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Democrats, look ahead to the prize in 2020 and forget about impeaching Trump

The “no one is above the law” argument is compelling. But the goal, after all, should be replacing Trump.

President Donald Trump speaks about Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 22, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks about Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Many pundits have this unfortunate habit of framing what they want as what the American people want. I’ve been guilty of this at times. After all, what is more gratifying than the idea that the American masses are marching behind your band?

Similarly, some left-leaning writers are insisting that the great majority of Democrats wants President Donald Trump impeached. And they have inconclusive polls to back their position.


Thus, we have Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times saying that, on the basis of a CNN poll, 76 percent of Democratic voters back impeachment. As she herself concedes, the poll’s question did not differentiate between wanting an impeachment inquiry and an impeachment proceeding. One looks for information. The other attempts an ouster. The Republican Senate won’t let the latter happen. So Trump wouldn’t face eviction while being given the opportunity to play victim in a partisan struggle.

When the Trump camp “leaks” that the president fears impeachment — and when he calls impeachment a “dirty, filthy, disgusting word” — do you take them at face value? This is Trump talk for “Democrats, please impeach me. I need your help in the tough election ahead.”

Actually, only about a quarter of Democratic House members say they favor impeachment, according to Politico. Of the five House members Goldberg quotes as moving in that direction, all five spoke of an inquiry, not a proceeding.

It’s hard for those who spend their days in the liberal bosom of super-safe Democratic districts to understand this: Many of the voters who replaced Republican representatives with Democrats last November do not like Trump but also do not obsess on him as you do.

These are the voters who gave Democrats control of the House. Love you, AOC, but any candidate with a D after his or her name would have won your district.

Town hall meetings are fine events, but who turns up at them? Activists, for sure. Not in attendance are working adults preferring to relax at home in their bathrobes. Nor, probably, are faithful registered Democrats trying to juggle three kids and four jobs.

This disconnect with ordinary Democratic voters is seen in the surprise lead of “boring” Joe Biden in the polls. This wasn’t supposed to happen, according to the passions that dominate liberal Twitter. A follower of those feeds myself, I was surprised by the outpouring of support for the seemingly centrist Biden. These things happen when Democratic voters are simply asked their opinion without having to show up at a rally.

The “no one is above the law” argument is compelling. Trouble is, the great majority of the electorate is well aware that Trump is a tax cheat, habitual liar, nasty creep and trampler of democratic norms. The sad part is that many of his supporters don’t care or rationalize away his relentless attacks on our revered institutions.

They may believe the strong economy is entirely Trump’s doing and worth the damage. They may dislike the racial insults but think he’s seriously addressing illegal immigration, which, until Trump calls for national use of E-Verify, he’s not. The idea that the additional information collected in an impeachment process would change lots of minds seems awfully naive.

And what happens to the Democrats’ agenda if impeachment becomes the national obsession? Pro-impeachers say they can push legislation at the same time. They can push, but the media won’t report — not in the midst of an impeachment frenzy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands these dynamics and is obviously trying to run out the clock on impeachment fervor as the 2020 election draws closer. The goal, after all, should be replacing Trump. Savvy Democrats will give impeachment a pass and go for the prize.

Froma Harrop writes about politics, economics and culture. Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop.

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