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Dershowitz: Democrats should not use impeachment as partisan tactic

Democratic control of the House began with good news and bad news for centrists who place the durability of the rule of law above short term partisan advantage. The good news is that Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE was elected Speaker of the House by an overwhelming vote and immediately put the issue of impeachment into perspective, coming out against a rush to judgment and insisting that fellow Democrats wait to see the evidence.

The bad news is that one of the new kids in town, Congresswoman Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE, announced immediately after being sworn in that the Democrats are “going to impeach the motherf----r.” Her scatological rhetoric received thunderous applause from her largely MoveOn.org audience. Therein lies the dilemma of the current Democratic Party.

The traditional leadership of the Democrats is centrist and responsible. At the same time it is old, with Speaker Pelosi at age 78 and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE at age 68, and uncharismatic, at least if you define charisma as the ability to stir crowds by describing our president in obscene terms. Many in the media describe Tlaib and her fellow freshman, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, as the “new faces of the Democratic Party.”

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Their faces may be different, but the song being sung by this group of radical “New Democratic” members of Congress is just as old as “The Internationale,” the anthem of socialism written by a 19th century anarchist. One of the themes of radical socialists across the ages is that the rule of law is an elitist tactic of oppression directed against the lower classes, and that it must be challenged in the interest of a higher good. That is what radical Democrats are demanding when they call for impeachment, even if the requirements of the Constitution are not met.

Longtime Congresswoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed Maxine Waters says Biden win is 'dawn of a new progressive America' MORE, who proves you do not have to be young to be an unthinking radical, has demanded the impeachment not only of President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE but also of Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump set for precedent-breaking lame-duck period Trump pardons Michael Flynn O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE. When she was told there is no arguable legal basis for impeaching Pence, she responded by saying that the criteria for impeachment is “whatever the Congress says it is,” despite the contrary language in the Constitution.

Has she not read the Constitution, which specifies that impeachment can only be used against a president or vice president who has committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”? Does she care what the Constitution mandates, or does she believe it can be ignored for what she considers a higher good? Do she and others who ignore the words of the Constitution believe that members of Congress are above the law, or a law unto themselves? They took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to further the radical wing of the Democratic Party.

In my book, “The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump,” published on the day that the new Congress was sworn in, I argue that the rule of law, in this case, following the precise words of the Constitution, is far more important to all Americans, regardless of party affiliation, than achieving a partisan advantage. Even if you believe that removing the president or vice president would benefit the country and the world, you must indeed act within the rule of law and the letter of the Constitution.

Once ignored in the interest of short term political advantage, these bastions of liberty become weakened and precedent is established for ignoring them in future cases when the shoe may be on the other foot, when the radical right is seeking to impeach a Democratic president.

Democrats would be wise to marginalize their extremists and follow the lead of Speaker Pelosi and other centrist politicians. We are a centrist nation with pockets of more extreme voters in certain limited districts. Radical leftists cannot even win statewide elections in large states, as evidenced by the resounding defeat of Cynthia Nixon in New York. They certainly cannot expect to help Democrats to win national elections.

If Democrats want to win in 2020, they must use their hard earned House victory to demonstrate that they care about issues of direct concern to centrist voters in purple states who voted for President Trump in 2016. The last way to do that is to fritter away their newly gotten power in a futile effort to distort the Constitution by impeaching President Trump.

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School. His new book is “The Case Against the Democratic House Impeaching Trump.” You can follow him on Twitter @AlanDersh.