Pelosi’s Appearance on Colbert Capitalizes on Polarization in America

History was made earlier this year when the U.S. government shut down for 34 full days. 450,000 federal workers went without an income for just over a month. And for what? Some blame the Trump administration’s abhorrent request of funds to build the border wall, others cite the unnecessary hostility of House Democrats. Regardless of personal opinion, it is clear that partisan politics are intensifying.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s November 1 appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” reinforces that fact. Simply put, this behavior is one example of the dangers of extreme partisanship that consistently plagues our society, let alone the institutions of government. 

From the erratic and peculiar behavior of President Donald Trump to the most diverse set of candidates in a presidential race, these times are indisputably unorthodox. But never in United States history has a public official, of this esteem or rank, agreed to be a guest on a late night show to talk about the impeachment process currently in motion. This case stands alone.

Speaker Pelosi’s goal in making an appearance on Colbert was clear: to communicate to the public why impeachment is important and to prove the legitimacy of the process thus far. However, this approach is dangerous because it reinforces the idea that Democrats are doing this for political gain. There is no secret surrounding who makes up Colbert’s viewership. According to a Morning Consult survey conducted among 2,201 adults, only 24% of Republican viewed “The Late Show” approvingly. Comprised of almost entirely of those left of the aisle, promoting impeachment to this audience in no way supports Pelosi’s argument that it should be a bipartisan matter.

In the interview, Pelosi made sure to reiterate the point: it’s about the Constitution. Why, then, was Madam Speaker obliged to appear on a late night show with a notoriously partisan viewership? If she wanted to effectively prove her Constitutional responsibility of holding the executive office accountable, discussing impeachment and engaging an audience that only represents half of America is not the way to do it. 

Her strategy can be interpreted as a reach for political gain that can either succeed or very seriously backfire. A success in this case would be the obvious stripping of presidential powers from Trump, and a shift in the perception of Democrats, legitimizing their authority. However, should the effort to substantiate hard evidence against President Trump go awry, it would be catastrophic for the Left in the upcoming elections.

While public support of impeachment has recently surpassed the naysayers, 44.1 percent of the population are still opposed to impeaching the president. Pelosi’s initial fear in moving forward with the impeachment process is still valid, as Democrats are still at risk of surrendering their control of the House and the possibility of Trump winning reelection as a result of this procedure, if of course it does not succeed. 

The Republican strategy within the media consists of abstaining from directly discussing “the call,” and instead citing their grievances on the impeachment process, along with the White House’s tactics of using words such as ‘witch hunt’ and ‘lynching’ to avert the public’s attention away from the fact that the transcript is quite damning. 

Conservative news outlets have taken a similar approach to the media by attempting to shift the current narrative away from the content of the call. For example, an article for Fox News targeted Pelosi’s change in opinion on impeachment since her original position in March was to refrain from going through with the procedure. It highlights her interview in a Washington Post article where she specifically states that impeachment is “so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.” 

Pelosi’s perceived inconsistency furthers the partisan divide as the 2020 presidential race heats up, making impeachment seem more calculated and politically motivated and less Constitutionally based.

At one point in the interview, Pelosi presented the audience with the anecdote of Ben Franklin’s response to the question “Are we a monarchy or a republic?” after the Constitution had been adopted in 1787. He responded, “A republic, if we can keep it.” The Democrats intend to keep this question at the forefront of their inquiry as this process moves forward.

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