“Be careful what you wish for,” goes the old saying. “You may get it.”
There’s widespread suspicion on the political and journalistic right that the Democrats see the impeachment of President Trump as the proverbial stone with which to kill two birds: President Trump, of course, and former Vice President Joe Biden as well. But their impeachment effort may prove instead to be a boomerang which misses the President yet comes back to hurt the Democrats themselves.
The Democrats have chosen to impeach the President over the question of whether he tried to pressure the President of the Ukraine to investigate the business affairs of Hunter Biden, Joe’s son, who was hired by a Ukrainian oil and gas company at a salary of $50,000 a month. The transcript of the relevant telephone call has been interpreted by the Democrats as proof that Trump tried to enlist a foreign government to hurt a political opponent. The President’s defenders claim that the comments were too ambiguous and innocuous to support any such conclusion.
But even if the telephone conversation is interpreted in the worst possible light for President Trump, will this actually hurt him? Not necessarily. His popularity seems to have been affected not at all by the Access Hollywood tape, Stormy Daniels, Russian interference in the 2016 election, or anything else that the Democrats have thrown at him (or that he’s thrown at himself). Why would his supporters care about a telephone call to the President of the Ukraine, regardless of its content or intent?
The President’s approval rating among Republican voters remains at about 90%. Unless that dramatically drops, the Republican-dominated Senate will not vote to remove him even if the Democratic House votes to impeach him. After all, it requires 67 votes in the Senate to remove an impeached President. Twenty Republicans would have to vote with the 45 Democrats and 2 independents to do so. It is currently no more likely that 20 such Republicans can be found than that Democratic senators could have been found to remove the impeached but exceedingly popular Bill Clinton in 1999.
What is more likely to happen is that the impeachment process will energize the Republican base and increase Republican turnout for Trump in 2020. This will make it easier for the President to win both the electoral and popular vote.
And the Republican voters will be motivated not only to avenge the perceived persecution of the President but to defeat a perceived radical leftist as well.
Joe Biden’s greatest strength as a possible presidential nominee is that he is perceived as more moderate than either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, and the voters in a general election are more likely to vote for moderates than extremists. But Biden’s problem is that the question of impeachment cannot possibly be discussed without examining his own role in the Ukraine. He’s boasted in the past that he secured the firing of a prosecutor looking into Hunter’s company by threatening to have foreign aid cut off otherwise. Biden’s defenders say that neither Hunter nor anybody else broke any laws, and that the dismissal of the Ukrainian prosecutor had nothing to do with any investigation of Hunter or his company. But at best, even if no laws were broken, the Bidens’ activities seem to be “business as usual,” with the stench of corruption progressive Democrats say is nauseating. The more this issue is aired in the drive to impeach the President, the greater will be the shift in support among Democrats from Biden to Elizabeth Warren, whom some polls now say enjoys narrow leads in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Yet Warren would almost certainly be a weaker general election candidate than Biden. It will be far easier for the President to tag her with the dreaded label of radical, and thereby win over moderates who might otherwise have voted for Biden in the general election.
So Democrats who have been pushing for impeachment since Election Night 2016 now seem on the verge of getting what they want—and a whole lot more, including a second term for President Trump.
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.