For the past two years, Democrats have shied away from talking about impeachment. Although Trump arguably committed a number of impeachable offenses prior to even taking office, a common line of thinking was that if Democrats made impeachment part of their message, they would seem hysterical, acting in bad faith. Another thought was that talk of impeachment would energize the Republican base far more than the Democratic base, which would spell trouble for the mid-term elections. Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has yielded the conviction of Paul Manafort and guilty pleas from Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, and Mike Flynn, the criminality of Trump and his inner circle is no longer in the realm of hypothetical’s. And some prominent Democrats in Congress, such as Maxine Waters, have increasingly voiced their support for impeachment, without any kind of backlash from the party base. Democrats have performed well in elections since 2016, winning Governorships in Virginia and New Jersey and even Senate seats in places like Alabama.
The case for impeachment has strengthened significantly in the past several months, when Democrats are talking about it, the base isn’t shying away. Democrats should begin openly running on impeachment—and after the mid-terms are over, they need to follow through.
Most of political commentary around impeachment assumes that it is an “all or nothing,” exercise. The thought being that if Democrats attempt to impeach Trump and cannot complete the process, they’ll empower the President. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without Democratic pressure on Trump, there would never have been a special counsel. Trump’s firing of Comey would have gone without a response. The Mueller investigation has been intensely damaging to Trump politically, and it has forced him to spend political capital defending himself and his inner circle that otherwise would have been used on his political agenda. Imagine a scenario where Democrats decide not to stand up against Trump and push for an investigation into Russian meddling. Trump would have significantly more time, resources, and effort to pour into his legislative proposals. He might have found the time to build a Congressional Republican coalition that could have effectively repealed the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps this new coalition finds new ways to revoke the citizenship of naturalized individuals or pass new laws that embolden police in minority neighborhoods. That this scenario was avoided is due in large part to Democrats pushing for investigations into Trump.
Impeachment is just the next step. Even if it fails, it weakens Trump politically and forces him away from his agenda.
CNN polling has found that 77 percent of Democrats believe Trump should be impeached. Overall, that number translates into 42 percent of all Americans, which is virtually identical to the 43 percent of Americans that believed Nixon should be impeached in 1974. Over three quarters of Democrats believe that Trump should face impeachment, so the idea isn’t exactly controversial. The CNN poll was conducted in June of this year, long after Maxine Waters began sounding the horn on impeachment. Waters’ calls for impeaching Trump did not impede the party’s electoral success throughout the past two years. In fact, she has become a hero of the left and the anti-Trump resistance in the same time frame. More Democrats should take a cue from Waters and begin explicitly running on an impeachment message.
Too often, impeachment is considered a political fantasy with no basis in reality. Pundits and commentators consistently argue that there is no possibility that Trump will ever be impeached.
But potential outcomes can shift rapidly—what’s possible at the moment might not be what’s possible in six months.
If Democrats win the House, which looks increasingly likely, they can start the impeachment process with a simple majority vote. The case for impeachment is then moved to the Senate, where two thirds of the chamber would need to vote in favor in order for the President to be impeached. Democrats will likely have near 50 Senators after November. That means they would need to flip something like 15 Republicans. A tall order, but definitely not impossible. Consider the fact that Republicans will likely be coming off of steep losses in 2018 with the prospect of even bigger losses in 2020 if Trump remains in office. At some point, a number of Republican officials might believe they are better off with Pence. It doesn’t take much for something that seemed politically impossible to suddenly become the new reality. After all, look at the 2016 election.