The Slatest

Someone Should Do Something

Nancy Pelosi gestures while behind a podium.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declines to call the House Judiciary Committee’s probe of President Donald Trump an impeachment inquiry on Sept. in Washington. Tom Brenner/Getty Images

After seeing the events of the past few days, in the light of the events of the days before those, in relation to the events that took place in the weeks, months, and years before that, I am strongly considering writing something that would address the question of whether Nancy Pelosi is bad at her job. If I did, I would argue that the House of Representatives, under Pelosi’s leadership, has come to function as a necessary complement to the corruption and incompetence of President Donald Trump—that a lawless presidency can only achieve its fullest, ripest degree of lawlessness with the aid of a feckless opposition party, which the Democrats are eager to provide.

My editor thinks that I should write this article. I understand that in a week when one of the president’s most dedicated flunkies went before Congress to openly sneer at the idea that he should answer questions, making a show of obstructing what was supposed to be an investigation into obstruction of justice—a week now ending with reports, confirmed by the president’s jabbering ghoul of a lawyer on television, that the president tried to force a foreign country to act against the Democrats’ leading presidential candidate—there is good reason to feel that something needs to be written. It is certainly the sort of situation that someone could write about: the opposition party sitting on its hands and issuing vague statements of dismay while the entire constitutional order is revealed to be no match for the willingness of a president and his enablers to break the law.

At some point, in the future, it will probably be necessary to publish an article pointing out the terrifying mismatch between the ever-increasing speed with which our political system is falling apart and the slow trudge toward November 2020, when the Democratic Party hopes that voters will do what current elected Democratic officials will not do and take action to remove our visibly degenerating president from office. If someone did write an article like that, they could point out that by allowing Trump to remain in office unchallenged until the election, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership are saying that, although they hope the voters decide Trump is disqualified from office, they themselves do not think he has done anything wrong enough to merit his removal. If he had, they would do something, and they have not.

I understand my editor’s belief that it is time to write an article about this. I am aware that writing articles is one of the things I do in my job—along with editing articles, writing headlines, going to meetings, discussing staffing, and so on. Writing an article about the Democrats’ refusal to face up to the crisis may very well, at some point, become necessary for someone to do. But it is important to make sure that my co-workers see me doing all the other important work I need to do to serve the readers of Slate.

Also this week the president said he wanted to declare the existence of homeless people in San Francisco an environmental violation, after he had previously raised the notion of using the federal government, through some unspecified power, to remove and confine California’s homeless population. This would seem like meaningless speculation if the United States government were not already confining other groups of people the president considers undesirable in filthy prison camps, where children are dying.

Some people might argue that it’s time to take action against a clearly escalating program of atrocities, or at least to think about writing an article saying that it is time to take action against a clearly escalating program of atrocities. It is worth discussing the idea of producing such an article. Clearly at some point it may need to be done.

After Corey Lewandowski refused to answer questions under a congressional subpoena, endorsing White House lawyers’ claims that the president’s executive privilege extends even to private citizens whom the president wants to keep from testifying, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D–New York, said that Lewandowski’s behavior was “unacceptable.” As one of Nadler’s constituents, I thought about calling his office and telling his aides that their boss had, in fact, accepted Lewandowski’s behavior—that Lewandowski had gone before Congress and performed contempt in both the legal and general sense of the word, and Nadler, the person with the power to hold him in contempt, had failed to do so. If anything like that happens again, I may very well look up his office number and prepare to make that call.

Everyone in our democracy—citizens and officials alike, voters and writers, marchers and starers-at-screens—has a role to play, or to consider playing. If I were going to write about this, I would say that it might be time to plan on doing something.