“Eyes on the Prize,” is the title of a 1988 book I wrote about the Civil Rights movement.
The title, taken from a folk song, became an anthem for activists who constantly struggled to stay focused on their goal of racial equality as they were called troublemakers, jailed and even killed.
Now the call of history requires the same fierce focus as congressional Democrats begin the impeachment of President Trump.
In every case, the president’s strategy is to get Democrats to take their eyes off the prize with distraction, distortion and delay in producing evidence and witnesses.
He is betting that Democrats will get tired of the fight and lose focus about exactly what he did to deserve impeachment.
It is not just Democrats he is trying to derail through distraction. He wants the public to call off the Democrats.
If the public gets confused and can’t keep track of his corruption, he expects polls to tell Democrats that most Americans are dismissing the whole thing as just more political fighting.
So, here is a primer for Democrats who want to keep their eyes on the prize.
We begin with one fact:
The President of the United States withheld military aid to Ukraine while asking the country’s new president to open a corruption investigation into Joe Biden’s son.
Yes, Trump put the nation’s military security concerns behind his personal political goal of damaging Biden, an opponent who consistently beats him in 2020 presidential polls.
Last week, in a brazen effort to make his corruption look normal, the president openly called for another nation — China — to also launch a corruption probe into Biden.
These facts are not in dispute. The president released a summary memo of his phone call with the Ukrainian president that confirms the facts.
There are also memos and messages among U.S. diplomats that confirm the facts.
But to get everyone to look the other way, Trump is putting on a dazzling cable news show full of shouted insults and pained claims that he is a victim of Democrats who want to undo the 2016 election. He complains Democrats are conducting a coup. He says they are guilty of treason. He warns of civil war.
Oh, he is also using profanity on Twitter. He distracts by bullying Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the nickname “Shifty Schiff.” He also gets snickers by being crude and saying Schiff could not hold his secretary of State’s jockstrap.
His friends in the right-wing echo chamber are daring Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to hold a formal vote on starting impeachment — even though it is not required by the Constitution. They want to drag Pelosi into a time-consuming exercise that does not advance actual impeachment. It will give Trump more time to cover-up and stonewall.
By the way, Pelosi has the votes if she felt such a vote would make a difference to actually impeaching Trump. It does not.
This is just one more distraction from the fact, as affirmed last week by Ellen Weintraub, chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, that it is illegal to ask a foreign government for help in an American political campaign.
Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano put it plainly last week:
“Is violating campaign finance law by involving a foreign government in an American presidential campaign an impeachable offense? Yes, it is,” Napolitano wrote on FoxNews.com. “The expressed intention of those who wrote the Constitution and those who wrote the campaign finance laws 200 years later — and the lesson of the post-2016 election and Mueller-investigated angst in America — was to keep foreign governments out of the American political system.”
An open and shut case, right?
A USA Today/Ipsos poll from last week shows growing support for the House impeaching Trump over his phone call with the Ukrainian leader.
“Americans by a 45%-38% plurality now support a vote by the House of Representatives to impeach,” according to USA Today. The poll also found that 44 percent say the Senate “should convict Trump and remove him from office.”
That’s why the effort to distract goes on. You can watch it live every time Rudy Giuliani goes on television and delivers a rambling, bizarre conspiracy theory.
“We know corrupt Ukrainian oligarch laundered $3 million to the Biden Family,” Giuliani tweeted last month.
There is no such proof. Referring to several component parts of the effort to smear Biden, the Washington Post recently wrote they “fact-checked these allegations in May and found they did not add up.”
Democrats also have to be careful not to distract themselves by responding to calls from their supporters to load up the articles of impeachment with every grievance against Trump for the last four years – contact with Russians, obstruction of the Mueller probe, foreign leaders staying at Trump hotels to gain his favor — as legitimate and important as that might be.
We must all keep our eyes on the prize if the country is to survive Trump.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.