The House of Representatives is currently debating articles of impeachment against the President of the United States. As we knew would be the case from the moment Speaker Pelosi made this move, the Democratic majority has the votes. It's a fait accompli. But as we discussed recently, something that has changed since Pelosi and friends' announcement of the impeachment inquiry is the state of public opinion. Support for the inquiry -- and, indeed, for impeachment and removal -- spiked "into the black" for awhile, having been deep in the red at the conclusion of the Mueller investigation. The Ukraine matter was different and serious. But as the process has dragged on, including nationally-televised hearings, the electorate's openness to impeachment has faded.
On impeachment day, it's now a minority position in the national polling average, with opposition even more concentrated outside of populous lefty bastions like California and New York. We know this to be true in battleground states and district. Gallup has released a new survey showing the president's job approval ticking up to 45 percent, and opposition to impeachment and removal surging into the majority (an 11-point swing in the Gallup data since October). The Trump campaign certainly noticed:
On day of impeachment vote:— Andrew Clark ?? (@AndrewHClark) December 18, 2019
?Trump approval inches up to a near record-high.
?Independent support for Trump surges to record-high.
?Support for impeachment slips even further underwater.
Democrats are tripping across their own finish line. https://t.co/q7vvZhLNEg
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer points out the trend: "In October, Trump’s job approval/disapproval was -18. Now it’s -6. A 12-point swing." The Hill's headline blares that the president's approval numbers are up six points since the announcement of the impeachment inquiry. Public sentiment is not necessarily a value judgment on the merits of the case. I've weighed the facts and drawn my own conclusions, which are at least partially shared by a number of House Democrats -- including, intriguingly, Tulsi Gabbard. But an important component of a successful and legitimate impeachment is bipartisan buy-in and the persuasion of the public. That's not my standard. That's Pelosi's standard, repeated endlessly throughout the Russia saga:
Nancy Pelosi, March 2019:— Michael Shapiro (@mis2127) December 18, 2019
"Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it."https://t.co/eniBc1CQWt pic.twitter.com/PpjZvEjq9W
This evening's forthcoming vote, and the trajectory of the polling, demonstrates that House Democrats have failed on both counts; the impeachment will be purely partisan (with the only bipartisanship coming in the form of opposition), and voters clearly have not determined that the need to uproot the president from office is "compelling and overwhelming." According to a number of surveys, they're leaning toward re-electing him in a little over ten months. So why, with the trend lines going in the wrong direction from their perspective, are Democrats representing Trump-won districts almost unanimously linking arms, closing their eyes, and leaping into a potential impeachment abyss? For some, it could be a matter of conviction. For others, their calculation could go something like this:
If I vote against impeachment, my base will not forgive me. Without my base, in a closely-divided district, I'm finished. If I vote for impeachment, I will lose some Trump voters and independents. That could end my career. But my fate may rest with how Trump is performing politically next October, which is totally unpredictable. Impeachment will be long gone from the white-hot front burner by that point, and everyone has short attention spans. If he's doing well, and the GOP blasts me on impeachment and my voting record, I'm cooked anyway. But if he's weakened and headed toward a loss, my opposition to him might not be a major handicap. I might survive. So the "safest" play, with outcomes very much uncertain, is to vote for impeachment and hope for the best on conditions and events outside my control.
This is how I see the lay of the land:
Hyperbolic claims & saturation coverage aside — I suspect neither side is confident about how this will play politically, that leaders of both parties want it over, and that it will feel like a distant memory by spring. Its impact on 2020 could be barely detectable. #impeachment— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 18, 2019
And with an exhausting, arcane and tedious debate about the (inevitable?) Senate trial already underway, I'll leave you with Mitch McConnell's little-noticed counter-programming to the House's impeachment proceedings (covered obsessively by the press), keeping his eye on the ball, as usual:
Pelosi and her staff have instructed her caucus to show unity and not to gloat at all during the proceedings, per multiple sources. She wants the public to see Democrats as taking this moment seriously and not be seen as cheering the President’s impeachment, members say— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 18, 2019