Do you think that Donald Trump is a disgrace to the presidency, a danger to the republic, a cancer on the body politic? Do you think that his Ukrainian adventures were so blatantly transactional, so obviously inappropriate, so outlandishly unpresidential, that even Republicans must hound this unmitigated scoundrel from office?
Are you, in other words, a Democrat?
If so, I am sympathetic to your position; I would like to see Trump exit office as rapidly as possible, and expect to vote for the 2020 Democratic nominee, even though I expect to hate virtually every single thing said nominee does once in office.
But if you want Republicans — and not just the occasional squishy libertarian — to go along, you’ll need a piece of advice I once got from the father of a large brood: “Don’t make it hard to be good.”
By this, he meant that a repentant scofflaw should be offered kindness, not your residual anger. If you want kids to do the right thing, make being good more pleasant than the alternative. Corollary: Democrats, you should impeach only if you genuinely want to remove the president from office, not just to position yourselves for 2020. And because you’ll need 20 Republican senators to accomplish that, you should make it as easy as possible for conservatives to join the effort.
Don’t shower invective on conservatives; if anyone must be denounced, let it be Trump and Trump alone. Greet each new convert to Team Impeachment with a warm “Welcome, brothers and sisters!” rather than a grudging “What took you so long?”
You should do these things because if Trump is truly an existential threat to the nation, your sole priority should be his expeditious removal. Also because it’s hard to slam partisan Republicans for cravenly supporting Trump if you yourself remain more interested in your prior political goals, and lingering grievances, than building a coalition to get him out.
But mostly you should do these things because a victory gained without Republican support is likely to be hollow, and certain to be bad for the country.
In a narrow sense, Democrats might fare best if Trump were impeached but not removed from office. With the Trump albatross hanging around Republican necks, Democrats could well emerge from 2020 with the presidency and substantial majorities in both houses of Congress.
That prospect could tempt you Democrats to “heighten the contradictions” — to make this process as partisan as possible, repelling any potential Republican stampede impeachment-ward with a combination of tactical poison pills and interpersonal nastiness. This, plus sheer Republican cussedness, might result in a one-party impeachment process the nation can’t afford, and which even the most rabidly partisan Democrats might come to regret.
Such an impeachment would destroy already-waning American trust in government and deepen partisan fissures to bottomless chasms. If you think that Bush v. Gore damaged the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, and the comity of Capitol Hill, just wait until we have six new justices courtesy, at least in part, of a nakedly partisan impeachment process.
If you gain power this way, what you’re apt to find is that it’s empty — that the institutions you control are now too weakened to execute an ambitious policy agenda, and possibly too corroded to hold the country together at all. Too, the grubby political calculations don’t always add up; Democrats who supported Trump in the 2016 GOP primary, presumably on the theory that he would guarantee a Hillary Clinton landslide, belatedly learned to be careful what they wish for.
At best, in the interim, we’d have a notoriously amoral, vengeful and impulsive man in our country’s highest office — mortally wounded politically, but still vested with substantial powers not subject to congressional restraint, including the power to launch nuclear weapons. Add some unpredictable policy crisis and ... any patriot should be desperate to avoid such an outcome.
To this, my Democratic readers might respond: How dare you ask more of us than of the Republicans who enabled this menace? Fair question. I have three answers, in ascending order of importance.
First, Democrats are implicitly demanding that Republicans do something on impeachment much more difficult — split their party and enrage their voters — than be nice to former opponents who join your cause.
Second, the very failure of Republicans to eject Trump earlier indicates that they can’t do it alone.
And third, you’re Americans, and you want to do what’s best for your country. Which ought to make the first two answers unnecessary.
Follow Megan McArdle on Twitter: @asymmetricinfo.