The veteran liberal reporter Elizabeth Drew wrote a few days ago in The New York Times that President Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives is inevitable in 2019 and that his conviction by the Senate increasingly likely. She does not specify the precise crimes that would justify an impeachment of the president, other than that liberals like her are disgusted by his presidency and that he never should have won election in the first place.
As of now, the impeachment of President Trump, and his removal from office, appears as one of those liberal fantasies, akin to the widespread belief in 2016 that Hillary Clinton’s victory was likewise inevitable. Liberals like Ms. Drew mainly talk to themselves and to one another, and do not deign to speak to the kinds of people who voted for Donald Trump two years ago. Hence, they have no sense of what people around the country are thinking as they watch their children, relatives, and neighbors get jobs and pay raises that were not available to them a few years ago. Impeachment is one of those campaigns, like global warming and identity politics, that still takes place in the liberal “bubble.”
In any case, there are several reasons to believe their wish is never coming to fruition.
First, there has never been a crime specified that would warrant the removal of the President, and certainly no such crime that would persuade thirty-three Republican senators to vote for conviction on an impeachment resolution. Robert Mueller has been searching for a presidential crime for nigh on to two years now without much in the way of success. If he had something, then he probably would have shown his cards by now. But let’s be honest: the “crime” Trump committed was winning the 2016 election in the first place against the wishes of the Democrats and the Washington establishment.
Second, Republicans are not going to vote for impeachment for a host of reasons in addition to the above: Trump is carrying out a Republican agenda, and a successful one at that; the economy is in good shape, and in much better shape than it was when he took office; the nation is not in the midst of an unpopular war; the President remains popular among Republican voters, with a 90 percent approval rate; he helped several senators win election in 2016 and 2018; and others due to be on the ballot in 2020 may be in need of his assistance. Republicans are not going to take out Trump knowing that impeachment is a stalking horse for Democrats to strengthen their position for the 2020 election.
Third, Republicans are well aware that their Democrat colleagues refused to vote in 1998 for Bill Clinton’s impeachment for lying to a grand jury, mostly because they did not want to hand a victory to anti-Clinton Republicans. “We can’t let the bad guys win,” they said, “no matter what our guy may have done.” Republican senators today, fully aware of that history, are not going to award a gift to anti-Trump Democrats.
Fourth, Donald Trump carried thirty states in the 2016 election, sufficient to give him an Electoral College majority. Those states elect a total of sixty senators, most of them Republicans but with some Democrats in the mix, all of them likely to be on the hook for any vote to remove the President from office. President Trump is fully capable of coming into their states during congressional hearings to organize massive rallies where he will denounce Washington, the “swamp,” and any and all members of Congress trying to remove him from office.
Trump, as we know, is a counter-puncher. Anyone aiming mortal blows against him is going to receive reciprocal attacks in kind. Indeed, it is hard to predict what he might do, which is one of his strengths, since he is likely to do anything. But we know for certain that he will not sit still and let Democrats rake him over the coals. He will fight back, throwing Washington into chaos and all out political warfare. It will be an interesting spectacle to watch—much in the way that some people find train wrecks, airplane crashes, and natural disasters interesting spectacles to watch.
Fifth, Democrats in Congress must be aware that an effort to impeach Trump could easily come back to haunt them in 2020, as the President will organize his re-election campaign around the perfidy of politicians in Washington trying to reverse the verdict of the 2016 election, thereby seeking to disenfranchise those 63 million voters who cast their ballots for him. Impeachment will give Trump a ready-made campaign issue with which to continue his warfare against the “the swamp.” Impeachment may paradoxically strengthen his re-election campaign. It will widen the divide in an already badly divided country, further stoking the fires of partisan warfare and discrediting national institutions perhaps beyond the point of repair.
Sixth, the calendar is working against impeachment. Trump has now spent two years in office, and as the New Year begins candidates are beginning to come into the field for the 2020 election. An impeachment effort will probably have to wait until Mr. Mueller finishes a report of some kind, which still looks to be many months away. Why press ahead with impeachment when another election is just around the corner? As we proceed through 2019, the cooler heads in Washington are likely to conclude that, with an election approaching, the voters (not the Congress) should decide the President’s fate, given that his conviction in the Senate is not going to happen in any case.
The fact that impeachment is a fool’s errand does not mean it will not be attempted. In Washington today, those “cooler heads” we used to rely upon are far less numerous than they were a few decades ago. That being so, the impeachment campaign will go forward, perhaps to some indefinite conclusion, but with boomerang effects that are impossible to forecast.