OPINION — Not all heroes wear capes, but lots of them wear high heels. If you’re a Democrat watching the impeachment saga unfolding in Washington right now, nearly all of your superheroes are wearing heels today. That’s because when you look carefully at the pressure points in the widening impeachment inquiry against the president so far, women have been at the center of nearly all of them.
First, there was Lindsey Boylan, 35, a mom and former public housing advocate in New York City. Her name is probably unfamiliar to people outside New York, but Boylan is challenging Rep. Jerry Nadler in a Democratic primary next June. Not only has she absolutely hammered Nadler for what she says has been his failure to produce results for their district, she’s been relentless in calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment since February and criticizing Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee responsible for drafting articles of impeachment, for not doing more sooner to remove him from office.
“Congressman Nadler has really botched his role in holding Trump accountable,” Boylan told me in an interview last week. “We didn’t have to wait until this moment. The congressman had the power to pursue this months ago.”
In Boylan’s telling, the House Judiciary hearing with Corey Lewandowski last month was “a circus under the congressman” while the July hearing featuring special counsel Robert Mueller mostly reading his own report was “a failure.” She blamed Nadler for muddling the Democrats’ is-it-or-isn’t-it-an-impeachment message — hurting their effectiveness in the process.
“It was the congressman’s job to make the case and move forward with impeachment proceedings,” she said.
If that kind of talk doesn’t get your attention in a city where the president had a 71 percent disapproval rating before the impeachment inquiry even began, then nothing will. After months of rising fundraising numbers and blistering attacks from Boylan, Nadler moved from privately to publicly supporting impeachment proceedings.
But Nadler was hardly alone in not rushing to impeach. Until mid-September, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was adamant that the Democrats didn’t have the votes in the House — let alone the Republican-controlled Senate — to successfully remove Trump from office, no matter what he had done up until that point. But an op-ed in The Washington Post from seven freshman Democrats following the news of a whistleblower complaint that alleged the president had linked aid to Ukraine to an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son seemed to break the dam. “If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense,” the freshmen wrote.
Of the seven new members stepping out for the first time against the president, all had flipped Republican seats last fall and all come from careers in national security. Five of them were women — Reps. Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia.
On the day after that op-ed ran and Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis came forward for an impeachment inquiry, Pelosi counted the votes and then launched a formal inquiry, sending Trump on a Twitter tirade of name-calling, conspiracy hatching and lie mongering that has yet to stop. Pelosi has continued to sit for interviews, hold press conferences and generally make the case, surgically and adamantly, that Democrats will follow the facts where they lead.
As they move the process forward, the highest bars for Democrats will be maintaining the serious and respectful tone that the situation calls for and conducting a process that is fair and based solely on fact-finding.
The real duds on those counts so far have been Nadler, with the out-of-control Lewandowski hearing, and House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, whose “parody” of an opening statement at a Sept. 26 hearing was inexplicable in its stupidity.
“I want you to make up dirt on my opponent, understand?” Schiff said at one point as he read from a transcript, both real and imagined, of a call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. “Lots of it.” Why Schiff felt like he needed to dramatize this too-crazy-for-real-life presidency, and damage his committee’s credibility in the process, I’ll never know.
It’s hard to say definitively why it’s been women in Congress who’ve been the most willing to go up against the president and also maintain the good judgement required to do it the right way. Multiple academic studies have shown a correlation between having more women in a country’s government and a diminished amount of corruption. The women in Congress may also simply be reflective of American women as a whole, who moved significantly toward favoring an impeachment inquiry after the whistleblower complaint was made public. Five national polls since the revelations have all shown a large gap between women who support an impeachment inquiry or outright impeachment and men who do not.
There’s an incredible irony in the fact that the people who are proving to be Trump’s most formidable obstacles in Washington today are women, especially Pelosi, since he once told Howard Stern that he stops paying attention to women after they turn 35.
“What is it at 35, Howard?” Trump wondered aloud in an interview with Stern during his “Apprentice” heyday. “It’s called checkout time.”
Women of America, he’s paying attention now.
Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.