There is a Chinese fable about an older and a younger monk. They encounter a woman who implores them to carry her across a stream. Having vowed no contact with women, the monks face a dilemma. Nonetheless, the older monk immediately puts her on his back and transports her across.
As the hours pass, the younger monk’s indignation builds until he can no longer contain himself, and he confronts his companion. The older monk simply replies: “I set the woman down hours ago, brother. Why are you still carrying her?”
The fable is a Zen tale about letting go. It is also a contemporary illustration about Donald Trump’s hold on the nation’s political poles. The older monk is the Right, the younger is the Left.
The Left’s insistence that Trump be stampeded through a rushed impeachment reveals a political movement unable to let go. It also reveals that Trump may have a greater hold on liberals than they have on him.
Democrats still had the numbers for a second impeachment, despite their poor 2020 election performance. The horrific Capitol riots gave them leverage. On the other hand, their credibility was lacking, given that they had been calling for Trump’s impeachment since before he even took office. Then, even before Trump was acquitted last year, the Left was already calling for a second impeachment. Now, with Trump out of power, it is still intent on trying him in the Senate.
What is their goal in impeaching Trump again? To remove from office a man who is no longer in office. For constitutional theorists, this is intriguing, but for the rest of America, it likely will not be.
There are less than 22 months between now and November 2022 — precious time that will determine the success or failure of Biden’s administration ahead of a midterm election in which history says his party will lose. Yet it plans to squander part or all of his first 100 days trying Trump.
There is also little chance Trump will be convicted in the Senate and disqualified from future office with the two-thirds vote that is probably required. Yet there is some controversy over this question, and given the minuscule number of House Republicans willing to impeach, this controversy would likely be litigated further even after the impeachment trial is over. Such an exercise, the longer it goes on, increases its likelihood of alienating the Republicans upon whom Biden will depend to break filibusters in the Senate, thus imperiling his agenda in the long run.
The last and largest of the Left’s dangers from its stampede to impeachment is that it will alienate the rest of the nation in the process. The longer the trial continues, the less interest there will be and the greater danger of a backlash. For a country approaching a year of pandemic and lockdowns, this smacks of misplaced priorities.
In contrast to the Left’s political problems with impeachment, the Right has no problems at all. Republicans are eager to set Trump aside. The best possible outcome for many ambitious Republicans is that somehow Trump is disqualified from future office, the blame laid at the Left’s feet and not theirs.
All the while, the clock is running on the Left’s very limited opportunity to capitalize on the Biden presidency. It would do much better to set Trump down and move on.
J.T. Young served under former President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.