To Impeach or Not To Impeach

To Impeach or Not To Impeach


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

If the Democrats can just hold off to their growing desire to impeach President Trump, they should have the best chance of defeating him in the 2020 elections. Current polls cannot capture any kind of real data about likely results but they do give a snapshot of what people are thinking. Trump maintains his solid 39-42% support but former Vice President Joe Biden does well against Trump in head to head races. In addition, Trump is even behind a generic Democrat. The problem the Democratic Party faces is whether they truly believe that can proceed with an impeachment investigation, whilst recognizing that even if they were to impeach the President two-thirds of the Senate is not prepared to convict him.

The pressure on House leaders appears to be growing, especially from new Members—as well as some older Members—who represent safe, non-contested House districts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has elevated her rhetoric against the President and his irrational behavior; that, however, appears to be as far as she will go—at this time.  Meanwhile, the President is evidently pushing the envelope as hard as he can to goad the Speaker to begin the impeachment process.

For the Democrats, ratcheting up the tone and extent of their congressional investigations appears already to be taking its toll on the President and shaking up some in the White House. The key question for the Democrats will be whether they can attract more of Trump’s Independent voters by not beginning an impeachment process, than they will lose. Clearly, among Trump’s blind followers, impeachment will only energize them more.

The Democrats have an additional problem which Pelosi understands, but about which many in the more strident, progressive wing of the Party are not sufficiently responsive. The 2018 House takeover brought to Washington a significant group of Democrats from swing districts. These freshman Members believe taking on the President directly will largely affect their being re-elected. Holding the House and possibly even re-gaining the Senate for the Democrats will only happen if they hold the more marginal, swing seats; many of these they might lose if a major impeachment battles angers the American people.

The early trend of the investigations is confirming that the President may well end up being roasted on his own petard. His behavior yesterday in his three-minute infrastructure meeting followed by his staged “impromptu” Rose Garden press meeting made Trump look more and more angry and even unbalanced. This style also will not help the President keep the support of the Independent voters who backed him in 2016. (There is also a serious question whether the Judiciary Committee would be able to assemble all the evidence that Congress is demanding already to establish a credible impeachment case.)

There is one final consideration which no one could have even contemplated. When Nixon was under a cloud of investigations, he said early in the process that he would abide by a definitive ruling of the Supreme Court; and so he did. If the High Court eventually rules against the President on many of the cases—some of which already are moving into the federal courts—it is totally conceivable that President Trump might disobey such decisions?

It seems for the Democrats that the slower strategy makes more sense than moving ahead with impeachment. Slow and steady may have a better chance of winning the race.

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