In 1932 a famous argument took place between the brothers Niebuhr, Reinhold and H. Richard, in the pages of The Christian Century.
The issue at hand was whether the U.S. should intervene militarily in China in response to the Japanese invasion of China, and reports of Japanese atrocities against civilians.
Though this seems a long way from the current debate over whether Democrats in Congress should be pushing for impeachment, give me a minute.
Both theologians, the brothers came down on different sides. Reinhold argued the case for intervention, H. Richard against.
In his case against intervention, H.R. noted that just because we aren’t doing something does not mean that nothing is being done. There are other forces and factors at work, including an unseen but sovereign God.
Now to the hot topic of impeachment.
Passions are running high both because of what Trump has done and what he has not done. What he has done is two-fold. He has turned a blind eye to clearly demonstrated Russian interference in our elections. “The Russian hoax,” he calls it as he yucks it up with his good friend, Vlad.
And he has obstructed the investigation into that same interference.
And there is what he has not done, which is to refuse to respond to Congressional subpoenas, and instruct his minions to do the same.
Understandably, all of this is really getting under the skin of Democrats who are ratcheting up their rhetoric and response. They argue that their constitutionally mandated responsibility of oversight demands investigation and possibly impeachment.
My instinct is more the H. Richard Niebuhr one. That is, “just because we’re not doing something doesn’t mean that nothing is being done.”
I understand the Democrats sense of constitutional responsibility, and if they feel they must impeach, so be it.
But my suspicion is that we who would like to see Trump tossed out of office in 2020 might be better off to let Trump make his own messes between now and November 2020, and not to look like a victim of never-ending Congressional harassment.
I want to believe that Trump’s dishonesty and grift will catch up with him and that the smart game now may be restraint. Not exactly doing nothing, but not — on the other hand — responding to Trump’s every provocation or mendacity.
I think Trump capable of turning off the majority of American voters on his own simply by being who he is.
I, of course, may be wrong. I didn’t think the guy would ever win in the first place. Hardly alone there.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Trump it is that he thrives on conflict and relishes having an enemy. I’m afraid the Dem’s move to impeach would only feed this guy’s fire.
Meanwhile, I’ve been surprised how well Biden has been doing out of the gate. I had leaned his way earlier, but was bothered when I re-visited the Anita Hill hearings. I don’t know. But I do think he’s taking the right tact in going after Trump on values.
Some of us remember that the explanation for Bush’s defeat of Kerry in 2004 was the so-called “values voters.” The values in play then were mostly around sexuality, gender and abortion, so-called “family values.” Personally, I thought Bush won because Kerry wasn’t a very good candidate. But at the time, the conventional wisdom was “values.”
2020 may see, should see, a new kind of values voter. Now the values to defend are basic human decency, respect for truth, guarding democracy, and hope rather than fear as the American DNA.
Leaning on these values rather than pursuing impeachment seems to me the wiser course.