Impeachment has become, first and foremost, a political procedure.
Yes, “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the constitutional standard for impeachment — has long existed in the history of common law and actually means something, but we stopped caring about that the moment Donald Trump took office and Democrat Rep. Al Green realized impeachment votes were good press.
Now there’s something that Democrats think qualifies as an actual impeachable offense (I’ll save you the specifics because I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you know them), and they’re making sure that impeachment articles are fast-tracked so that they’ll be delivered in time for when the 2020 electoral process begins in earnest.
The political calculus is this: Democrats have been for impeaching Trump since the day he was elected, an election which no doubt had to do with the perfidious Russians. The Republicans, for whatever reason, aren’t on board with this line of thinking.
But the independents who helped elect Trump in 2016 — well, they’re going to see a president being impeached and get scared off from supporting him. Who wouldn’t, even if the impeachment were a political move?
Independents, for one.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s impeachment tracker, support for impeachment among independents has shrunk from 47.7 in late October to just 41 percent in three short weeks.
All three groups have seen impeachment levels decline from their highs during the febrile days that followed the whistleblower report and then the first closed-door hearings. However, among the other two groups — Republicans and Democrats — that impeachment fatigue has been significantly less noticeable (and probably less important).
The stat geeks at FiveThirtyEight reported that support for impeachment among Democrats peaked at 84.8 percent; it now stands at 80.3 percent.
Republicans, meanwhile, peaked at 13.7 percent for impeachment, while the number currently stands at 12.2 percent.
Neither of these is particularly important, however. Democrats, even if they don’t want impeachment, are unlikely to vote for Trump anyway. Impeachment talk may have created a few more NeverTrumpers, but not significantly more. As 2016 proved, most were going to come home to Trump anyhow.
Independents, though, are where the 2020 election will be fought. If they’ve become annoyed enough with the impeachment push that there’s been a 6.7 percent drop in just three weeks, how does this calculus work out again?
And by the way, the independents’ numbers are getting worse for the Democrats. An Emerson College poll conducted Nov. 17-20 found that 34 percent of independents favored impeachment compared with 49 percent who disapproved — a 15 percent gulf.
According to The Hill, that poll showed independents favoring impeachment by a 48 percent to 35 percent margin in October.
Overall, FiveThirtyEight’s average has shown a drop in support for impeachment from a mid-October high of 50.3 percent to 46.3 at the moment.
Opposition, meanwhile, has gone from a low of 43.8 percent to a current number of 45.6 percent. The spike in opposition isn’t quite the same as the drop in support, but neither number is a pleasant augury if impeaching Trump is a political maneuver for the Democrats.
The Hill reported Sunday that “perhaps most alarming for Democrats is a new survey of Wisconsin from Marquette University. In Wisconsin, a key swing state in next year’s election, Marquette found that 40 percent supported impeaching Trump and removing him from office, while 53 percent opposed it. In October, before the hearings began, support was at 44 percent and opposition was at 51 percent.
“The Marquette survey found Trump leading in Wisconsin against three top Democratic challengers after trailing all of them in the previous poll.”
Lest we forget, this isn’t just because of a lull in impeachment-related news. These numbers continue a milk-like spoilage for Democrats despite taking place against the backdrop of open impeachment hearings where we’re constantly told that the evidence is damning. Vindman! Hill! Taylor! Bribery! So much talk about quid pro quos that you hear more Latin during five minutes of MSNBC than you would during an entire year of William F. Buckley speeches.
And yet that quart of dairy-fresh impeachment juice is curdling fast. It’s almost as if impeachment isn’t the great idea everyone seemed to think it was on the Democrat side of the aisle.
“It was surprising to find that Democrats are a little less supportive of impeachment now. They appear a little less unified in their opposition,” Marquette pollster Charles Franklin told The Hill.
“It moves the race from being a small Democratic lead that was mostly inside the margin of error to a small Trump lead that is mostly inside the margin of error and basically reaffirms Wisconsin’s status as a battleground state,” he said.
Republicans were unsurprisingly happy about this news from a swing state, too.
“All of these numbers are consistent with other trends that suggest Democrats are losing the impeachment debate, particularly in swing states and districts,” GOP pollster Chris Wilson of WPA Intelligence said.
“If the hearings have eroded support even slightly, and the national data suggests that, then this Marquette poll is completely in line with an emerging picture where impeachment is actually helping the president in key swing states,” he added.
Perhaps the most telling quote, however, came from a Democrat fundraiser.
“After three years, the country was sick of hearing about Russia, and now the average American either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the case we’re making on Ukraine,” they said.
It’s always good to hear Democrats yet again underestimating what the average American can understand. At least, however, some Democrats are beginning to realize that they don’t care.
Have fun with that political calculus, fellas.
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