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EDITORIAL: Impeachment first on progressive wish list

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have Americans believe that the impeachment mania gripping her caucus stems from a whistleblower’s complaint over a presidential phone call and a White House cover-up. In reality, this was all set in stone the day Democrats reclaimed the lower chamber last November. The party has been test driving different impeachment vehicles since President Donald Trump took the oath of office. They’ve now decided which one to buy.

Ms. Pelosi insists this “official” inquiry reflects a desire to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. But if that were the case, she would have respected historical precedent and held a floor vote on the issue, putting all 435 members on the record when it comes to taking the drastic step of attempting to oust a duly-elected president. She has not.

More notably, Ms. Pelosi’s capitulation to the radical Resistance now dominating her party foreshadows how Democrats will govern if in control of the Oval Office and Congress, particularly when it comes to the Supreme Court, which, like Mr. Trump, finds itself in the crosshairs of the left.

Much like they did with impeachment, Democrats have telegraphed their game plan with the high court. The immediate goal is to intimidate the libertarian- or right-leaning justices into abandoning their fealty to constitutional principles in favor of sanctioning a hyper-progressive political agenda. The long-range objective is to expand the size of the court by packing it with liberal jurists who will render the Constitution irrelevant by reinterpreting the “living document” out of existence.

The recent discredited New York Times smear on Justice Brett Kavanaugh — and subsequent calls for his impeachment — can be seen through this light. Progressives argue that the mud with which they shamefully pelt Justice Kavanaugh renders him “tainted” and “illegitimate,” an attempt to delegitimize decisions in which he held the swing vote and to pressure him on future cases. Justice Neil Gorsuch has faced similar harassment from the left, given the controversial circumstances of his nomination.

The push to call into question the good faith of individual conservative justices and their legal reasoning represents a cynical effort to undermine public confidence in the Supreme Court in order to muster support for the larger goal of overhauling the venerable institution itself. A number of Democratic presidential candidates openly embrace something akin to FDR’s infamous court-packing scheme of the 1930s — among the frontrunners, only Bernie Sanders has sense enough to reason that the proposal will inevitably backfire on Democrats when Republicans hold the White House and Senate.

Progressives have escalated the rhetoric in this regard. In an August legal brief urging the court not to hear a gun case out of New York, Democratic senators — including Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand — took the unprecedented step of threatening the justices if they paid no heed and took the case. “The Supreme Court is not well,” their brief read. “And the people know it. Perhaps the court can heal itself before the public demands it be restructured to reduce the influence of politics.’”

What a farce. This has nothing whatsoever to do with reducing the “influence of politics” on the judiciary and everything to do with a ruthless power grab intended to promote the “correct” kind of political influence. If Justice Kavanaugh suddenly morphed into a consistent vote for the left, the vicious progressive attacks would cease faster than you can utter “John Paul Stevens.”

Unfortunately, this strategy in the past has paid dividends. As Mario Loyola of the Competitive Enterprise Institute noted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this month, FDR’s move during his second term to expand the court may have failed, but it likely had the desired effect, as the justices subsequently became much more amenable to upholding constitutionally dubious New Deal initiatives. Let’s hope the court, which begins a new term next week, ignores the noise.

A wholly partisan impeachment inquiry is divisive and futile but highlights the extent to which modern Democrats are willing to upend traditional norms in pursuit of political ends. Moderate and independent voters would be wise to consider that the progressive revolution involves much more than simply impeaching Mr. Trump. It also entails disavowing the nation’s founding principles while neutering vital institutions, such as the U.S. Supreme Court, that might help check the dangerous authoritarian excesses of the expansive and overweening state that progressives covet.

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