President Trump has had a pretty good week. One wouldn’t know it to read of the Democrats’ ongoing impeachment efforts or of the bipartisan backlash against his decision to withdraw troops from Syria. But the Democrats’ conduct of their impeachment probe, as well as the most recent Democratic presidential candidates’ debate, may well backfire in their efforts to take the President down.
“I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president he will get re-elected.” So said Representative Al Green, Democrat from Texas, indicating that one of the reasons Democrats want to impeach President Trump is to weaken his popularity going into the 2020 election. They believe that even if they can’t secure his removal by the Republican-dominated Senate, they can at least weaken him to the point where the Democratic nominee can triumph next November.
But how the Democrats are going about this may play into President Trump’s hands. Speaker Pelosi recently announced there would be no formal vote on whether to conduct the Democrats’ investigation. The investigation would continue to be held behind closed doors by various committees—especially the House Intelligence Committee—with Republicans being deprived of the right to subpoena their own witnesses or even attend the hearings, unless they themselves are also committee members. Indeed, a Republican congressman who was not a member of the Intelligence Committee was recently ejected from one of the committee’s sessions. Whatever the legality of the Democrats’ conduct, they’re opening themselves up to GOP charges that they’re conducting an unfair kangaroo court before which the President and his supporters have no rights. Expect President Trump to use this arrangement to successfully gin up his devoutly and apparently unshakably loyal supporters.
Actually, the very refusal of Speaker Pelosi to hold a formal vote on whether to conduct an impeachment-related investigation reflects a weakness of the Democrats which President Trump can exploit. Speaker Pelosi apparently remains concerned about the 30 or so Democrats elected in 2018 from districts President Trump carried in 2016. She may think, quite rationally, that if they vote for a formal impeachment inquiry they’ll lose their 2020 re-election bids and let the House be reclaimed by the Republicans. On the other hand, if they vote against a formal impeachment inquiry, they’ll thereby discredit the one already going on and possibly bring it to a halt. Avoiding a formal vote is probably the least-bad option for the Democrats, however much the absence of a vote plays into the President’s hands.
Also helping to energize and unite the President’s base—and possibly even expand it—is the ongoing leftward drift of the Democratic Party, especially as Elizabeth Warren surges into the lead and Joe Biden continues to fade. However enthusiastic the hardcore activists of the Democratic Party may be about their probable presidential nominee, her radicalism may well drive some centrist Democrats and independents into the Republican camp and increase the President’s chances of winning both the electoral and the popular vote in 2020—especially if the economy continues to hold up.
Of course, the state of the economy remains the key to the outcome of both the impeachment effort and the 2020 election. As long as the economy does well, President Trump’s popularity will remain high enough to discourage Republican senators from removing him should he be impeached, as well as to practically guarantee his reelection next fall. Of course, should the economy falter and the President’s popularity takes a hit, then all bets are off.
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.