OK, so your point is that beginning an impeachment process would not actually DO anything different, other than making a symbolic statement. You’re suggesting that the House should first begin the impeachment process but refrain from ever bringing it to a vote. The only difference between the course Ms. Pelosi is taking and the course you propose is that the House go on record as officially opening impeachment hearings.
Your argument is based on assumptions about other people’s perceptions. You assume that, if the House doesn’t open impeachment hearings, then citizens will believe that Mr. Trump’s behavior is accepted or at least acquiesced to. If, on the other hand, the House opens official impeachment hearings, then the citizens will perceive that Mr. Trump is being punished for his actions.
The two most powerful counterarguments are first, that you are making assumptions about other people’s interpretations of events that do not apply to all people. Let’s imagine three groups of people: those who already oppose Mr. Trump (about 57%), those who support Mr. Trump (about 40%), and those on the fence (about 3%). The first group already knows he’s guilty and isn’t going to lose hope; the second group refuse to acknowledge any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. The Mueller report clearly stated that Mr. Trump had obstructed justice, yet Mr. Trump’s supporters loudly declared that it had “completely and totally exonerated” him. The last group is too small to be significant. So whom exactly do you think will have their mind changed by the opening of impeachment hearings?
Our true target audience is the 40% of Americans who support Mr. Trump. They’re the ones to whom we must prove his guilt. Opening impeachment hearings will not weaken their support for him, it will strengthen their support, because they’ll dismiss it all as a witch hunt — which is what they are already doing! Loudly declaring that we think that Mr. Trump might be guilty won’t accomplish anything whatsoever. The only think that will change the minds of these people is a mountain of actual evidence, a freshet of damning information. Starting the process by, in effect, saying that we’re launching a witch hunt (that’s how they’ll perceive it) will only harden their hearts. By NOT starting impeachment hearings, we’re sending the message that we are fair and impartial, and for the moment we are only looking into things without any political agenda.
The second counterargument is the temporal element. Let’s consider a hypothetical case in which Joe Criminal commits a crime in 2011 and is not immediately caught. After four years, DNA evidence is used to catch him; he is tried, found guilty, and sent to prison in 2015. Would it be correct for Otto Observer in 2012 to say that Joe Criminal got away with his crime? Only if Otto discounted the risk of being caught in the future. A reasonable person would conclude that Joe’s crime would hang over him like a Sword of Damocles for the rest of his life. And Otto would say in 2016 that Joe definitely did not get away with his crime.
The important thing for us is the long term result. The fact that Joe got away with his crime for four years doesn’t mean anything over the long term; other criminally-minded people will not say to themselves, “Well, he got away with it for four years, so I might as well do the same thing.” The long term is what matters. We need to absolutely, positively nail Mr. Trump to the wall. That’s what matters. Declaring our feelings means nothing. Proof is everything.
“…sends the message to Trump and the world that we believe what is happening is seriously out of the normal order how our president is supposed to behave.”
Mr. Trump and the world already know that the majority of Americans disapprove of his performance. They already know that many Americans believe that he has committed crimes. They already know that the Mueller report concluded that Mr. Trump had committed obstruction of justice on ten occasions. Initiation of impeachment hearings won’t have the slightest effect on anybody’s perceptions. You want to slap Mr. Trump in the face, but Ms. Pelosi wants to utterly destroy him.