27 April 2019

The impeachment dilemma

This week Electoral-Vote responded to a question from "A.M., Miami Beach" on why House Democrats are not eager to pursue impeachment against Trump.  The response is, I think, worth quoting in full:

What the Democrats are thinking about is the Bill Clinton impeachment of 1998, which not only failed to secure a conviction, but also ginned up the Democratic base, and so backfired against the Republicans. And that was with a president who did not have Twitter or a penchant for publicly blasting his enemies in coarse language. There is every reason to think that, in the hands of Donald Trump, an impeachment would give him exactly what he needs to drive his base into a frenzy. It might also serve to persuade Independents that the blue team is "just as bad" as the red team, and that both major parties are basically the same. So, the political risks here are significant.

At the same time, the benefits of impeachment would not appear to be all that great. There is little chance of a conviction, given the GOP-controlled Senate, and even if Trump somehow was removed, it would be with less than a year left in his presidency. You suggest that an impeachment proceeding would allow the Democrats to lay out the evidence against him, but the fact is that everyone who hates Trump already knows what they need to know. An impeachment proceeding would not have much impact in terms of opening voters' eyes, or giving them information they didn't already have.

The Democratic strategy, as we have pointed out, is effectively to use the 2020 elections to impeach Trump, but with the voters, rather than the Senate, serving as jury. The behavior in the Mueller report is not going to drop off the radar, and while the Democrats don't want to lay the anti-Trump stuff on too thick, there will be a theme of "If you want a corrupt President, vote for Trump, if you want one with integrity, vote for us."

The blue team also expects that, as in 2018, Trump will drag the overall ticket down. They are looking forward to that. In fact, it might be more correct to say they are drooling. If Mitt Romney or some more normal Republican is atop the ticket, a second blue wave probably becomes less likely

The logic here seems compelling to me.  I do disagree with one point.  There is not "little" chance of a conviction, there is effectively zero, and that will remain the case as long as most Senate Republicans are too frightened of Trump's base to challenge him.

No one is more eager to see Trump removed than I am, because my greatest concern about him remaining in office is still the danger of his ordering the use of a nuclear weapon in a fit of impulsive rage about something or other -- making the United States, in an instant, guilty of a mass murder perhaps larger than the Nazi Holocaust.  (Which is why I reject the "Pence would be worse" argument -- this is an issue of temperament, not policy.)  If there were any possibility that impeachment would actually remove him, I'd be calling for it more loudly than anybody.  But there is not.

This could change.  Most Senate Republicans hate Trump's guts -- he's insulted and humiliated many of them and trashed a lot of what they value.  If Trump's support among his base were to seriously erode for any reason, so that a real possibility existed of twenty Senate Republicans daring to vote with the Democrats for removal, then yes, impeachment would become imperative.  It could happen.  But it hasn't happened yet, and turning so many Trumpanzees against their idol would take revelations a lot bigger than anything that seems likely to be in the pipeline.

Around the blogosphere I see a lot of calls for impeachment, and mounting criticism of Democratic leaders for not launching it.  Much of this seems to stem from a visceral desire for some kind of dramatic action after two years of frustration at Trump's rampages.  But Pelosi and Hoyer are thinking several moves ahead.  Impeachment now wouldn't remove Trump.  The supposed benefits of trying it would actually be small, and the harm to our side from a failed impeachment might be very considerable.  Trump would claim vindication, his base would be more infuriated and energized than ever, and the well would have been poisoned against trying impeachment later if circumstances changed and removal looked more possible.

Since impeachment can't remove Trump, the best available strategy is to exploit his noxious presence to maximize the gains of the 2020 election.  The more Democrats there are in the House and Senate to support a new Democratic President, the more progress will be made in repairing the damage Trump has done, and moving forward with the things we really want and need.


Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Just for the sake of argument though -- if THIS behaviour does not warrant impeachment, what would? Does doing nothing amount to condoning Trump's disregard for the law?

27 April, 2019 06:05  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I’m so torn about this. On the one side, I understand why Pelosi and Co. have not launched and all out impeachment battle, given that Mueller gave them the blueprint to impeach that idiot and other Dems have advocated for publicly chipping away at Cheeto’s myriad corruption blunders. Twelve months of exposure to fuckery is the best advertising for a Dem prez. But I also think it’ll do nothing to sway a stupid, apathetic public. Most Americans tend to be dumb to anything that does not seem to affect them personally and Cheeto’s base does not see beyond their racism, xenophobia and homophobia, laced with white resentment. Not to mention that he wouldn’t be found guilty.
So I understand your point. But I do think that a Pence President is nauseating because Pence IS a politician and would hurt progressive causes much more insidiously.
I’m just afraid Cheetolini will go Scott free after he leaves the White House or even worse gets pushed by russian influence to win again!


27 April, 2019 06:16  
Blogger Mary said...

I agree with you completely

27 April, 2019 06:40  
Anonymous Linda LeBrun said...

Thank you. I totally agree. As tempting as it is to impeach the mufu, we must not give in to that temptation. As Red Leader said, "stay on target;" in this case, the election.

27 April, 2019 07:36  
Blogger Jack said...

Agreed. I can understand why many on the left would like to see Trump impeached, but that doesn't mean it is going to happen. Pursuing it anyway seems to have a large potential downside and very little upside.

27 April, 2019 07:40  
Blogger Dave Miller said...

Infidel... I'm on the fence.

