The three most prominent House committee chairs are now talking openly about the possibility of impeaching Donald Trump, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing nothing to publicly push back against the sentiment. This means we’re facing a very realistic scenario in which House Democrats go ahead and impeach him. But what would that look like? It’s all about the numbers.
We all know that as of this moment there are enough votes in the House to impeach Donald Trump, but not enough votes in the Senate to remove him – but those aren’t the numbers I’m interested in. Instead I’m focused on the numbers that dictate everything in any given presidency: approval ratings. As of today, Trump’s approval rating is at around forty percent when you average the polls together. That’s not even close to being high enough to get reelected. If his approval rating holds steady heading into 2020, he’ll get blown out.
So what does this have to do with impeachment? Everything. Let’s say the Democrats impeach Trump, and in the process of exposing his crimes during nationally televised impeachment hearings, they manage to drive his approval rating even lower than it is now. There is a point at which a chunk of Senate Republicans would selfishly vote to oust Trump, if he became so unpopular, they began to worry about their own prospects for reelection. So if impeachment went exactly the way Democrats might hope, they could actually get rid of Trump before 2020, leaving the GOP in a total panic trying to pick a candidate.
Even if impeachment went only moderately well for the Democrats, and it wasn’t enough to oust Trump, but it was enough to drive his approval rating incrementally lower, it would help ensure that Trump would lose in 2020. But there is the scenario in which impeachment backfires for the Democrats, and Trump becomes more popular as a result, thus giving him a fighting chance in a 2020 race that he’s currently on track to lose very badly.
That said, if the Democrats don’t impeach Donald Trump, there’s the possibility that the people in the middle could interpret this as a sign that Trump didn’t actually commit any crimes, and his approval rating could steadily creep upward over the next year and a half, thus putting him back into 2020 contention.
In a perfect world, the impeachment question would come down to whether Donald Trump is criminally unfit for office, which he is. But in reality, it’ll come down to whether House Democrats think impeachment is more likely to drive his approval rating up or down, and whether not impeaching Trump is more likely to drive it up or down. Keep in mind that Trump will be indicted and arrested the minute he’s no longer in office – so the Democrats simply have to make sure he doesn’t get a second term, and he’ll be made to answer for his crimes.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report