EDITORIAL: Mature tone urged for D.C. Democrats

York Dispatch Editorial Board

President Donald Trump’s pep-rally exhortations to “lock her up” or “build the wall” fire up his base, but that’s about all they do.

Democrats would be wise to take note and, unlike the president himself, take heed of this lesson.

For either party to truly lead — not to mention building bipartisan coalitions and public support — its representatives must reach out beyond the base.

So newly empowered Democrats who have taken over the House, exuberant though they may be, would be wise to put a lid on overzealous promises to impeach the president — particularly in profane terms.

As the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress, Tashida Tlaib made history this month with her swearing in.

President Donald Trump speaks from the Oval Office of the White House as he gives a prime-time address about border security Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Carlos Barria/Pool Photo via AP)

Unfortunately, she made, if not history, then at least headlines days later with a different kind of swearing.

The Michigan congresswoman did neither herself, her party nor her cause any favors when she reached for the granddaddy of all curse words in telling a supportive crowd of her eagerness to impeach Trump:

“When your son looks at you and says, ‘Mama look, you won. Bullies don’t win,’ and I said, ‘Baby, they don’t,’ because we’re gonna go in there and we’re going to impeach the mother------."

A day later, she defended herself on Twitter, writing, “I will always speak truth to power. #unapologeticallyMe.”

Sorry, there’s a big difference between speaking truth and spewing ugliness.

Yes, the reflexive pearl-clutching from the right is overwrought. Foul-mouthed lawmakers are neither novel nor partisan; just ask former Vice President Dick Cheney what he told Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont on the Senate floor (he’ll tell you; he’s unrepentant).

Still, Democrats who have rightly lambasted Trump for the past several years over his crassness and incivility lose the moral high ground when their flag-bearers cannot meet a higher standard.

Besides, not only was the content of Tlaib’s comments unseemly, the argument is counterproductive to her party’s stated intentions to conduct fair and thorough oversight.

House Democrats have an important and long-overdue role to play in reviewing the administration’s troubling record on a variety of fronts: the president’s business conflicts, Cabinet-level misdeeds, child-detention activities at the border and, of course, potential participation in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential elections.

Republicans, who had run the House for the past two years, ignored their oversight responsibilities and, in many cases, did their best to protect the president and his administration from accountability. Legitimate congressional oversight is long overdue.

As a preemptive defense, the president is taking steps to paint such efforts as “presidential harassment.” That may sound like a ludicrous assertion, but so did “fake news” — until it stuck.

So Democrats should be wary of giving the president and his conservative-media minions any ammunition with which to fire off such misinformative missives.

More to the point, impeachment is not something to be celebrated. The removal of an elected president — even one as patently unfit as the current office holder — would be a convulsive episode both politically and historically. In fact, no president has ever been removed from office following impeachment (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton survived Senate votes; Richard Nixon resigned before being impeached).

If House Democrats are moved to commence impeachment hearings, they must proceed mindfully, soberly and fairly. They must make their case — if such a case is to be made — to the American people, not a political faction thereof. They must act for the public good, not partisan gain.

Ultimately, their actions must reflect the seriousness and gravity of such a decision. So, too, should the demeanor of their members.