Impeachment's historic moment boils down to 'rooting for laundry'

As I write this, my TV is on in the background and some Democratic congressman is yammering about what an awful human being Donald Trump is and why he should be impeached. In a few minutes some Republican congressman will take his place and begin yammering about how the president is being railroaded, about how impeaching him is a vindictive deed that his tormentors will come to regret.

Despite the passion on both sides, it’s not good TV. If this were a reality show, it would have been canceled a long time ago. We all know how the “drama” ends — and we’ve known it before the show even began.

First, Donald Trump gets accused of high crimes and misdemeanors. Then he gets impeached. And then, in the final scene, he gets off, no conviction. If you didn’t know all of that, you’re the only one who didn’t.

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And despite the fact that they’ve been at it now for roughly a million hours, nobody is changing anybody’s mind. That may not literally be true, but it’s pretty close. Democrats are dug in. Republicans are dug in. Swing voters are still making up their minds. Maybe. 

All of this, strange as it may sound to you at first, reminds me of something Jerry Seinfeld once said. He was talking about the fickleness of sports fans and noticed that they cheer for their favorite star player who wears their team’s uniform — until he decides to leave the team for more money and puts on the rival team’s uniform. Then when he comes back to town to play against his old team, the fans boo the very same guy they used to cheer.  

As Jerry put it: The fans are just cheering for clothes. They’re rooting for laundry. 

That’s what we’re all doing these days — rooting for laundry.  

If you’re on the blue team, you want Donald Trump impeached and convicted. If you’re on the red team, you think he’s getting a raw deal. 

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This is just one reason that I have come to believe that most Americans — whether they’re members of the chattering class in the media or your next-door neighbor — have lost the ability, and sometimes even the desire, to persuade anyone to change his or her mind on just about any important issue. Too many of us have put a “Do Not Disturb” sign around our necks and don’t want to be exposed to any ideas that we don’t already hold.

To be clear, having strong beliefs and hanging on to your principles is a good thing. But as a friend puts it, it’s not beliefs and principles we’re hanging on to, it’s identity that we cling to; what matters most now is what team we play for.

And the impeachment hearings are a lot like the cable TV news channels carrying the show. We don’t watch opinion shows to consider what the other side is saying. We watch to get our own views and biases validated. If we’re on the red team, we want conservative opinion. And if we’re on the blue team, we look for liberal echo chambers that will confirm our progressive ideas. No one is watching the other side to learn something they hadn’t already thought about. 

It’s the same with the impeachment TV show. No one is watching to learn something they hadn’t already thought about. 

A lot of Americans would feel a lot better if the politicians were honest about what they were doing. President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump anti-reg push likely to end up in court Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE’s real impeachable offense to Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGrenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts Democrats call for probe into ouster of State Dept. watchdog GOP lawmakers say they don't want to put Steve King back on committees MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerThe House impeachment inquiry loses another round — and yes, that's still going on Democrats call on DHS to allow free calls at ICE detention centers Warren announces slate of endorsements including Wendy Davis and Cornyn challenger Hegar MORE (D-N.Y.) and the rest of the progressive gang is that he beat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonStakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff Poll: Biden leads Trump by 5 points in Minnesota Pelosi makes fans as Democrat who gets under Trump's skin MORE in 2016. They wanted him out from the moment he got elected.

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But they can’t say that. Why? Because telling the truth in Washington will get you in a lot more trouble than telling a pack of lies. The progressive base that makes the most noise for the blue team would never tolerate such honesty. Not that the other side is any better. 

So, I wonder: How is rooting for laundry good for any of us?

Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books, and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.