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Rejected Sac Bee Opinion Essay 4

Submitted Sept. 6, 2019

Lost Democrats: Why are Pelosi, Bera so slow
to embrace impeachment?

By Jeff Burdick

On the old TV show Lost, every episode featured the castaways running from danger, toward danger, stumbling into mystery and into even messier subdramas. Then every few episodes one of them would chirp up and remind everyone of their real goal: getting off the island.


This popped to mind watching the media response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcing she now supports an official impeachment inquiry. News outlets cut in. Pundits called it a major breakthrough. Some predicted the breaking of the impeachment logjam.


But for all this drama, I am here to be that character on Lost reminding everyone of our real goal: getting off this island.


That’s because Pelosi didn’t endorse impeaching Trump or scheduling a House vote to open an impeachment inquiry like Newt Gingrich did in 1998. She only came out in favor of the six House committees continuing to do what they already have been doing.


So this was really the most ersatz move you can image. It’s the classic error of mistaking a lean forward as an actual step forward to lead a concrete change of course. Maybe Pelosi eventually calls for a vote on Articles of Impeachment, but her time is running out to do so before the primaries start.


So just as she has rocked a half step forward, she could just easily rock a half step backward. Or to put it in Lost-speak, though it is a tantalizing plot twist, don’t confuse it for true rescue. 


But such vacillation is not what we should expect from our elected officials. More than ever, we need each of them to live up to their oaths of office to defend our democracy and our Constitution. And this won’t be done until every member of Congress is required to go on the historic record with a vote about whether what this President has done should be allowed by any future President.

Then let the voters have the final say in 2020 on all of them.


That’s why ever since Robert Mueller issued his report in May, I have called for the House to pass articles of impeachment covering the many high crimes enumerated there. These included witness tampering, asking for evidence to be altered and lying publicly to obstruct Mueller’s investigation.


Since then, we can add obstructing Congress’s Constitutional oversight responsibilities by blocking witness appearances and the release of documents under an unconstitutional claim of “absolute immunity.” The Ukraine scandal just adds one more article to the list.


To underscore how little Pelosi’s impeachment-inquiry pronouncement changed, my Congressman – longtime impeachment holdout Ami Bera (D-CA) – simply released his long-standing statement on impeachment that showed no real change in his fence-straddling position.


Just as before, Bera said he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and supports House committee investigations, but still, he can’t bring himself to call for impeachment. It’s a position of pure political calculation and no principle. He has said as much at numerous town hall meetings when he’s said we should consider whether an impeachment vote might hurt Democrats on election day. He’s also said what’s the point of standing on principle if Senate Republicans won’t vote to remove the President.


What’s befuddling about Bera’s fence straddling is he doesn’t represent a swing district any more. The CA-7 currently features 25% more registered Democrats than Republicans. Thus his fence sitting is indefensible on an issue that is the most important to the course of our democracy than any issue since the Iraq war vote in 2002.


I know such votes make many politicians uncomfortable. But if you are not prepared to vote on the most consequential issue of your generation, then you are better off being stuck lost on an island and not dragging us there with you.

Arden-Arcade resident Jeff Burdick is a Progressive Democrat running for the U.S. House. See Contact