Sweet fancy Moses. This isn’t any ol’ centrist Democrat hinting that she’s gotten cold feet on impeachment. This is Elissa Slotkin, a veteran of the natsec bureaucracy who ran for Congress for the first time last fall and flipped a red-leaning district, winning by less than four points. Slotkin’s been at the forefront of impeachment since the push began in September, joining six other freshmen Dems with national-security backgrounds at the time in authoring an op-ed that made the case that Trump’s misconduct was grave.
This flagrant disregard for the law cannot stand. To uphold and defend our Constitution, Congress must determine whether the president was indeed willing to use his power and withhold security assistance funds to persuade a foreign country to assist him in an upcoming election.
If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense. We do not arrive at this conclusion lightly, and we call on our colleagues in Congress to consider the use of all congressional authorities available to us, including the power of “inherent contempt” and impeachment hearings, to address these new allegations, find the truth and protect our national security.
Of the seven authors of that piece, only one came from a district that tilted further towards the GOP than Slotkin’s district in Michigan did. That was a crucial vote of confidence to Pelosi and lefties in the caucus, an implied pledge that if they gambled on impeachment even the Dems who are most at risk of being ousted next fall would have their back. It was that important to call Trump to account for what he did with Ukraine.
Not only that, but in late September Pelosi called a caucus meeting to say that they would proceed with an impeachment inquiry without a formal vote to authorize one. Jerry Nadler was already calling his Judiciary Committee investigation of Trump an impeachment inquiry by that point, leading some Dems to wonder if anything had meaningfully changed. Slotkin in particular grumbled to the media that the leadership wasn’t being decisive enough:
“We came out because this is something different, this meeting did not give me confidence that this will be something different.”
— Heather Caygle (@heatherscope) September 24, 2019
Now here we are, not quite three months later. Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler and a few hundred other House Democrats would all say that the allegations of a military-aid-for-Biden-dirt quid pro quo have been proven true beyond a reasonable doubt — an impeachable offense according to the op-ed Slotkin co-authored.
So why’s she undecided?
Elissa Slotkin, freshman Democrat from swing district, told me she's hearing "constantly" from voters about impeachment. "The phones are ringing off the hook. We literally can't pick up the phones fast enough — and it's people on both sides of it." She says she's undecided pic.twitter.com/pCSaDWKHNH
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 11, 2019
I don’t think she’s really undecided. She has unique ownership of the impeachment process relative to most of her freshmen colleagues, so much so that voting no at this point might not do her any good. After all, if you’re a Trump fan in her district, how likely would you be to give her a second term as thanks for voting no on impeachment after she did everything she could to make this ordeal possible — especially if Democrats do in fact end up impeaching the president, as seems all but certain?
You want to send her back to Congress in 2021 so that she can goad lefties in the House into doing stuff she doesn’t quite have the nerve to support in a floor vote? C’mon.
I think she’s claiming she’s undecided here purely as a sop to all the angry Republicans who are calling her office to complain. She has no choice but to support impeachment but the least she can do is not be arrogant about it. By playing it off like it’s a close call, that she’s sad and “prayerful” about it or whatever Pelosi’s talking point today is, she can show a little conciliation towards voters on the other side. She’ll vote yes, if for no other reason than that she’d be a laughingstock among the national press corps after all this if she wimped out in the end.
But. If you’re looking for evidence that the impeachment process hasn’t gone nearly as well for Democrats as they’d hoped, Slotkin’s pretend indecision is it. Her dream when she published that op-ed, I’m sure, was that support for impeachment would skyrocket among voters in her own party and then gradually make inroads among independents and Republicans as the evidence came out and public hearings began. I doubt she’s enough of a sucker to have convinced herself that Trump might actually be removed by the Senate, but I’d bet she thought 55/45 in favor of removal — maybe even a tiny bit better — was possible if the witness testimony was damning. If it reached that level, this issue would be safe-ish enough for her back home that she could say confidently today that she’s voting yes. She might even have started getting attention within the caucus as a future party leader, someone who had every electoral reason to be timid about impeachment but instead took charge because she felt that strongly that what Trump did is wrong.
Instead, at last check, Americans are leaning against impeachment and no doubt opposition is even stronger in Slotkin’s reddish-purple district. Mike Pence showed up to campaign there not long ago, hoping to leverage the antipathy into ousting her next year. She’s reduced to fielding questions about the articles of impeachment that Democrats released yesterday by saying, um, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet.
With Trump on the ballot next fall, she’s probably one-and-done as a member of Congress. I wonder if she’ll admit after the election that impeachment wasn’t a great idea after all.