Staff Columnist

Steyer's impeachment road show plays Iowa

Investor, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks at the Center for American Progress' 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Investor, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks at the Center for American Progress' 2014 Making Progress Policy Conference in Washington November 19, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

If you’re a Democrat or anyone hoping to return Iowa to its once purplish political hue this fall, and pull us back from a Trumpian precipice, Tom Steyer is not the guy you want riding in to, um, “help.”

Steyer is a California hedge fund billionaire who is bringing his “Need to Impeach” road show to Iowa next month, including a May 10 town hall in Cedar Rapids. He’s spending $40 million on TV ads and other efforts to build support for impeaching President Donald Trump and to pressure Democratic members of Congress to jump on board the high crimes and misdemeanors train.

Second District U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is in Steyer’s sites after the Democrat failed to back a pair of procedural impeachment efforts in the House. Apparently the congressman wants to see how special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation turns out before moving toward impeachment. Seems reasonable.

But it’s not hard to understand why Steyer and many Americans would like to see Trump removed. The president gives us more reasons to question his fitness and competence on a typical weekday morning than most presidents give us in eight full years.

Trump’s presidential campaign was steeped in a revenge fantasy, one in which he vanquished “political correctness,” drained the swamp, defeated the media and, best of all, outraged libs. So I guess it makes sense Steyer and others on the left now want to end his presidency through their own revenge fantasy, dropping the hammer of impeachment.

But, in reality, the understandably high constitutional hurdles for impeachment and conviction won’t be cleared, even after a November “blue wave.” And it’s lousy politics, especially in Iowa, where Democrats must figure out how to recapture votes in a state that went for Trump by nine percentage points.

That’s got to happen by articulating a strong, alternative message explaining how Democrats would do a better job addressing problems people care about. It’s not going to happen by making 2018 about redoing and reversing 2016. It’s not going to happen if Democrats give in to anger and make the midterms about Trump, instead our future.

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Demanding impeachment now, before the Mueller probe is complete, could undermine the credibility of a more serious impeachment push should the special counsel find wrongdoing at the highest levels. Loebsack is right, it makes sense to wait and see.

Containing Trump by taking control of the House, and maybe the Senate, is the only realistic strategy. It also diminishes the chance Republicans can block release of Mueller’s final findings. With polls showing lukewarm public support for impeachment, and considerable opposition, making it a major election issue could undermine efforts to achieve that critical containment.

Besides, impeachment is a constitutional atomic bomb, not a get-out-the-vote strategy. If we turn it into a flamethrower grabbed each time the passions of one side or the other flare, we may spark an inferno we can’t control.

Steyer certainly is free to make his case, as he did in 2014 when he spent $5.2 million on our U.S. Senate race. But he and all the other outsiders who have blasted into Iowa in recent election cycles with tens of millions of dollars in TV ads have hardly helped. They bought a megaphone, drowned us out and deepened our divisions.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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