As days have passed since the release of the Mueller report, the public and Democratic support for impeachment has risen but still faces strong opposition from some Democratic politicians and some Democratic voters who worry that impeaching Trump could help Trump in the 2020 elections and sour voters on Democrats.
For Democrats who are anti-impeachment, it seems safer and ultimately effective to avoid the unknown blowback from impeachment and keep the dynamics that are currently in place, where Trump is now at around 39% support and most Democrats running for the nomination are favored to beat Trump.
However, there are two flaws in that proposition. First of all, dynamics are constantly changing in election campaigns, harmful revelations strategically released about a candidate and mud slinging are the norm. Candidates can say something or have said something in the past that suddenly arises to haunt them in their campaign. And sometimes the opposing candidate, especially with the powers of the White House in his hands, can manipulate events to boost himself and cut the legs out from under his opponent.
The bottom line is, things change. Just because the current slice of time is favorable to Democrats, that doesn’t mean that trying to avoid doing anything that could change things will work out favorably.
And an even more instructive lesson in life is that doing something or nothing out of fear only allows bad things to flourish.
Democrats opposing impeachment also point to the impeachment of Bill Clinton and his subsequent rise in the polls during that to point out their concerns of how it could help Trump. This is partnered with the concern that if The House impeached Trump but Republicans continue to protect him in The Senate and don’t vote to remove him, that Trump will look vindicated and garner greater support. Some have said, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, what’s the point of impeaching if the Senate won’t support it?
Lastly, Democrats who don’t support impeachment essentially express that as long as Trump is removed in the 2020 elections, the hoped-for results in impeaching him would come about anyway so it’s not an abdication of constitutional responsibility, just a smarter path to it.
Here are the counter-arguments I offer to fellow Democrats leaning against impeachment.
SEVEN REASONS TO IMPEACH DONALD TRUMP
1. Political strategy is not a reason to ignore constitutional responsibility.
Article II, Section 4 of The Constitution of the United States of America:
“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
As responsibilities and assignments of power are reflected in The Constitution, this section uses the word “shall”. Not “can” or “could”, it requires Congress to act. The Founders indisputably intended for Congress to be the check, balance and cop on the beat when it came to The President.
If a policeman witnessed The Chief of Police commit a heinous crime, would we see it as responsible if he decides not to arrest or help convict him but simply assure others that he will compete against him to hopefully take his office away sometime in the future? Is that what the law allows or intends? Or would the policeman be in trouble for rationalizing away his legal duty?
Let’s be clear, The Congress is imbued with the responsibility of law enforcement by having impeachment powers. Only they can “arrest” a criminal president. It is not an option, it is a constitutional duty, to be exercised on behalf of the Americans people. Morphing the responsibility of impeachment into the end results of the next election is not what The Founders instructed Congress to do in such a serious situation.
2. Democrats need to display respect for The Constitution and their powers under it.
Nothing would make Trump happier than for Democrats in Congress to give up portions of their constitutional power over him. Or to see Democrats validate that The Constitution’s laws are optional. Refusing to impeach when Mueller’s report documents multiple criminal acts of obstruction of justice by Trump, is ripping up authority and power from the Constitution.
In light of the GOP under Trump standing for lies, deceit, prejudice, anti-American and criminal acts, the Democrats should retain the high moral ground and put ethics above political maneuvering. Country first, before party. Democrats have hurled that sentiment at Republicans for years, it’s time they put their impeachment power where their mouths and constitution are.
3. An impeachment is an investigation, it does not require the removal of a president to be worthwhile.
A frequent argument against impeachment is that Republicans in The Senate won’t allow a 2/3 vote for removal of Trump to succeed so what’s the point of starting impeachment? With that logic, why prosecute any criminals who commit racist crimes in communities where many people are racists? Law enforcement shouldn’t be conditional, based solely on the assumed outcome of a trial. It’s about doing the right thing regardless of the eventual outcome.
The first misunderstanding in this proposition is that impeachment is a predetermined decision of guilt that fails if a conviction isn’t won. Impeachment begins in The House as an investigation, held very publicly so the nation knows what crimes are being alleged against a president (or other government official) and the evidence and defense involved.
Impeachment hearings DO NOT require that The House votes to impeach a president. They could hold such hearings then fail to get enough votes to impeach or end the impeachment hearings before completion if it appears moot.
4. Nixon’s polling was better than Trump’s when the Watergate hearings began
Democrats who are concerned say that a majority of the public needs to be brought along first before even considering impeachment. This seems upside-down. What will move public opinion towards supporting impeachment is the public broadcast and investigation of the crimes Trump has committed, including obstruction of justice.
The Mueller Report came out, redacted as it was, yet still described the grounds for many crimes that would likely have been charged if Trump wasn’t in the White House. The public did register that and disapproval of Trump rose while approval declined. This is the proof in the pudding. As more public revelations condemning Trump’s criminal behavior come out, the public moves against him.
Democrats should know that in an impeachment hearing, all the evidence and testimony that would come out and inundate the public will be very negative for Trump and affirm the legitimacy and necessity of impeachment hearings. We know this because we have the public response to the Mueller Report confirming this. Trump could not be declared exonerated on committing crimes by a two year investigation, impeachment hearings won’t contradict that, just strengthen it.
