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House Democrats finally agree: Donald Trump is not above the law. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) announced recently that the House would be starting an investigation into any impeachable offenses committed by Trump—and now 226 and counting members of the House have declared their support. But by formally announcing the beginning of an impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have signaled something else, too: They’re finally matching calls from their base and public opinion.
And that’s a lesson Democrats will need to stick to if they want to win the 2020 presidential election.
After all, people of color, who make up the backbone of the Democratic Party’s base, have been calling for impeachment long before the Democratic establishment got around to it. According to a CNN poll from May, 59 percent of non-white people surveyed agreed with impeaching Trump while just 31 percent of white respondents did. MoveOn, where I work, is the largest progressive advocacy group in the country with millions of members nationwide. Our base of progressives has supported impeachment since June 2017, in the wake of James Comey’s testimony to Congress – saying impeachment is an action “we don’t take lightly.”
Because even though the impeachment inquiry is just beginning, the impeachable offenses began long ago. We renewed our call for an impeachment inquiry when Trump stated that he’d accept foreign help—read: interference—in the next election. People called for an impeachment inquiry when Trump defied the rule of law at the border and treated immigrants as less than human. Black and brown people in the U.S. have been calling for an impeachment inquiry because they see what this administration for what it is. These aren’t politically-tinged calls: More often than not, people of color are experiencing the negative consequences of Trump’s cruel and unethical administration.
Today, support for an impeachment inquiry has become popular across the board. Most national polls have more respondents supporting the House beginning an impeachment inquiry than not. A recent YouGov/HuffPost poll from shows respondents 47 percent to 39 percent supporting impeachment, while a Marist/NPR/NewsHour poll similarly found 49 percent of respondents supporting an inquiry over 46 percent opposing. The list goes on. And, just for historical context, polls show more people support an impeachment inquiry today than those surveyed at the start of the Watergate scandal.
But for the people of color who have turned out in overwhelming numbers for Democrats (96 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 election, for instance), this impeachment inquiry is a long time coming.
If Democrats want to win the presidency in 2020, the impeachment inquiry—though just announced—already offers an instructive path.
Democrats understand that the only politically savvy move is listening to—and representing—the people who voted you into office. For Democratic candidates for President, but also the House, Senate, and more, that means listening to the voices of black and brown Americans. That means supporting bold policies like Medicare For All and canceling student debt that people of color care about. Political expediency cannot come on the backs of the black and brown people who make up the Democrats’ base.
Conservative House Democrats are finally rallying around the right thing and beginning an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. The stakes are far too high in 2020 to make the same mistake. To win in 2020, Democrats need to heed the lessons of the impeachment inquiry: Listen to your base, or lose.
Karine Jean-Pierre is the Chief Public Affairs Officer for MoveOn and an NBC and MSNBC Political Analyst. Her professional experience has ranged widely from presidential campaigns to grassroots activism, to local politics, to working in the White House. Karine’s book, Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work and the Promise of America comes out on November 5th.