Musing about law, books, and politics

Why Some Congressional Democrats are not Rushing to Impeachment

Freshman Congresswoman Lauren Underwood explains.

Her interview with Kara Swisher is a must for the “Impeach Now Or Else” crowd.

You can listen to it, or, if you prefer Twitter Style Cliff Notes, keep reading.

In 2018 Lauren Underwood was elected in a traditionally GOP district. llinois 14 has only elected one Democratic Congressman, and he served a single term. Her district had never elected a person of color, never elected a woman, and never elected a young person.

In 2018, Lauren Underwood became the youngest black woman ever elected to Congress.

She unseated a 4-term Tea Party Republican with 57% of the vote.

The GOP wants her seat back. For the Democrats to hold the House, representatives like Underwood need to be re-elected. She says she won because she understands her constituents.

The district is part suburban, part rural. Her constituents don’t like Trump. They find his language offensive. They care about health care and safe schools.

They’re disgusted by the need for active shooter drills. But they shut down when you say “Russia,” so you can’t even get to “investigation” or “impeachment.”

Because Dems had written off / didn’t try in this district, when she knocked on doors, it had been 10 years since a Democrat had been around.

Her constituents understand corruption and they see Team Trump defying the laws, for example, in refusing subpoenas (even though they don’t think there should BE an investigation.)

To them, impeachment talk and the investigation look like a Democratic power grab. Her constituents thinks Democrats are only worried about Russia and Trump and not the issues that matter to them.

Underwood doesn’t respond to the news of the day, because her constituents don’t care about Trump’s latest tweet. She works for her constituents so she needs to talk directly to them about issues they care about.

She now even avoids national cable news. National news would lure her with promises that they’d talk about what matters to her constituents, but they’d spend a few minutes on issues, and then want to talk about that days’ drama.

So she talks to her constituent directly in person/ town halls, and through local news.

Her constituents want to know what she’s doing to get them affordable health care. She has to be careful with how she presents health care bills. Her constituents are suspicious of things that are “free” or “for all,” so she talks about “modernizing” the health care system.

She worries that Democrats don’t package their ideas in a way that appeals to swing voters. She has to avoid Democratic hashtags and describe what the bill actually does.

And now for the big question: Why hasn’t Lauren Underwood called for an impeachment inquiry?

Underwood hasn’t called for impeachment because, in her words, “we need to act in a way that brings our communities with us.”

The “with us” part is key.

She says needs to see where the court cases go (she notes that the House is winning a lot of these court cases).

Both FDR and Lincoln also felt it was important not to move too far ahead of public opinion. (I’m citing my own books.)

Because they were careful not to move too far ahead of public opinion, Lincoln and FDR often frustrated those farther to the left on the political spectrum.

Lincoln and FDR were also two of our most talented presidents who successfully advanced a progressive agenda.

Having just written biographies of FDR and Lincoln, I was struck most by Underwood’s phrase “with us” in: “we need to act in a way that brings our communities with us.”

Toward the end of her interview, Underwood implied that some Democrats are in a bit of a bubble. (She was speaking to a San Francisco audience.)

Yes there are liberal bubbles and echo chambers. Bubbles and echo chambers are dangerous because things start to seem obvious that are not, actually, obvious. To succeed, progressives need include as many people as possible.

I think Lauren Underwood has something important to teach us.

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