Here's why Nancy Pelosi should make recent Republican Rep. Justin Amash an impeachment manager
Let’s start with this: Screw Jeff Van Drew (nothing like a little rhyme to inaugurate a post, right?). But seriously, the primary argument being deployed by The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote and his Republican sycophants is that the whole impeachment thing is just about partisanship. Here’s a tweet from a Trump campaign mouthpiece:
Democrats impeachment is so compelling that: ✅Nancy Pelosi won't send the impeachment articles to the Senate. ✅N… https://t.co/gfp1k9qCV8— Andrew Clark (@Andrew Clark) 1576787742.0
Rep. Van Drew of New Jersey, as anyone who has dug into the matter knows, abandoned the Democrats for the Republicans just after voting no on impeachment because, as recent polling showed, he had no chance of being reelected as a Democrat. Either way, it gave Trump more cover for his impeachment narrative. CNN’s Chris Cillizza called it a “godsend” for him.
As our own Eric Boehlert has been expertly pointing out for quite some time, the media coverage of impeachment (not to mention Trump’s entire time in office) has, to say the least, left something to be desired. Unfortunately though, too many people hear, even from mainstream news articles, that impeachment is purely about partisan politics, and thus they dismiss it. That is the single most dangerous narrative those who believe Trump should not be president have to combat on this front.
We must continue to hold Trump accountable, first of all, because it is important to vigorously defend the integrity of our elections against a president who would use the power of his office to blackmail and bribe a foreign government into damaging an opponent by announcing an investigation into supposed corruption (and all Trump cared about was the announcement and its political value), for which, mind you, there remains no actual evidence.
But we must also do so because people who tune out the Senate trial (and don’t listen to what Trump actually did because they’ve decided that impeachment really was just about Democratic hatred of the guy who beat them in 2016) are going to hold it against Democrats in 2020 for putting the country through the whole thing. We cannot allow impeachment to redound to his benefit and help him get reelected.
That’s where Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan comes in.
I’ve praised Amash before, after he became the first House Republican to support impeaching Trump—a position he declared in May, as a result of the Mueller report. Then, on July 4, Amash announced he was leaving the Republican Party. Unlike Van Drew, he wasn’t joining the other party, with whom he agrees on very few policy issues. Amash wanted to stand alone, as an independent. He voted yes on both articles of impeachment this past week, which means that—despite the way the media presented the vote—not every conservative in the House stood with Trump.
Beyond this speech, Amash has been highly active in the public debate over impeachment:
On Friday [December 13], Amash jabbed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for saying he would coordinate with the White House to acquit Trump rather than remain impartial. He also lambasted Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) for telling CNN in an interview that “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.”
“Senator Graham has chosen to violate his oath to support and defend the Constitution, his oath to do impartial justice in an impeachment trial, and his duty to represent all the people of his state, not just those who share his political views or desire a particular outcome,” Amash wrote.
And that brings me to the argument I mentioned in the headline of this post, an argument I am far from the first person to be making. At least 33 freshman Democratic House members have been quietly but strongly urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to appoint Amash to serve as one of the impeachment trial managers who will make the case on behalf of the House. Leading the push is Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who noted that the effort includes Democrats from the progressive left to the moderate center. He noted that Pelosi is aware of it, and mentioned that he and Amash have spoken about it as well. Here’s Phillips making his case:
Amash "took a courageous position early on," Phillips told CBS News, describing Amash's decision earlier this year to leave the Republican Party after saying he believed Mr. Trump had committed impeachable acts. "He's an attorney, he's a constitutionalist [and] has framed the issues as clearly and concisely as any congressman," Phillips said.
[snip] It's "all about pragmatism ... He can make a case thoughtfully" in a way that will articulate Mr. Trump's conduct to a broad cross section of Americans, Phillips said.
Phillips also stated: “To the extent that this can be bipartisan, it should, and I think including Representative Amash amongst the impeachment managers is a smart move both for the country, for the substance and for the optics.”
Some might argue we should reward only loyal Democrats with such a high-profile opportunity. However, such considerations cannot be allowed to override the primary objective of defeating Trump. Amash can aid that effort in a unique way, one no Democrat can match. We need him on the front lines of this battle.
