Throughout the course of the Mueller investigation a debate has been raging among liberals about impeachment. Will an impeachment proceeding foment enough anger among conservatives and independents that it will increase Trump’s chances of being re-elected? After all, an impeachment recommendation from the House of Representatives would surely die in the Republican-controlled Senate where 66 votes would be required to remove Trump from office.
Conventional wisdom seemed to be that impeachment would play into the hands of Trump, who loves to cast himself as the victim, and whose base often feels they too are victims—of discrimination against whites and bias against men. But in recent weeks it seems a new consensus is starting to form that Trump’s core of support will vote for him no matter what, and that anyone not currently on the Trump train will probably never get on board no matter what. In other words, attitudes towards Trump have already calcified to the point that something as disruptive and divisive as an impeachment process won’t really move the needle in either direction.
Keep in mind that Trump is a historically unpopular president. It’s bad enough for him that his approval rating has been unable to get above 42%. But it’s even worse that 55% of voters polled claim they will never vote for Trump. These are devastatingly bad numbers for an incumbent, especially one that will face at least one primary challenger–Bill Weld–before the general election. A candidate can win the Electoral College with a slight minority of the popular vote, but no candidate has ever been able to overcome negative numbers like those Trump currently suffers.
Given the shock and disappointment of the 2016 election and the confidence we all had that Hillary would beat a vile, lying con-man like Trump, it’s natural to be cynical and worry that somehow Trump will find a way to win. And it may be the case that voting machines are rigged, or hackable, or remotely controllable–in which case we’re all screwed. But absent a vast conspiracy of cheating, it’s hard to see how Trump can win a second term while alienating everybody but his core cult of support.
In fact, the past week has tilted the tables even further against Trump. Abortion is a strong and galvanizing issue among Democratic women, and women vote in larger numbers than men. So if women are even more motivated to come out and vote for anybody but Trump in 2020, the election will be that much more difficult for Trump to win.
We’ve heard many, many stories of Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 but have since rejected him, whether it’s soybean farmers in the midwest or border landowners in Texas or the relatives of victims of the opioid crisis. But ask yourself, how many Hillary voters do you know from 2016 who have decided to vote for Trump in 2020? I haven’t heard of a single one. In every category, Trump is fighting a headwind.
Which brings us back to impeachment. The current cultural and political climate bears no resemblance to the Richard Nixon years nor the Bill Clinton years. Trump is deeply unpopular and a process that illuminates and personalizes his crimes will almost surely not drive voters into his arms. If anything, it will galvanize opposition to Trump. But much more importantly, an impeachment process will make it harder for future presidents to engage in corruption without the risk of congressional action. Doing nothing will simply erode the role and potency of Congress as a co-equal branch of government, and that’s something we desperately need to avoid.
Keep resisting and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”