Donald Trump became just the third sitting president in U.S. history to be impeached, a distinction he will forever carry with him thanks to the House of Representatives voting along party lines to do so on Wednesday night. But in the hours before the historic vote, as the House’s formal debate over whether Trump should be impeached unfolded, it became painfully apparent which talking points each side of the aisle would be relying on – and repeating.
The Democrats have been consistent in carefully laying out their argument that Trump abused the office of the president when he admittedly sought a quid pro quo with the ultimate goal of improving his chances at re-election. The threat of withholding military funds in exchange for Ukraine’s foreign interference in an American election is a clear violation of the Constitution. And when Trump directed his cronies against cooperating with subpoenas to testify, that was obvious obstruction of Congress, another impeachable offense.
Kanye shrug. It is what it is.
But Republicans have been pretty consistent too, repeatedly asserting (in a chorus that’s been led by the president himself) that Democrats “hate” Trump and had already plotted on his impeachment well before he was ever inaugurated into office. Republicans claim that ever since Election Night 2016 declared Trump winner, Democrats have been on a “witch-hunt” with the ultimate goal of impeaching Trump to remove him from office and effectively annul the election of someone the American people duly elected.
With that said, why can’t both things be true?
No one ever expected Trump to win, not even many Republicans. So not only was his victory a total shock to America, but it also immediately lent credence to fears that Trump would set the country back decades with his ultra-white nationalist agenda that takes aim at immigrants, low-income residents and Black and brown folks, in particular.
Democrats have said all along that they are simply adhering their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution, putting country before party. But to anyone paying attention, that narrative is as flawed as it is true. Democrats have opposed Trump vehemently since he declared his candidacy under racist pretenses in the summer of 2015. They have worked overtime to discredit him, first citing his inability to unite the country and also pointing to his checkered past of documented abuse toward women and discrimination against minorities. This treatment is as indisputable as it is deserved.
But Trump only has himself to thank for providing Democrats with the ammunition they needed to undertake what is likely to be a fruitless impeachment that will ultimately not remove the president from office if the Republican-majority Senate acquits him in the pending trial, as is widely expected to happen. He openly admitted to giving Ukraine a financial-based ultimatum that Democrats have described as extortion to ultimately smear the campaign of Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president who would face off against Trump next year.
Again, both things can be and are true.
But it can also be true that impeaching Trump could backfire for Democrats, who have seen so hell-bent on holding the president accountable that it may be to their own detriment on Election Day 2020.
A new poll was released Wednesday evening showing that the country remained split on impeachment. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that Trump’s approval rating hasn’t budged, either, showing that support for him remains unchanged in the face of impeachment. That fact has vast implications moving forward.
“It’s remarkable in the era of Trump that even a story of this magnitude is unable to shift the fulcrum of American politics,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted the survey along with the Republican pollster Bill McInturff.
And since removing Trump from office would require support from two-thirds of the Senate (or 67 of the 100 senators, most of whom are Republicans) — impeachment will more than likely not be as efficacious as Democrats have been hoping for.
That combination could and probably will add up to another divisive presidential election on the horizon that, if history is any indication, will result in another Trump victory.
But Democrats have said that is beside the point of upholding the Constitution, and Republicans — who have been loyal to a fault while blindly supporting Trump’s flouting of political protocol — have maintained that Wednesday was the culmination of a “hate”-filled “witch hunt.”
It shouldn’t be so hard to admit to this for either side since the facts have been laid out for America to digest plainly in recent months. Yet, here we are.