Stop Playing: Impeachment Is Not a Black Political Strategy

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Since the election of President Donald Trump, black political leaders have seemingly led the charge as public Democratic Party surrogates calling for impeachment. When everyone else couldn’t quite fathom Trump as a real-life Manchurian candidate, the black political and pundit class (to its credit) was already gnawing strong at the Trump-Putin link while vigorously questioning the legitimacy of Orange Crush.


And so, predictably, at the announcement of a special counsel charged to investigate collusion between Trump and an ecosystem of specious Kremlin minions, black America can hardly contain itself. Cherry-top it with copacetically named Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) becoming the first member of Congress to officially call for the “I word” on the floor of the House, and you’d think a disgraced Trump impersonating Richard Nixon’s iconic peace-out from Marine One was only days away.

But to quote a Beastie Boys sample: “Hold it now.” The selection of a special counsel, along with impeachment, is not a viable political strategy even for Democrats. Nor is it adequate enough to assume that it works as a substitute for a still-absent national black political strategy in the age of Trumpism.

Some folks want you to think that the selection of a special counsel, along with the possibility of impeachment, is a strategy. Yet there’s no guarantee, no indication, that a special counsel will wrap quickly. And while, a week ago, it might have looked improbable that any part of this administration would consider anything close to a special anything to investigate it, that doesn’t mean Robert Mueller (former George W. Bush and Barack Obama head G-man) will actually find anything—and it certainly doesn’t mean he’s supposed to share it with the rest of us.

“My concern is not with him or the special counsel role in general; it’s that the special-counsel role is very narrow,” Peter Zeidenberg, a former assistant special counsel who helped prosecute former Vice President Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby, told The Root. “They’re not there to make a report, [to hold] press conferences or to make daily disclosures to the public.

“If they don’t have a case to prosecute, they go home,” he continued. “If the speculation is true, if the Trump administration did coordinate with Russia and/or WikiLeaks—that may or may not be a violation of U.S. law.”

Even Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who was mentioning impeachment long before Green, seemed to tap that drum a little less heavy. “No, [there] has not been [any actual evidence yet],” Waters said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “Every time I’ve talked about impeachment, I’ve said we’ve got to connect the dots, we’ve got to get the facts, we’ve got to do the investigation.”


The special-counsel investigation is a long, drawn-out process that’s not given to transparency. Frustrated now? Wait until this starts up. There are just as many visceral political benefits for Trump as there are for Democrats or any of their loyal electoral constituencies. Plus: Trump thrives off both good and bad headlines.

Crazy headlines give him the advantage of a political base that’s still relatively intact. The more he paints it as a “witch hunt” and a conspiracy of media “elites” boxing him in, the stronger the sale to his base. According to YouGov, just under 40 percent of white voters approve of James Comey’s firing as FBI director (after he helped get their boy elected); nearly 70 percent of Republicans do, too. And almost 60 percent of 2016 Trump voters support the firing.


Nearly half of whites still like Trump, along with nearly 40 percent of independents—after Comey’s firing. Basically, he knows his base now matches the base that got him elected in 2016.

Not saying Democrats or, more specifically, black Democratic leaders shouldn’t hope for impeachment. But let’s not fool black voters any more than we already have with unrealistic expectations (and flawed candidates). Appearing to rely on this as the grand #ResistTrump strategy of 2017 is political malfeasance.


The focus, at the moment, should be on how to mobilize black voters in key 2017 elections that are underway now—particularly as a loud-and-clear prelude to the 2018 congressional midterm elections (which, historically, black voters don’t pay attention to the way white voters do). Democrats should have handily won Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, given that nearly a quarter of residents there are black; instead they went into a runoff. And if you ask some seasoned political observers, they’ll tell you that the 2017 gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, where there are massive treasure troves of black voters, are up for grabs.

All Democrats can come up with to engage disenchanted, postelection black voters is the potential pipe smoke of impeachment—in a Republican-controlled Congress—and the petty revenge of a failed Trump presidency. Neither contains any real policy momentum for black communities, since the GOP controls Washington, D.C., and 64 percent of state legislatures. Neither impeachment nor a failed Trump presidency will happen unless Democrats win back large portions of the map.


Republicans fear only electoral threats; they don’t really fear social media rants, “woke” folks or theoretical impeachment scenarios. If they didn’t fear black voters, they wouldn’t be pushing voter-suppression schemes. The Interstate Crosscheck system, the sinister brainchild of Voter Fraud Commission Co-Chairman Kris Kobach, is a voter-purge program in use in 27 states that has already flagged 7.2 million voters nationwide and is ready for Republican use as it disproportionately targets black voters.

As G.S. Potter of the Strategic Institute of Intersectional Policy warned The Root: “Voter purging is one of the greatest threats to nonwhite voters because the Interstate Crosscheck system allows officials to erase black and Hispanic voters from the system both en masse and by targeting specific battleground states and counties directly. There is no doubt that the purging of these voters will once again affect the outcome of the 2018 election.”


And despite that, there’s no known national plan or blueprint hatched by black local, state or federal elected officials, not only to protect black voters against systems like Crosscheck, but also to mobilize black citizens into decisively winning crucial state and federal races. If yelling “impeachment” is about the only real black political plan that beleaguered and under-attack black families can look forward to, then we all might as well accept a treacherous journey through total Republican domination of government for many years to come.

CHARLES D. ELLISON is Contributing Editor for TheRoot & ExecProd/Host of 'Reality Check' on WURD Radio (Philadelphia). + Washington Correspondent, The Philadelphia Tribune; Principal, B|E Strategy


This is one of the reasons why it’s critical that a Congressional investigation also be done, on different grounds than the Special Prosecutors jurisdiction.

Which gets us to an emerging strategy centered around some questions, “Who was enabling Trump? Who was working for the American people?”

Which then gets you to a petition, not a petition, but a Congressional Discharge Petition. A Discharge Petition (for anyone reading this who doesn’t know) is a vote that can be had in Congress that forces a vote on any House Resolution. At present, it requires the names of 218 Congress people.

A discharge petition was filed days ago on House Resolution 356.

Here is the plain language purpose of the bill, from the bill itself.
“This bill establishes in the legislative branch the National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election to examine any attempts or activities by the Russian government or other governments, persons or entities associated with such governments, or persons or entities within Russia to use electronic means to influence, interfere with, or sow distrust in elections for public office held in the United States in 2016.”

This Discharge Petition, and this bill, are tests of those first two questions. Everyone who signs the Discharge Petition, and votes yes on the bill, will be able to say this year, next year, every year after, “I worked for the American people, I did not enable Trump.” Everyone who doesn’t sign, or votes no on HR356 will have a hard time making such claims.

The Discharge Petition requires 218 votes. There are 4 empty seats, 238 Republicans, and 193 Democrats. The Discharge Petition is at 191 signatures, now — all it needs is 27 more signatures to force the vote.

This is the start of what Maxine Waters has been saying, and arguably, the heart of this article. I think this is part of the emerging strategy; and as the Congressional Black Caucus and other leaders of color emerge with the strategy, I will do my best to help and follow.

In the meantime, if you got this far, please, read this list and look for the name of your Member of Congress.

If you find their name, please call them and thank them. If you don’t, please call your Congressperson and ask them to sign. Listen closely to their reasons if they say no. And make sure to publicize their reason for saying, “No,” or, “We need to consider this,” or whatever answer you get if it’s anything other than yes.