And as hearings provide a more conducive, entertaining method of the public learning details about Trump and his crimes, as opposed to Mueller’s report which few in the public have read fully, the public would be better brought along to support impeachment. It’s very difficult to imagine how impeachment hearings would lead to less support when we know the facts are more damning than most people know.
Here is a graphic which illustrates not only how Nixon was more popular than Trump when the Watergate hearings began but how impeachment gained support with Americans as the case against Nixon was televised.
Just weeks before the Watergate hearings began on May 17th, 1973, Nixon still stood at a 48% approval rating with only 40% disapproval. In contrast, with it being weeks before The House begins non-impeachment Watergate-style hearings, Trump is at 39.9% approval and 53.9% disapproval. So does anyone think televised hearings will make those numbers turn more favorable for Trump?
And here’s an interesting nugget from Gallup polling that year:
Yet, despite the increasingly negative views of Nixon at that time, most Americans continued to reject the notion that Nixon should leave office, according to Gallup. Just 26% thought he should be impeached and forced to resign, while 61% did not.
Now a nugget from an ABC News/WAPO poll from just last week:
Overall, a majority of Americans oppose impeachment with only 37 percent saying they favor starting the process and 56 percent saying they oppose the idea. Unsurprisingly, support for impeaching President Trump is divided along partisan lines.
You see where I’m going here. Nixon had higher approval numbers and impeachment of him was less popular than it is in the case with Trump. With a provably criminal president, televised exposure of the case against him is exactly how the public support for impeachment grows, it is self-justifying.
5. Donald Trump is not Bill Clinton.
Some Democrats express that they worry that Trump could receive the same popularity bump that Bill Clinton received when he was impeached. With all due respect, such a proposition is devoid of historical context and it is a bit surprising that some Democrats would so easily equate Clinton with Trump.
Here’s a poll taken just after The House filed articles of impeachment against Clinton which also shows polling just before that:
Interviews with 852 adult Americans were conducted December 19-20 , after the House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton.
Do you approve of the way Bill Clinton is handling his job as president?
Now Dec. 15-16
Approve 73% 63%
Disapprove 25% 33%
Should your senators vote to remove Clinton from office?
Bill Clinton did experience a positive bump in the polls after being impeached but that was in line with a wide majority of the public already favoring him before impeachment and not supporting impeachment for lying about having an affair, something that most Americans appeared to regard as inconsequential to his effectively fulfilling the duties of president.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Trump’s approval/disapproval stands as of four days ago at 39.9% approval and 53.9% disapproval while impeachment of Trump is supported by 37% and opposed by 56%. These are worse numbers than Nixon’s and far worse than Clinton’s yet both of them were impeached. Clearly, Trump is not Clinton and it is truly inconceivable of any but his loyal Kool-Aid drinkers having sympathy for Trump if he was impeached and exposed as having allied with an enemy country to corrupt this and probably 2020’s election, committed financial crimes and obstructed justice.
6. Even if Trump is not removed, impeachment hearings would damage him and the GOP even more in 2020
Democrats only control the House so seeing how slavish Republicans have been, it’s unlikely to think two-thirds of The Senate would vote to remove Trump if the House has impeached him. However, having all of Trump’s dirty, criminal laundry aired in televised, must-watch impeachment hearings in The House, will leave Trump even more damaged and unpopular in the 2020 elections. So if The House impeaches him and the voters are the ones who remove him after seeing those hearings, the impeachment hearings work in removing him de facto.
Add to this, Republicans in Congress will be forced to vote in The House and The Senate on impeaching and removing Trump. As public opinion of Trump craters, the cultish Republicans trying to defend him will then also be damaged in the 2020 elections. They will be hammered by Democratic opponents as being the lap-dogs who abandoned their oath to protect our country to protect a criminal instead purely for reasons of power and getting re-election.
7. Trump could win re-election anyway
As Billy Crystal said in his impression of Edward G. Robinson in The Ten Commandments, “Myah, where’s your messiah now, Moses?”
If Democrats were to shrug off their constitutionally-mandated responsibility of impeachment of a criminal president due to political expediency, because they simply thought it was in their best political interests to put all their eggs in the basket of the 2020 election results, our constitution would be severely damaged as would their credibility to exercise other constitutional power over an even more emboldened criminal president.
Trump is trying to tear up the constitutional power of Congress to exercise oversight of government. He has given aid and comfort to adversarial countries and dictators, even those who have attacked our elections and assassinated one of our journalists. He has obstructed justice at every turn, firing those trying to keep America under the rule of law while demeaning and portraying our entire intelligence community as enemies. He has lied and deceived the people over 10,000 times. He has aggressively supported racism, bigotry and the abuse of non-white immigrants.
If Democrats in Congress can rationalize how this and even more despicable behavior of a president should not trigger impeachment because of the political risk, what madness would await the country in a second Trump term when he would feel emboldened to commit any horrible act without fear of consequence?
Impeachment is a necessary tool to prevent a corrupt autocrat who wields power over this country, from taking even worse actions in the future, whether it’s Trump or a future president. If there are no boundaries now, there may not be any left in the future when they’re even more desperately needed.
Country before re-election. Our democracy can’t be gambled with, hoping an election that won’t occur for 19 months will resolve an urgent threat to this nation. And if dereliction of duty to our constitution doesn’t deliver the presidency to Democrats…will any one of them be able to face the prospect of a fearless, unleashed Trump in power until 2024 with the words, “We did everything we could to prevent this”?