The Democrats’ drumbeat for President Trump’s impeachment is growing in volume and intensity, as is the probability that he’ll be acquitted by the Senate and retained in office. So the Democrats’ drumbeat is an omen of doom—for the Democrats.
I last discussed impeachment in January when I noted that many in the new crop of House Democrats were agitating for impeachment, while Speaker Pelosi and her allies, perhaps remembering how the Republican effort to impeach and remove President Clinton in 1998 ultimately backfired on the GOP, were trying to restrain the new Democrats. Since then, both the pro-impeachment Democrats and President Trump’s own position have strengthened, leaving Speaker Pelosi between the proverbial rock and the hard place.
Pivotal to the evolving situation has been the Mueller Report, which Democrats believe contains enough material to support their attempt to impeach President Trump for obstruction of justice. The Democrats also hope to produce additional incriminating material from putative or ongoing congressional and legal investigations into all things Trumpian.
In January I raised the possibility that various investigations could produce enough damaging information on the President to encourage Republicans to desert him, as happened to President Nixon in 1974. After all, it was Republican disgust over revelations that President Nixon had ordered a temporary cover up of the Watergate burglary that led them to repudiate him, and led him to resign rather than face near-certain impeachment and removal.
Yet today’s Republicans in Congress and throughout the country seem unfazed and unmoved by what is currently known about the President or likely to be discovered in the future. To the contrary, Republicans are even more determined to stand by President Trump, given the Mueller Report’s exoneration of the President on charges he colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election. Trump’s popularity within the GOP, broad and deep in January, is, if anything, even stronger today. Few Republicans in either house of Congress will risk their standing with the GOP base by voting to impeach or remove him. And while House Republicans are in the minority and can’t, by themselves, block Trump’s possible impeachment, the fact that they are in the majority in the Senate practically guarantees that the Democrats will fall far short of winning enough Senate votes to remove him: To remove the President would require the support of all 45 Senate Democrats, both Democrat-leaning independents, and 20 of the Senate’s 53 Republicans. President Trump is safe.
But not so the Democrats. The Democrats strengthened their hold on the Congress in 1974 following their successful effort (with Republican help) to force President Nixon out of office. But in 1998 the congressional Republicans actually lost seats in their zeal to remove the popular President Clinton. In 2020, nothing will galvanize the GOP against the Democrats more than an attempt to remove President Trump. Not only will he prevail, but angry GOP voters will get their revenge against Democratic congressional candidates. The Republicans may well strengthen their hold over the Senate, and even win back the House, while retaining the White House as well.
And this could imperil Democratic congressional leaders, especially Speaker Pelosi. She’s already in the crosshairs of the growing faction of younger Democrats who want the President out now. They could move to replace her should she continue to frustrate them. But if the Democrats go ahead with their impeachment attempt and it backfires and they lose their House majority, Speaker Pelosi will be reduced to being no more than Minority Leader instead. And she could be forced even from that position. After all, when the Republicans lost seats in 1998 during their drive to impeach Clinton, they took out their frustration by removing Newt Gingrich from the speakership, even though they retained a slight majority in the House.
So all in all, the Democrats’ drive to impeach President Trump is more likely to hurt themselves than him. If they’re wise—an incredibly big if—they’ll take more seriously Speaker Pelosi’s admonition to tread cautiously. But they currently seem more likely to listen to President Trump as he says, “Go ahead—make my day.” Advantage: Trump and the GOP.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.