Trump amounts to unseemly ties that have been well dissected and circumstantial evidence that indicates but does not firmly establish unethical and possibly illegal activity.
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This may be enough to get articles of impeachment through the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Democrats and where a simple majority is required.
It is almost certainly not enough to win a conviction by a two-thirds vote in the Republican-led Senate.
As such the impeachment proceedings would be a pointless exercise serving only to rehash everything liberals hate about Trump while providing aspiring Democrat rock stars an opportunity to grandstand.
This costly and time-consuming endeavor would further widen the already gaping partisan divide and divert lawmakers from the necessary functions of government.
Democrats could well end up getting worse than they give in the process.
Impeachment proceedings would certainly represent red meat for left-wing Democrats who favor revolution over evolution.
Yet centrist Democrats—who up to now have quietly but firmly resisted calls for impeachment—understand that Trump supporters are a highly carnivorous lot as well.
For all his failings, Trump has proven adept at convincing his stalwarts they are under attack from liberal politician, elitist intellectuals, biased journalists, “invading” illegal immigrants, etc.
He has repeatedly and loudly said his enemies do not accept the legitimacy of his presidency and will stop at nothing to destroy it.
Impeachment would play perfectly into this narrative.
Given the current fracture between centrist and far-left Democrats, a united Trump base reinvigorated by a siege mentality might propel him to another four years in the White House.
Democrats would be well served to save their sound bites and political theater for the debate stage and cable news shows while sticking to what’s actually possible in the halls of Congress.
Impeachment is a pipe dream and a losing proposition.