‘Just like we saw in 2000, an impeachment inquiry could very badly damage somebody who is associated with it…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) An attempt to remove President Donald Trump from office might not hurt the Democrats as much some Republicans think if history is any indicator, according to Ronald Brownstein, a long-time political analyst.
Though the polls showed that most of the public opposed removing Clinton from office, House Republicans pursued impeachment anyway.
The result was the loss of several important House seats in 1998 and 2000, though Democrats never won enough to recapture the majority until Bush’s second midterm in 2006.
Brownstein, however, wrote that the effects of Clinton’s impeachment actually cost the Republicans very little, and if anything, “lingering unease about Clinton’s behavior provided a crucial backdrop for George W. Bush’s winning presidential campaign.”
Democrats today are focused on the wrong effects, Brownstein wrote.
Instead of worrying about what it could do to their congressional races in 2020, they should look at how impeachment could shape the presidential race.
“Bush’s ability to tap the public’s dismay over Clinton’s personal life ‘more than anything else got in our way in terms of winning the election,’” Tad Devine, a senior strategist for Al Gore, the Democratic nominee in 2000, told Brownstein.
“If impeachment is done properly, then the Democratic nominee will be talking about it [next year] and not be running away from it in the general election,” Devine said.
“I don’t look at it as something that is going to derail a Democratic nominee,” he added. “Just like we saw in 2000, an impeachment inquiry could very badly damage somebody who is associated with it.”
Though, barring any new developments, the Republican-controlled Senate would squash any attempts to remove Trump, that could then motivate Democratic voters to “finish the job,” Brownstein wrote.
“And impeachment hearings could focus attention on personal behavior by the president that dismays swing voters satisfied with the economy—just as the Clinton impeachment effort did.”
However, Democrats should be cautious, Brownstein wrote. They hold the House only because several Democrats won former red seats that Trump carried in 2016. That could easily change, he said.
Much also would depend on the ability of the eventual Democratic nominee to draw a stark contrast with Trump’s negatives while challenging him on his strengths.
Bush was able to leverage the malaise toward Clinton—despite the latter’s relatively robust economy—and also use his own name-recognition as the son of Clinton’s predecessor to negate any incumbency advantage.
However, Gore’s relative lack of charisma and charm, compared with both Clinton and Bush, also played a considerable part.
After effectively isolating Clinton from the campaign trail, the awkwardly wonkish ex-veep seemed that much less appealing by contrast.
Even then, the margin of victory proved to be razor-thin, resulting in an unprecedented case before the Supreme Court to decide the outcome.
Democrats would have a better chance at walking away unscathed if public opinion was on their side, but there’s no indication that a majority of Americans want Trump removed.
In fact, the solid Republican coalition that Trump gathered to himself in 2016 means he is “even less likely than Clinton to suffer major erosion of support from his base, and thus also from his party’s representatives in Congress.”
All of this suggests “it’s not a guaranteed political winner for House Democrats to impeach Trump when there’s virtually no chance the Senate will vote to remove him,” Brownstein wrote.
But the political calculus may be not be a simple as assumed.
“[T]he full ledger on Clinton’s impeachment invalidates the common assumption that impeachment without removal is a guaranteed political loser,” Brownstein added.