|June 13, 2018|
Tom Steyer -- Can he grow grass roots campaign to impeach Trump?
|In a bottoms-up campaign to impeach President Trump, billionaire California climate-change advocate Tom Steyer has hit the road on a 30-city tour and collected 5.4 million names of those embracing or interested in the cause.|
The campaign hit Washington on Tuesday, with Steyer booked into Town Hall-Seattle, where appreciative liberals often nod heads in unison as they agree with speakers. Steyer might consider taking Dramamine before taking the stage.
The campaign that Steyer is nourishing -- and in which he has invested $40 million -- is very, very different from the top-down Nixon impeachment of 1973-74.
At that time, here and elsewhere, support for resignation and removal grew among prominent Republicans (e.g. Attorney General Slade Gorton) and more conservative Democrats (e.g. crusty U.S. Rep. Julia Butler Hansen).
Nowadays, Steyer said, "I think (congressional) Republicans know how dangerous Trump is, constantly breaking the law, but they don't want to risk a primary." Trump has big support in the Republican base.
Steyer is having to make his case without political establishment backing. The Democrats' "political calculation," in Steyer's words, that "impeachment will inflame the Republican base" and persuade it to vote in the mid-term elections.
"When we are in the majority, we are going to try to be unifying, and there is no way to do impeachment in a bipartisan way right now," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told the New Yorker last month.
Fox News, America's new version of state television, is losing no opportunity to gin up the impeachment threat whenever it can. It has elevated California's Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters to status as a devil figure.
But Steyer is a man on a mission. "I think telling the truth about this (president) is the most important truth in America," he said Tuesday morning in an interview.
What is that truth? In Steyer's view, it is that Trump "continues to break the law," considers himself "above the law," and "attacks the rule of law and how it pertains to what he seeks to get done."
Trump is also lying, and "systematically attacking the understanding of a civil society and how it works," Steyer added. He is demonstrating a "withering contempt for the American value of equal value for every citizen."
Very liberal House Democrats have twice tried to bring up impeachment for a floor debate. They have lost by votes of 364-58 and 355-66. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., was the only "Yea" vote in the Washington delegation.
An April poll by Quinnipiac University found 52 percent of American voters opposed to impeachment Trump. By the time he resigned in the summer of 1974, President Nixon's support was down in the 25 percent range.
The Republicans control Congress, and will never hold the equivalent of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings that revealed illegal acts spawned in Nixon's Oval Office, and White House tapes to prove it.
The question bedevils Steyer: "What is the event that will make people recognize this?" he asked, referring to Trump lies and deals from which Trump profits. "What is the event that will make people recognize this?"
Steyer will see the Democratic base at Town Hall. With the turnout at his town halls, and those 5.4 million names, he can argue that he is more with the party base than its sclerotic congressional leadership.
Steyer is also needed by the Democrats. He has put $32 million into a group, NextGenAmerica, which scored impressively in turning out young voters in Virginia last November, with a repeat performance last Tuesday in California.
Steyer is close to at least one Democrat. He is a friend of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, self-described "greenest governor in America."
America has had a trio of impeachment traumas. A single Senate vote saved President Andrew Johnson from removal from office in 1868.
When Nixon rode off to California in 1974, quitting when faced with conviction by the Senate, Gerald Ford's memorable words were: "Our long national nightmare is over."
The highly political bid to impeach Bill Clinton rebounded on its Republican authors. House Speaker New Gingrich ended up being bounced from office. The country seemed to conclude that the Monica Lewinsky affair was grounds for divorce and not impeachment.
Whether Democratic strategists like it or not, impeachment will stand just behind the curtain during the 2018 midterm elections.
"Americans will be voting in large part in a referendum on this president," said Steyer.