When the dust settled Tuesday, Democrats had grabbed control of the U.S. House, yet with the shift in power, much of Polk County still retained a slice of the new majority.
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto — the Kissimmee Democrat who represents Winter Haven, Auburndale, Haines City and much of eastern Polk — was handily re-elected to his second term.
During his first term, Soto developed a reputation for moderation. The congressional vote-tracking website Govtrack places Soto in the ideological middle among House Democrats. The left-leaning website ProPublica notes that Soto votes more than 90 percent of the time with progressive firebrands like Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But ProPublica also notes Soto has broken with them and sided with conservative Republicans on legislation affecting defense spending, ending the opioid crisis, enhancing protection for law enforcement officers and holding the Iran regime accountable.
On one of most divisive issues confronting America, immigration, Congressman Soto vigorously opposes President Donald Trump's wall along the Mexican border as well as other Trump initiatives. He also champions a pathway to legalization for those enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or those illegal immigrants who were brought to America as children by their parents. We part with Soto on much of this agenda, but do side with him on finding a way to grant the so called Dreamers legal status.
The other area where we supported Soto was on his decision to reject calls from some fellow Democrats to impeach Trump at the dawn of the president's term.
We point all of this out because the new majority will be chomping at the bit to get after the Trump administration and the president himself. To avoid that, however, and to show the country Democrats can get things done, moderate lawmakers like Soto who wants results and not revenge for 2016 will need to push back against such impulses.
Pelosi, presumably the new House speaker come January, has dismissed such ideas in recent remarks. She has said of late she would only consider impeachment proceedings if there were clear and convincing evidence of wrongdoing by administration officials, including the president himself, and if that evidence were strong enough to garner bipartisan support. We'll see.
This, more than anything, will test Pelosi's ability to lead a caucus that has grown decidedly more liberal since the last time she grasped the gavel. Just this week, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, slated to be the new Judiciary Committee chairman, reportedly said he was set to go "all in" on pursuing administration targets eyed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, something Democrats were fairly mum about in the closing weeks of the campaign. Nadler also said he would work to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
If Democrats want to relitigate this stuff and be viewed as simply dividing the country further, by all means go down this road. Pelosi might think she can keep a lid on this to convince most Americans that Democrats do want to help govern the country. Yet the rank and file won't sit still long for simple "oversight," which Pelosi and other Democratic leaders claim Republicans refused to do since Trump took office. Oversight is fine, and necessary. But Democrats only need to look back at their own reactions when Republicans delved into Hillary Clinton's email scandal and the IRS crackdown on conservative political groups as a refresher on how "oversight" quickly becomes perceived as a witch hunt. Of course, Pelosi has the advantage of a compliant, supportive national media that will eagerly frame the slightest issue as a full-blown, five-alarm Trump scandal.
Soto got where he is by beating a hardcore progressive in the Democratic primary, former congressman Alan Grayson, who openly campaigned on impeaching Trump. On Tuesday, Soto won easily with 58 percent of the vote. But we encourage him to note that of the three counties he represents — Polk, Orange and Osceola — he lost to challenger Wayne Liebnitzky in Polk County, where more than 111,000 votes were cast, which was just 2,500 fewer than were cast in Osceola, the most populous part of Soto's district.
We obviously don't expect Soto to become a Trump backer. But our hope is that Congressman Soto will continue to keep an open mind and exercise sound judgment — and resist the temptation that others in his party may succumb to: rushing headlong down the blind alley of impeachment sans solid and undeniable evidence of malfeasance.