I'm wondering if public hearings of key admin officials, much like happened with Watergate, could turn the tide within the GOP. What if, in response to those hearings, Senators started hearing from voters of all stripes that they found the witnesses credible, that in fact they believed Trump had obstructed justice and that they wanted him removed.

Would the tide turn then?

Look, Trump seems to have a hard base at 35-40% That's never gonna change, just like a Republican isn't gonna win California. The Dems are probably in the same range. That leave 20-30% of the voters up for grabs. If they stand up for impeachment, we will see what happens.

The problem with the ballot box solution is that as of now, I don't think that 30% is going to vote against their pocketbooks and with the econ humming, if the Dems want to oust Trump, hearings and impeachment may be the only way.

27 April, 2019 10:10  
Blogger Nan said...

I tend to agree.

All I hope is whatever method is used that we get this orange-faced monster out of the White House!

27 April, 2019 11:02  
Blogger Ami said...

I have finally realized that when I say 'both parties are the same' not everyone understands my meaning.

My take is that all of them are there to advance their party and themselves. None of them care about actually representing the people who were stupid enough to elect them.

But they do vote on different sides of the fence and I understand that. I have developed a large core of anger when it comes to the R bunch. I hate the D's too, but in a different way. Even though it's about their party and not me, they won't vote to take away certain rights that are important to me and mine. So although they don't give a rat's ass about us, they still vote more in line with my personal philosophy.

Mostly, they all make me sick.

I still can't believe we ended up with Trump... but that should tell the politicians something, too. They need to wonder how they fucked up so badly that he seemed like the better choice.

27 April, 2019 11:05  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Debra: On the question of whether Trump's behavior is bad enough to deserve impeachment and removal, he met that standard and blew past it ages ago. The question is what is the most effective response. Since impeachment will not remove him, and might even strengthen him as I explained, it will not be effective. I don't believe the Democrats should pursue a doomed and probably counter-productive impeachment merely to avoid the appearance of "condoning" his actions. There are plenty of ways to make it obvious we don't condone them.

Sixpence: Unfortunately it's likely that the best-case scenario is that Trump's toxicity gives us a landslide 18 months from now. Mueller correctly views removing a corrupt President as Congress's job, not his, but the Senate Republicans won't do their part of that job.

Mary, Linda, Jack: Thanks. It's a frustrating thing to accept, but we can only plan by recognizing the reality of the situation and dealing with it.

Dave: The problem is that the constituency the Senate Republicans are so afraid of is that hard-core 35% or so. If a Senator voting to remove Trump meant that a big chunk of that group didn't vote next time he was up for re-election, he'd be doomed. Only if a big chunk of that hard core turns against Trump will they feel safe doing the right thing. It's tempting to think impeachment hearings might achieve even that, but it's a long shot. Remember, it's a matter of convincing people like these.

Current polling shows Trump would lose if the election were held now, and that's with a good economy. The economy may not be as good next year. I doubt it will be better. We have a better chance of winning 51% (or a bit more to overcome the Electoral College) of the voters, than winning 67% of the current Senators.

Nan: It's unfortunate that our options are so limited. The Founders never foresaw a corrupt President protected by a corrupt party dominating one house of Congress.

Ami: None of them care about actually representing the people who were stupid enough to elect them.

I don't believe that's the case with the majority of the Democrats. I see no evidence to support it. Hell, some Republican politicians are honestly representing the wishes of the people who elected them. It's just that those wishes are evil.

Always remember that the majority of voters didn't think Trump was the better choice. Even with vote suppression and Russian interference, Hillary still got three million more votes.

Also, this post is about impeachment specifically.

27 April, 2019 12:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please stop saying "Trump voters". These are republicans, plain and simple. Always remember that when Trump shows his racism, his authoritarianism and his disregard for the rule of law in his rants and tweets, their response is and has been "he's saying what I'm thinking!". The republicans have been courting these folks since Nixon's southern strategy, and now they are the party.

27 April, 2019 12:11  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The problem is that even though Trump voters are now the mainstream of the party, Trump voters and Republicans aren't perfectly identical categories. Some Republicans refused to vote for Trump, though not many. And there are a surprising number of people who voted for Obama but also voted for Trump -- obviously not committed Republicans. Some of these people are more reachable than others.

27 April, 2019 14:52  
Blogger dellgirl said...

Very interesting information and perspective, as usual. There is not much more to add to the comments already posted. I do wish it could happen sooner rather than later though. Thank you for sharing your well-thought-out insights.

Wishing you a Happy Sunday!

27 April, 2019 16:34  
Blogger Les Carpenter said...

The quoted article response makes a compelling argument to forgo impeachment proceedings. As does your own.

I would like nothing more than to see Trump impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate. In fact I've stated my support for impeachment and removal. But if the Senate lacks the cajones to do the right and just thing I guess I must admit there is really no point in impeaching Trump.

I do think that if his support continues to erode, as per credible polling data, then Senate could very well grow a set.

We'll be watching and hoping I'm sure.

27 April, 2019 17:08  
Blogger RO said...

You provide solid reasons for your thoughts regarding the political climate which is much appreciated. Hugs and Happy Sunday! RO

28 April, 2019 05:23  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I still have some hope that if the threat of prosecution after he leaves office becomes severe enough, he could be persuaded to step down by a promise of some kind of pardon or immunity. It wouldn't be justice, but getting him out is more important. But even that would take some courage on the part of somebody.

28 April, 2019 06:38  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RO: Thanks!

28 April, 2019 07:30  

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