Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is seeing backlash for her persistent efforts at urging the public to remove President Donald Trump from office, and Democrats are seeing an increased lack of consistency in views and messaging about impeaching the president as the 2020 elections near.
“The public isn’t there on impeachment. It’s your voice and constituency, but give me the leverage I need to make sure that we’re ready and it is as strong as it can be,” Pelosi said to Democrats during a caucus-wide conference call in August, The Hill reports.
Pelosi revealed her true colors when she stated the results she wanted to see.
“I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison,” Pelosi said, according to numerous Democratic sources familiar with a meeting held in early June over whether to launch impeachment proceedings.
According to a report by NBC News, Democrats have been largely inconsistent in describing whether they are going to pursue impeachment or not as they based their words on “individual political messaging needs,” the report reads.
For the entire year, Pelosi has been trying to carefully balance between her political base’s demand to move against President Trump and her priority to avoid a series of impeachment-related floor votes that may put her at risk of exposing the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents from liberal constituents or swing voters, according to the same NBC report.
In other words, Pelosi’s tactic is to provide an avenue for pro-impeachment Democrats to air their case while keeping the issue off the floor and away from swing voters.
“It’s very frustrating for me—someone coming from a district that was one of the districts that helped get us into the majority—having so much focus on things like impeachment or other issues that are divisive,” moderate Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) said in an interview expressing his frustration of Pelosi, emphasizing, “We should be focusing on the kitchen table issues.”
“If I wake up every morning and go to bed every night, and look at the TV during the day, and it says impeachment, impeachment, impeachment, investigation. Then what is the American public going to think?” House Blue Dog Coalition Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) said in an interview.
“It’s kind of a Beltway process here. ‘Everything’s about impeachment,” O’Halleran said.
Confusing political messaging? All part of the plan
A Politico report has analyzed that “the muddled messaging from top House Democrats has some built-in strategic advantages.” Furthermore, defenders argue that “it allows Pelosi to satisfy progressives’ demands to more aggressively investigate the president, while giving cover to vulnerable moderates who have tried to avoid the politically charged issue altogether,” according to the report.
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer, whose public image is built on calling for Trump’s dismissal, has qualified for a debate in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 15 while Pelosi and fellow Democrats braced for more political pressure.
“Tom Steyer will hit the presidential debate two years after he first began running impeachment ads,” veteran Democratic strategist and former congressional aide Rebecca Katz said. “House Democrats have already twisted themselves into quite the incoherent pickle on impeachment and Steyer’s prominence only puts them more on the defensive.”
A Politico report in early September has outlined how House Democratic leaders are struggling to get their impeachment messaging straight.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) backtracked on Wednesday after claiming Democrats were not conducting an “impeachment inquiry,” a remark that directly contradicted top House investigators and created further confusion about Democrats’ strategy, Politico reported.
Hoyer’s initial comments however, undermined what Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has said—that an impeachment investigation is in fact under way. Recently, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) declined to give a definitive answer as to whether the House is conducting an impeachment investigation, according to Politico.
Nadler has tried to sell the idea that he has essentially launched a formal impeachment “proceeding” by seeking documents into alleged collusion between the Russians and the Trump 2016 campaign.
Not all committee leaders are supportive of the impeachment inquiry, with members like House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) arguing that if Democrats are going to open an inquiry, they should also be prepared to impeach Trump, which the caucus isn’t ready to do, Politico reported.
The disorganized and often incoherent messaging within the Democratic caucus may be a tactic used to benefit Democratic members, though it has been observed that continued pursuit of impeachment would swamp their legislative agenda and embolden the Republican base, likely costing them votes and ensuring Trump’s re-election, according to Politico.