The whiteness of impeachment

Which is more serious? Abusing children, separating them from their parents, and putting them in concentration camps? Or pressuring a foreign government to investigate a domestic opponent?

For the neoliberal (Democratic) party, and to the extent that we can treat Nancy Pelosi as a proxy for that party, it is clearly the latter. Pelosi resisted an impeachment inquiry until it emerged that Donald Trump had wanted Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden[1] over his son’s cushy job on the board of directors at a Ukrainian firm.[2] She was somewhat less concerned to get her act together coordinating with Chuck Schumer on tougher restrictions[3] on children being held in concentration camps on the border with Mexico.[4] And rather than accept responsibility for that failure, she chewed out progressives for expressing their outrage.[5]

Concentration camps are a crime against humanity, unquestionably a “high crime” or “misdemeanor.” Hunter Biden’s job is yet another sickening but normal example of how the elite protect their own.[6] So Pelosi is more concerned to protect Joe Biden than, well, just about anything else. And Joe Biden is a “touch feely” misogynist,[7] a racist,[8] who even managed to combine the two.[9] This, not children, is what Pelosi is concerned to protect.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declined to call Pelosi a racist.[10] But given that those children are ‘brown,’ the children of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, given how hard it would be to imagine, let’s say, Norwegian children[11] receiving that treatment, and given the candidate whose defense Pelosi rises to, I’m having a real hard time swallowing that. At the very least, Pelosi accepts enabling Trump’s bigotry as political business as usual but threatening a racist’s candidacy with a foreign investigation as an impeachable offense.

Pretty much since Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry, I’ve been asking whether we would be here had Trump targeted any other candidate. The answer will depend upon the degree of your cynicism: Is this really about principle? Or is it really about protecting so-called “Democratic centrism,” that is, neoliberalism?[12] At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

And I’m also pretty sure that these neoliberals are just fine with racism.

  1. [1]Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris, “‘Do not tweet’: Pelosi scolds progressives in closed-door meeting,” Politico, July 10, 2019,
  2. [2]Kate Aronoff, “We need to talk about Hunter Biden,” Guardian, October 5, 2019,; Adam Entous, “Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign?” New Yorker, July 1, 2019,; David Von Drehle, “The Hunter Biden story is a troubling tale of privilege,” Washington Post, October 4, 2019,
  3. [3]Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade, “‘A betrayal’: Inside the bitter rift between Pelosi and Schumer over border bill,” Washington Post, June 28, 2019,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “It’s time to be clear: Migrant children are being held in concentration camps and the Trump administration is fascist,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2019,
  5. [5]Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris, “‘Do not tweet’: Pelosi scolds progressives in closed-door meeting,” Politico, July 10, 2019,
  6. [6]Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites (New York: Crown, 2012); C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2000).
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Joe Biden blows his #MeToo moment,” Not Housebroken, April 5, 2019,; Brett Samuels, “Biden: ‘I’m not sorry for anything that I have ever done,’” Hill, April 5, 2019,
  8. [8]Mark Z. Barabak, “Seven takeaways from Democratic debate Night 2: Sparks from Biden and Harris, honesty from Buttigieg,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2019,; Stephen Collinson, “Joe Biden gets in his own way on race,” CNN, June 20, 2019,; Stephen Collinson, “Joe Biden throws own campaign into turmoil after Harris attacks his record on race,” CNN, June 28, 2019,; Scott Detrow, “Democrats Blast Biden For Recalling ‘Civil’ Relationship With Segregationists,” CNN, June 19, 2019,; Maeve Reston, “Harris’ attack on Joe Biden steals spotlight at Democratic primary debate,” CNN, June 28, 2019,; Greg Sargent, “Joe Biden is badly undermining his ability to challenge Trump,” Washington Post, June 20, 2019,; Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan, “Biden faces backlash over comments about the ‘civility’ of his past work with racist senators,” Washington Post, June 19, 2019,
  9. [9]Elise Viebeck, “Joe Biden was in charge of the Anita Hill hearing. Even he says it wasn’t fair,” Washington Post, April 26, 2019,
  10. [10]Eugene Scott, “The bad optics of Pelosi vs. the ‘newly elected women of color,’” Washington Post, July 11, 2019,
  11. [11]Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Thomas Kaplan, “Trump Alarms Lawmakers With Disparaging Words for Haiti and Africa,” New York Times, January 11, 2018,
  12. [12]See David Benfell, “It’s still a smoke-filled room,” December 6, 2019,; David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019,

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