More substantively, a full-blown impeachment trial distracts Democrats from their natural strengths: channeling Americans’ anger against massive inequality and economic injustice and moving Americans toward what I’ve described as the “economics of meaning,” in which economic or class critiques are a means to focus anger, create meaning, and build solidarity. Joe Biden may have based his candidacy on not being Trump, but the other top-tier candidates—Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg—have all based their candidacies on something more than mere opposition to the incumbent. They have an interest in keeping it that way. As Ari Berman writes, “One of the biggest divides in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is whether Donald Trump is a cause or a symptom of the current dysfunction in American politics.” To focus on impeachment, then, is to focus on the symptom…

As I have argued elsewhere, the removal of Trump, however legally and constitutionally legitimate, would confirm the worst suspicions of his supporters: that their voices, in the end, wouldn’t be allowed to count. Their democratic and electoral agency would be denied. In Britain, there was a palpable anger among Brexiteers that what they’d won at the polls in the 2016 referendum would be taken away from them with calls for a do-over vote. Similarly, a sense of disenfranchisement would sour tens of millions of Americans on the democratic process—and on the idea of democracy. The perception that a legitimate electoral outcome was undone by those other than the voters themselves—in this case partisan actors and political elites—could inflict the very damage on the system’s democratic legitimacy that Democrats themselves have been warning against. Already, as the political theorist Nathan Pippenger writes, “public debate seems driven by an urge to deny the legitimacy of one’s ideological opponents.” How do we reduce—or at least not exacerbate—these “legitimacy” risks?