Democrats have already lost their impeachment battle. That’s the takeaway from Wednesday’s first public hearing. What was meant to be a moment in history turned out to be business as usual.
Democrats laid out their best case for removing Donald J. Trump from office, repeatedly using words like “extortion,” “bribery” and “abuse of power.” Mr. Trump was accused of “presidential misconduct,” of a “shakedown scheme” and of “corruption.” He was said to have broken the law and violated the Constitution. Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro analogized the president’s actions to “attempted murder.”
What else is new? The left has been leveling similar claims since before Mr. Trump was elected. When a party spends three years baselessly accusing a president of everything from being a Russian mole to obstructing justice, from profiting off the presidency to abusing security clearances and cheating on his taxes, that party loses the credibility to say: Really, this time, we mean it. Democrats didn’t lose the war for hearts and minds on Wednesday. They lost it three years ago.
Those hearts and minds are the only prize here. The media will continue to imbue this event with gravity, to report every bit of testimony as more “bombshell” evidence against Mr. Trump. But impeachment is a political process, so the measure of its “success” is whether its supporters can convince a bipartisan majority of the country that Mr. Trump took an action worthy of removal from office. Nothing in Wednesday’s hearing came close, and the Democrats took their best shot.