Normally we’d say “mega-donor” but Tom Steyer’s in a class by himself. He blew nearly $100 million on Democrats last year alone and, as the NYT notes, has been the party’s single most generous contributor for two cycles running. When he tells Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that something’s a priority for him, it’s a priority for them.
But *is* this a genuine priority? It seems reeeeeeeally stupid for a prominent liberal to hand Trump an issue that’s guaranteed to get otherwise demoralized right-wingers out to the polls in the midterms. Without impeachment on the table, the GOP’s platform next year will be Gorsuch and … getting NFL players to stand for the anthem, I guess? What else? With impeachment on the table, the election’s a matter of protecting the president from the leftist hordes scrambling to depose him. Surely Steyer knows that.
I think he does. He’s working an angle here.
Tom Steyer, a billionaire California investor who spent more than $91 million supporting Democrats in the 2016 elections, issued the demand to his party in a letter on Wednesday. In his message, Mr. Steyer described Mr. Trump as a “clear and present danger to the republic” and called on Democrats to pledge that they would seek to remove him from office if they take control of Congress next year…
And he pointed to mounting expressions of concern on the right, including the warning by Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, that Mr. Trump was at risk of fomenting a world war, and reports that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson described Mr. Trump as a “moron.” Democrats, Mr. Steyer said, should be no less confrontational.
“This is not just an issue of Twitter screeds but what it means for a person who has control over our nuclear arsenal,” Mr. Steyer said, adding in a plea to lawmakers: “I hope you will make your position clear so that Democratic voters who are under constant attack by this administration, know their elected representatives have the patriotism and political courage to stand up and take action.”
He’s been banging his drum about impeachment since June, at least. The NYT didn’t print the full text of his letter but it’s worth noting that none of the excerpts they did share include a threat by Steyer to withhold money if Democrats ignore his impeachment demands. He wants them to do it, or so he says, but there’s no promise of pecuniary consequences if they refuse. Why might that be?
In all probability it’s because this is just a gimmick Steyer’s using to polish his leftist credentials before running for office himself in California. Jazz noted in a post this morning that liberals are suddenly spoiling to primary Dianne Feinstein next year because she hasn’t been nearly as enthusiastic in her opposition to Trump as they’d like. The Times wonders if Steyer’s looking to get to Feinstein’s left with this noisy call for impeachment ahead of a primary. Sure seems that way, especially since the letter was shared with the paper by one of his own aides. It’s a press release aimed at California liberals, essentially, transmitted by the country’s most famous newspaper.
But it may not be Feinstein whom Steyer is targeting. There’s a gubernatorial election next year too and Jerry Brown is term-limited. Steyer has money to burn — he’s worth well over a billion dollars — but a pair of well-known California Democrats, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa, are likely to run themselves. Steyer can try to follow Mike Bloomberg’s example of burying his opponents in ad spending but a statewide election in the country’s most populous state promises to be fabulously expensive, even for a billionaire. Anything he can do to raise his profile on the cheap as a bastion of wokeness in highly anti-Trump California will help him later. Voila — a splashy demand for impeachment among Democratic leaders. If it pays off and Steyer does become governor, he’d be well positioned for a presidential run in 2024. It’s been a long time since California had a governor whose politics seemed to be in tune with the way the country was trending (on the Democratic side, at least); the office is an obvious launching pad to a presidential nomination potentially. Steyer may be thinking big. If you had $1.5 billion in the bank and were resolved to spend nine figures on an election, wouldn’t you rather spend it on yourself than on Hillary Clinton?
Incidentally, impeaching Trump is currently a 40 percent proposition nationally. An August poll by NBC found that share of the public supports it and then a Harvard-Harris poll in September found precisely the same share. As you’d expect, though, partisan opinion is galaxies apart. Around nine percent of Republicans back removing Trump from office while among Democrats around … 70 percent do. Go figure that Tom Steyer wants to own this issue eyeing higher office in one of the bluest states in America.