I had not planned to watch any of the impeachment debate or vote yesterday. My buddy’s moving company had a huge job on the Upper East Side, and he wanted me to drive the second truck. I like driving trucks, I like money, and since I had watched all of the intelligence and judiciary committee hearings I knew I would learn nothing new, and I knew how the vote would come out.
I listened to sports radio in the truck on the way to the job, and impeachment never came up. I chatted with doormen and supers, saw a guy get arrested, made inappropriate jokes with the guys on the crew. But it was only when I took to my phone for email or Twitter that I saw any mention of it. That’s not quite true — it was on the TV of a Crunch gym I walked by on 3rd Avenue.
The way all facets of my city seemed to simply hum along, as if nothing very important was happening kind of sums up this entire shambolic impeachment effort. As President Trump put it at a rally while the vote happened, “It doesn’t really feels like we are being impeached.” If an impeachment falls in the forest and nobody watches it, does it make history? The answer is yes, but it’s not quite the history Democrats are hoping to make.
This impeachment will and should be remembered as one of the most crass, cynical political ploys in American history. How do I know this? Speaker Nancy Pelosi told me so. She assured me just months ago that an impeachment on purely partisan lines was dangerous, and bad, and shouldn’t ever happen. She was right. So what happened?
The conventional wisdom as to why Pelosi opposed impeachment is that she worried about losing seats in purple districts, and I’m certain she does fear that. But she might fear something else as well. This, the first impeachment in which no member of the president’s party voted aye, is now Pelosi’s legacy. Being the first woman to be speaker of the House will pale in historical comparison to this impeachment almost certain to die in the Senate — if it gets there — also on purely partisan lines.
It could also get worse for Nancy. Should Trump win re-election after her waste-of-time impeachment, she will play the part of historical fool, rebuked by the American people for her hubris. The passionate speeches from Democrats will dissolve into mist, and history at best will record that their crime-free impeachment was crushed by the Senate, at worst, by America itself.
I can’t quite decide if it was fortune’s favor or plumb bad luck that a sudden snow squall hit New York at 4 p.m. yesterday. In any event, we got word that ice was falling from a crane at the drop off location, and with trucks all loaded, we could not access the building. “Bring her back to Dyker Heights, do the 7th Avenue parking shot,” my buddy said. So for two hours I drove a 20-foot box truck through Narnia, finally arriving back in my little red Brooklyn enclave.
With a click of a remote and a snap of a beer opening, I was suddenly back in it. All of the grave profound statements of sadness, the members speaking of their children, how that is who they must answer to in this grave time of national emergency. A national emergency that nobody talked or cared about in my vicinity all day. But there it was, on TV, big as life as again. Or so it seemed.
The Republicans in the House and the White House get this a little wrong as well. Their fears that this undermines the Constitution and now every president with a House of the opposing party will be impeached are probably unfounded. No purely partisan vote would ever get 67 senators to convict. The lesson here isn’t that an opposition House can do this, it’s that doing so is pointless and politically counterproductive.
The biggest story of this impeachment is what an insignificant story it is. In historical terms, it will help to define the legacies of a few politicians, Pelosi and Trump among them. But for those us walking, breathing, or driving trucks today? It was Wednesday. Little more, little less. Next year we will have an election. Like any other election, the American people will decide who they want to lead them.
People will have good or bad reasons to vote for or against this or that candidate, but nobody is going say to themselves, “I think Trump is doing a pretty good job, but the House Democrats impeached him so I better not vote for him.” The Democrats have giftwrapped an empty box for their base and want to pretend it is a Christmas present.
Maybe it is. Maybe this impeachment is a cathartic moment for the survivors of Hurricane Donald that hit Brooklyn in November 2016, but for most Americans is a mediocre show on a subscription service they don’t even have. It’s certainly no Disney Plus. And that is the real lesson of the impeachment of President Trump.