New York Times columnist David Leonhardt endorsed tapping Amash, and cited a number of other prominent voices as well:
- Susan Hennessey, Lawfare: “This would be a very shrewd choice. Not only is Amash a conservative, he is a very effective questioner and has a gift for rooting his analysis in core constitutional concerns.”
- Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone: “Mollifying disingenuous, intellectually bereft criticism from Republicans about fairness shouldn’t be a concern. But @justinamash has been articulating the strategy for impeachment better than most, regardless of party. That is the best argument for this.”
- Marcy Wheeler, a national security journalist:
I’m a constituent of Justin Amash … And I’m solidly in support of the idea — floated by thirty freshman Democrats — for Amash to be among the Impeachment Managers presenting the case in the Senate. I think Amash brings several things this impeachment effort could badly use. …
It is critical to have a voice making the conservative case for upholding the Constitution. … Well before queasy Democrats in swing districts came around to the necessity of impeaching President Trump, Amash left his party and took a stand to defend the Constitution.
- Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate on Amash:
He’s a hard-line fiscal conservative who left the Republican Party in July, becoming an independent, after backlash against his May conclusion that the conduct outlined in Robert Mueller’s special counsel report was “impeachable.” His existence is a reminder that, for all the chin-stroking Beltway media takes about impeachment being an example of “partisan polarization,” the case for removing Trump does not require one to hold a left-of-center belief system and is, in fact, supported by many non-Democrats. There’s no better answer to the Republican talking point about how zero Republicans support impeaching Trump than to draw attention to a person who would still be a prominent Republican if the party didn’t have a Trump loyalty requirement.
Others have also spoken out in favor:
“As others have suggested, Rep. Amash should be one of the impeachment managers for the Senate trial,” Kevin Kruse, a historian of American History, said on Twitter. Michelle Goldberg, a New York Times columnists [sic] that leans significantly to the left of most of her colleagues, said on Twitter: “Democrats should choose Amash as one of their impeachment managers.” And Charlie Sykes, editor of the conservative (but Never-Trump website) The Bulwark, called the suggestion a “Good idea.”
Putting front and center, as an impeachment manager, a conservative who left the Republican Party specifically because he believed Trump committed impeachable offenses is the single most effective tactic Speaker Pelosi can deploy in the service of getting more persuadable independents and Republican-leaning voters to judge the case against President Individual 1 with an open mind. Justin Amash can speak to some of those voters with a specific authority that, like it or not, Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and any other House Democrat do not possess. If you don’t believe me, or any of the people cited above, listen to how two of Amash’s Republican supporters responded after hearing him explain his position at a May town hall in his district:
“I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before," [Cathy Granaat] said. "I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated."
Cheryl Wanless, a Republican who has supported Amash, said she was confused by his position but after hearing him speak, doesn't “have a problem proceeding with" impeachment.
“Though in the back of my mind, I know it is not going to pass the Senate most likely," she said. "But if the process has to go this far, I think that’s fine — go ahead."
In a democracy, politics is persuasion. In our democracy, too many people are stuck in a media bubble where they simply cannot hear information that comes from a voice outside the circle they trust. It takes someone who has already earned that trust, who is inside the circle, to penetrate the echo chamber. Rep. Amash can be that person for some right-of-center voters. Not allowing him to do so only helps Donald Trump.
The struggle over impeachment is a political knife fight. Victory will be measured not by whether this man is removed from the Oval Office—there are nowhere near enough principled Republicans who will put our country and our Constitution above their craven, Death Eater-ish worship of their lord and master for that righteous result to occur—but instead by how many voters are moved one way or the other in 2020. Democrats must understand the stakes, and take any and every measure available to them to maximize success as measured in those terms.
No matter what verdict Senate Republicans cast, the broader jury includes the whole of the American people. Anyone listening with a truly open mind will surely recognize that Donald Trump is a threat to our Constitution, to the rule of law, and to our democracy, and is therefore unfit to serve as our president. The more people who come to that realization between now and Election Day in 2020, the better the chances of saving the country we love.
Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)