We are living in a precarious time for this country. Many of us turn on the news or open the paper and see a system that seems so dysfunctional that it cannot be fixed. This dysfunction was on full display this week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before two House committees about the findings of his report. Many lawmakers took this as yet another opportunity to harden their respective positions, with some Democrats renewing calls for impeachment, and some Republicans trumpeting their claim that the Russia investigation was a failed partisan witch hunt.

Rep. Jared Golden

Lost in the made-for TV media spectacle was the fundamental finding of the first volume of the Special Counsel’s report: that Russia launched a concerted attack on our election system in an effort to undermine our democracy and inflame political division. Although our partisan divisions have been widening for years, I would say the Russians largely achieved their goal. Our political process has become an exercise in tribalism — an endless cycle of outrage, division and gridlock. Rather than uniting as a country against a foreign adversary’s effort to breed mistrust and conflict, we are playing into their hands, becoming so consumed by partisan fights that we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Continuing the playbook this week, neither Democratic nor Republican lawmakers provided much by way of clarity to the American people regarding the special counsel’s investigation. As expected, we saw more lawmakers announce their support of impeaching the President. I do not plan to join them. Yes, the special counsel’s report revealed a pattern of conduct beneath the office of the presidency: poor judgement, efforts to exert undue influence over an investigation, and attempts to obstruct justice. However, in looking at the available facts, I do not believe there is sufficient information to reveal the intent behind the president’s actions, especially because the special counsel found insufficient evidence that the president was involved in a criminal conspiracy to collude or coordinate with Russian efforts to interfere with U.S. elections.

My decision is also grounded in common sense: in an era of divided government, impeachment would die in the Senate. But more damaging, I believe impeachment proceedings would unleash an era of even greater divisiveness in our country — one from which we might not return. At its core, the special counsel’s report reveals a fundamental failure to put the interests of the country ahead of political gain, a mistake that we would replicate by pushing for impeachment at this time. Some will argue that history will judge us harshly for not pursuing impeachment. I take a different perspective — how will we be judged if we deliberately tear at the already fraying fabric of our national unity, even though we know such efforts would fail? I served our country in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I love America too much to contribute to a process that would incite further division rather than healing.

Despite this divisive national political environment, I think it would surprise people in Washington just how little the folks I talk to in towns such as East Millinocket, Fort Fairfield, or Stonington are focused on impeachment or the latest political point-scoring on cable news. These folks want to know what we can do to bring back good jobs to former mill towns and how we can update our infrastructure to kick-start Maine’s economy. They ask me what we are doing to lower prescription drug costs, or how we can defend Maine lobstermen against over-regulation. To the extent they think about the president, most of them believe that the big questions around our country’s leadership and direction should be determined at the ballot box in 2020, not by a partisan impeachment process.

The problems I hear about most from Mainers aren’t solved inside the Twitter bubble or during a shouting match on TV, which is why you don’t see me there very often. Still, some people have asked me why I don’t spend more time taking a stand against the president’s tweets or engaging in partisan battles. Let me be clear: when the moment warrants it, I have no problem condemning conduct beneath the office of the presidency or calling out my own Democratic leaders if they put partisan gain before the good of the country. However, I do not believe that we solve complex problems by continuing to devote oxygen and precious time to partisan fights. We better serve our constituents and our country when we set aside our differences to work together. This isn’t a talking point, it’s the approach we need to pull our country out of its current tailspin — and I believe it is what most of my constituents want.

As 2020 approaches, we should expect that the rhetoric from both sides of the political spectrum will ratchet up. I am sure our foreign adversaries, and sadly some of our own politicians, would like nothing more than to see us continue to tear each other apart. We shouldn’t take the bait. Elected officials have a responsibility to come together and work on meaningful policies that will impact the lives of all of us. Whether they act on that responsibility remains to be seen, but I will continue to try to put the unity of our country first and provide the best representation I can for all of the people of Maine’s Second District.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden represents Maine’s District 2.

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