Image Credit: Gage Skidmore
The launch of the impeachment inquiry could well be a pivotal blunder for the Democrats. Though it will very likely pass the House of Representatives, the narrow aims of the impeachment have further hindered the chances of any political gain against the GOP, let alone removing President Trump from office.
Though the reasons for impeachment are compelling, its success - with no help from a crystal ball here - won’t be witnessed. Many are enthusiastic about Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi’s, decision to start the process, perhaps from looking back at President Johnson’s removal in the 1860s with the same hope of raising electoral prospects for 2020. However, Andrew Johnson’s deserved downfall was under very different circumstances; the more relevant example for impeachment would be that of President Clinton.
As it stands, any hope of the impeachment resulting in Trump’s removal from office relies on the makeup of the Senate. With the final vote resting on a two-thirds majority approval from the Chamber and most Senators being Republican, it has no chance of success. Even if the Democrats could rally their caucus for the vote, more than twenty GOP Senators would have to be persuaded to vote against their sitting President; someone with whom their electoral success significantly lies. The same issue was seen in 1999 when an impeachment of Clinton was launched, under a stronger Senate Republican presence also, on the grounds of obstruction of justice and lying under oath. After being acquitted following the Senate’s failure to attain the same key two-thirds majority, Bill Clinton saw a rise in the polls at the end of his second term. Though this hurdle was overcome by the GOP in 2000, it seems like an unnecessary obstacle for those who want to see Trump leave the White House.
Despite this, the fortunes for the Democrats could certainly have been raised had the scope of the impeachment been widened significantly. Firstly, through pursuing solely on the issue of the unfolding scandal in Ukraine, the party left itself vulnerable to criticism for its own corruption within the Biden family; they’ve now got to defend similar actions to the ones they’re impeaching for. Secondly, it’s a huge waste of an opportunity to hold Trump to account for his many other unconstitutional practices. This is not just Mueller’s findings or Russian electoral interference but also emoluments, self-enrichment and the rejection of the bipartisan Congressional effort to end American involvement in Yemen. Furthermore, the decision to focus on the scandal in Ukraine gives the impression that this inquiry wasn’t very well planned as people have only recently been made aware of the issue from the grace of a whistleblower. All things considered however, the political damage that’s yet to occur could be minimised for the Democrats as time progresses. Already the launch of the inquiry polls is favourable and the margins continues to grow as more information is made available and more subpoenas are issued.
Yet, the Republicans should be expected to resist effectively all the same; impeachment is a deeply partisan issue for voters and Trump’s rhetoric shaping the issue as a “witch hunt” trial has kept his approval rating stable. If the impeachment proceeds to the Senate and undoubtedly fails, it will only give credit to such talking points.