House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is finally on board with impeachment — or at least an impeachment inquiry, if not forcing her members to actually vote on articles of impeachment on the floor of the body. The tracks of her dug-in pumps stretch back two years, but finally, the progressives in her caucus have dragged her over the finish line, or so it seems.
Pelosi’s fear from day one has been that impeachment is bad for moderate Democratic House members in swing districts. Now, just days after she came around, the Republican National Committee is turning those fears into an ad buy reality. In a blistering new attack ad aimed at New York Congressman Max Rose, the RNC reveals the playbook for impeachment politics they hope can make inroads into the House, and perhaps even take back control of it.
Last Friday, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted out the ad, calling it “just the beginning of an all-out fight to defend our democracy & our president.” The crux of the argument is that moderate Democrats such as Rose, who were essential to the Democrats flipping the House in 2018, have broken promises to work with the Trump administration and fallen in line with the far progressive wing hell bent on impeaching Trump at all costs.
This is just the beginning of an all-out fight to defend our democracy & our president.
Dozens of House Dems campaigned on working with @realDonaldTrump, yet fell in line with Pelosi & the Squad.
Voters don't support this impeachment charade & it’s going to backfire come 2020! pic.twitter.com/fcb9Uvfvca
— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) September 27, 2019
Rose is a perfect test case for this effort from the RNC. In 2018, he defeated milquetoast former Rep. Dan Donovan, at the time the only Republican House member from New York City, to make the city’s congressional delegation purely and fully blue. But his district that comprises all of Staten Island, that Trump won by 16 points in 2016, and a sliver of centrist South Brooklyn, makes NY 11 an attractive seat for the GOP.
Rose will be running against popular State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who also took on Bill de Blasio in the 2017 mayor’s race. She is arguably the archetype for the candidate the GOP wants to run in 2020. Malliotakis is young, vibrant, the daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Greece, and the kind of moderate voice that can appeal to swing district voters.
For his part, Rose is also the very model of a moderate Democrat that Pelosi and the DNC want to see running in districts like Staten Island. He is a veteran and, at least on paper, a centrist willing to push back against the rather implausible ideas emanating from the progressive wing of the party led by “the squad.” And therein lies the problem for Pelosi.
As the speaker lines up behind the effort to impeach, her ability to give political cover to Rose and at least 12 other Democratic members with cold feet dissipates. This, more than anything else, explains why Pelosi is so reticent to actually hold a vote on the House floor, preferring vague “inquiries.” Even if Rose and the defiant dozen are given dispensation to vote against impeachment, the impotence of their voices in a Democratic caucus dedicated to overturning the 2016 election will be clear as day.
Rose and others may object to being constantly compared to and pictured with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her merry band of socialists, but where is the lie? The wistful wishes of such principled Democrats to work with the other side and abide by the results of the 2016 election are meaningless in the face of the overwhelming majority of their party who feels otherwise.
In a somewhat bizarre moment this past week, Pelosi opined that notwithstanding an open impeachment investigation, the 2020 election will not focus on impeachment, but rather the bread-and-butter issues she would rather have Democrats talking about. The chances of that lie somewhere between zilch and zero. Unless she pumps the brakes, and it may already be too late for that, impeachment will be the central issue, perhaps even the only issue, in the 2020 races for president and Congress.
The launch of the RNC ad against Rose makes crystal clear not just how the GOP intends to fight back against this approach, but how eager they are to do so. This is the fight they want. And while progressives in safe districts — where, as Pelosi put it, a glass of water with a D next to it will win — wax poetic about the evils of Trump and his deplorable supporters, candidates like Rose will have to find some way to woo those deplorables.
Whether she likes it or not, the speaker has set the terms of battle for 2020 by embracing impeachment, and for Republicans, this is the ground on which they wish to fight.