That is actually the argument of Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post (not a direct link): “We thought his unfitness was evident before he was elected, and Americans chose him anyway. (No, he didn’t win the popular vote. But he won.) He is endangering the future of the planet — but we knew he was a climate denier. He ripped children from their parents at the border — but his racism and anti-immigrant animus, like his contempt for the Constitution, were no secrets.
To impeach him now for what the electorate welcomed or was willing to overlook isn’t the democratic response. The right response is to defeat him in 2020.”
Where to start? Well first off, Hiatt’s premise that the people chose Trump despite his flaws is, as he admits, bullshit: he didn’t win the popular vote. The people picked Clinton despite the supposed email scandal and James Comey’s letter and the Russian tampering. Yes, Trump won, but not by democratic means; the electoral college is, and was designed to be, antidemocratic. So it’s hard to see why impeachment, as a non-democratic response, is any more objectionable.
And no, we did not know what we were getting in 2016. Sure, we knew he was bad, but the Mueller intel about obstruction of justice, which could certainly justify impeachment, was not available. Nor is it a logical to say that voters, knowing Trump’s “anti-immigrant animus,” somehow knew he’d be snatching kids from their parents and imprisoning them and were cool with that (it appears hardcore Trump supporters are fine with it, but not all Trump voters are that devoted). Is Hiatt seriously suggesting that because Trump was obviously unfit, nothing he does can now justify impeachment?
Possibly this reflects something blogger Paul Campos wrote about a while back, that there’s huge resentment on the right over liberals continuing to bring up how bad Trump is. Campos says the attitude is that sure, Trump is a bad guy, but we already knew that! Rubbing our noses in it just makes us feel like you look down on us for supporting him! We resent that! (Campos says there’s also a lot of resentment about the fight over Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment, something I’ll come back to later).
No More Mr. Nice Blog makes another good point: before the election, pundits such as WaPo’s Kathleen Parker actually assured us that Trump wouldn’t be that bad. Congress would rein him in. Republicans wouldn’t just go along with his worst impulses. “He won’t impose any religion-based immigration restrictions, because even Trump isn’t that lame-brained,” according to Parker. So there were definitely reasons voters might have underestimated how bad he’d be. I’ve read interviews with conservative women who insisted nobody with Trump’s playboy lifestyle would actually block funding for Planned Parenthood or be seriously anti-abortion. And there’s my friend who claimed (and he wasn’t alone) Trump would make up for his mental limits by hiring the best and the brightest.
And most importantly, Americans didn’t chose him. Democracy did not put Trump in the Oval Office. So Hiatt’s column is wrong from the ground up.