It’s been a couple weeks since the Matt Gaetz scandal became public, and some liberal activists are getting impatient. They’re demanding to know why Gaetz hasn’t been arrested yet. They’re also outraged that House Democrats haven’t yet waved some kind of magic wand to get rid of Gaetz. But that’s not how any of this works.
Federal criminal investigations move at a glacially slow pace by design, because the Feds make a point of looking under every rock in order to build an overwhelming case before indicting. It’s why federal indictments nearly always result in convictions. Gaetz will be indicted when the criminal probe is complete. The fact that Gaetz hasn’t yet been indicted, is not an indicator of whether he’ll be indicted.
As for the House Democrats, they know full well that they can’t make anything substantive happen against Matt Gaetz right now. Unanimously calling for his resignation wouldn’t result in his resignation. Removing him from the House Judiciary Committee wouldn’t change anything, as Gaetz’s status as a committee member doesn’t make him magically able to interfere with the probe into him, because the Democrats fully control the committee anyway.
As things now stand, the media is painting the Gaetz thing solely as a Republican scandal, and asking why the Republicans aren’t doing anything about Gaetz. This hurts the Republicans badly in terms of 2022 viability. But if the House Democrats start setting their own hair on fire about Matt Gaetz, the media will quickly begin painting the Gaetz thing as a partisan battle. This will erase the advantage that the Democrats were getting out of this.
In other words, the House Democrats can set their hair on fire about Matt Gaetz and accomplish nothing while harming their own prospects, or the House Democrats can simply let this play out in a way that’ll end up harming the Republicans. Either way, the results will be the same – Gaetz won’t be gone from the House any sooner, and he’ll be arrested whenever the Feds decide they’re ready to arrest him.
House Democrats are giving the perfect response to the Matt Gaetz thing. But you have to understand political strategy to understand that. In reality, winning and losing in politics has very little to do with running around or stomping your feet or loudly yelling demands. It has a lot more to do with getting the media to cover things in such a way that you get the best outcome for your side and for the nation at large.
At some point the media may decide that it’s no longer getting sufficient ratings out of its “Why aren’t the Republicans doing anything about Matt Gaetz” stories, and it may instead decide to begin writing “Why aren’t the Democrats being louder about Matt Gaetz” stories. At that point it’ll be smart for the House Democrats to give the media the loud and angry display that it wants. But until then, the Democrats are being smart by letting this be seen as a Republican scandal.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report