With the next presidential election only a year away, House Democrats are committed to impeaching President Trump. This should come as no surprise, as they have been talking about impeachment since before Trump even took office. But the Ukraine fiasco has given them something the Mueller Report didn’t: a clear and concise example of presidential malfeasance that voters can readily understand.
But if the House’s next steps are clear, the Senate’s are not. And that’s where things get interesting.
The House will almost certainly vote to impeach the president given the solid Democratic control of that body. Republicans control the Senate by eight votes, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told his fellow Republican senators to be ready for impeachment proceedings as soon as Thanksgiving.
If the Senate convicts, Vice President Mike Pence will become president. It is nearly impossible to imagine his being the Republican standard bearer in 2020. Say what you will about Donald Trump, Pence could never win a general election. And everyone knows it.
But if the Senate acquits, the stink of impeachment will hang over Trump throughout the campaign. Either way, a House vote to impeach the president appears to be a win for the Democrats. That is, if things go according to plan.
It seems that Senate Republicans have come to tolerate rather than celebrate this president, who has done little to advance the typical Republican agenda. If the Senate Republicans’ tolerance for Trump has run out, House Democrats may rue the day they decided to pursue impeachment.
Senate Republicans could convict, or threaten to convict, thereby pressuring Trump to resign. They could even work out a deal by which they acquit in exchange for Trump not seeking a second term. Each of these options would leave the Republicans in need of a compromise candidate with very little time left on the clock. Republicans would need someone who understood the requirements of a national campaign, someone with widespread (and largely positive) name recognition, and someone on the record opposing both Trump and Trumpism.
Senator Mitt Romney is all of those things. Running Romney would immediately alienate the Trump base, but would attract voters from the sensible centers of both parties, along with independents, all of whom seem to be horrified by what they have heard thus far in the Democratic debates.
Romney could play this centrist position to devastating effect with just about anyone sharing the ticket, but there is one very shrewd move that would allow him to walk into the Oval Office in a landslide: Romney could pick a Democratic running mate.
But he shouldn’t pick just any Democrat. He should pick one with a growing national stature, one with the background to appeal to Republicans and Democrats alike, and one who has openly accused the Democratic Party of playing a rigged game in its primary campaign.
Mitt Romney should pick Tulsi Gabbard.
They agree on little politically, but that is a benefit. A Romney-Gabbard ticket could be based, legitimately, on decency, truthfulness and honor. They could point the American people away from the toxicity that has come to infect American political life, and remind us that we are not two countries seeking disparate futures, but one people experimenting with different means to the same end.
A Romney-Gabbard ticket is a long shot. But it is a plausible long shot. And a long shot is increasingly what America needs. The ticket would not make the party faithful on either side of the aisle happy, but why should they be the final arbiters of who ascends to the presidency? It’s time to make America decent again, and this may be the best way to accomplish that difficult goal.