In 2018 “impeachment” will likely be the most overused word in what is shaping up to be the most contentious midterm election in modern history.
The promise of impeaching President Trump could dominate Democratic Party messaging and used to motivate hordes of anti-Trump voters to turn out and vote Democrats back into control of Capitol Hill.
Unfortunately, President Trump’s ultra-polarizing leadership style brought about his current 37 percent job approval rating, with 58 percent disapproval. This negative 21-point spread gives Democrats free rein to exploit the prospect of impeachment for self-serving political gain, whether legally justified or not. Moreover, throughout 2017, impeachment has been thoroughly embedded into the media landscape as an emotional hot-button issue and should only gain more traction in 2018.
It was back in May when I first asked the question, “Will Democrats use impeachment as their 2018 midterm message?”
Now, in December, I am confident that the answer is not only, “Yes” but “Hell yes.”
Also in that same piece, I was half-joking when I wrote that Democrats’ 2018 bumper stickers would read “You vote, we impeach.” Now, I am totally convinced that will be their call to action.
This week I asked Roger Stone, the high-profile political operative and long-time confidant of President Trump, for his thoughts on the midterm election. Stone replied: “There can be no doubt that impeachment is on the Democrats’ bucket list. Should Democrats take the House, any trumped-up charge against the president could serve as the basis for a railroad impeachment.”
Stone’s prediction is sound given that Democrats’ desire to impeach Trump began on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2017, as reported in a Washington Post headline: “The campaign to impeach President Trump has begun.” And indeed it did.
Immediately swinging into action as the congressional leader of the impeachment brigade was, and still is, 79-year-old Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
Although first elected to Congress in 1991, Waters quickly learned in 2017 that impeachment is a great media-profile enhancer and effective “everywhere” for fundraising. Banging her impeachment drum not only earned Waters folk-hero status but injected new life into the twilight of her long, lackluster political career.
Competing with Waters for using impeachment as a self-enhancement vehicle is another Californian named Tom Steyer. As a billionaire former hedge fund owner, Steyer morphed from spending his millions fighting climate change to his new role as Trump’s impeachment poster-child. Starring in his own $20 million television and media campaign, Steyer’s message is:
“Donald Trump has brought us to the brink of nuclear war, obstructed justice, and taken money from foreign governments. We need to impeach this dangerous president. Sign on now.”
Steyer’s accusations are short on facts and lack evidence – but why should that matter? In what Obama’s former chief strategist David Axelrod called a “vanity project,” Steyer’s commercials, delivered in his raspy voice-of-doom-like-whisper leaves viewers with the impression that his $20 million ad campaign is as much about fueling his political ambitions as impeaching President Trump.
Comically and fittingly, the Washington Free Beacon calculated that on Dec. 6 “when Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, introduced articles of impeachment, and the House voted overwhelmingly to kill the resolution,” Green’s resolution “received just 58 votes, bringing Steyer’s bill to $344,827.59 per vote.”
Surely that cost imbalance will not stop Steyer’s quest for recognition. But, what makes someone like Steyer dangerous is when voters repeatedly see his impeachment ads, the gravity of impeachment is diminished as the most severe constitutional action against a sitting president. After all, it is human nature that the more often one hears about a potentially threatening situation or action, it tends to make that situation or action appear less threatening. And so it is with impeachment.
Barring any bombshell evidence of “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors” uncovered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Americans must be educated about the impeachment process – how it was never meant for personal political gain and could tear this nation apart. Here are two key points:
1. The vast majority of Americans are unaware that in our nation’s 241-year history no president has ever been impeached, convicted and removed from office. Not one.
The two presidents who were impeached by the House of Representatives – Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 – were not convicted by the U.S. Senate of the charges filed against them. Both Johnson and Clinton remained in office until the end of their terms.
In 1974, President Richard Nixon was heading for impeachment and a likely conviction but resigned before the proceedings commenced.
Thus, at this writing, it is doubtful President Trump would be the first U.S. president to be impeached, convicted and removed from office.
2. If Democrats manage to win back control of the House of Representatives in 2018, and in 2019 by majority vote impeach President Trump on charges presented by Robert Mueller, (what Stone called “trumped-up charges”), it is highly unlikely that two-thirds of the U.S. Senate would vote to convict and remove Trump from office. Even if Democrats controlled the Senate in 2019 by a small margin, winning the votes of two-thirds of the senators is still a very high number by design of the Founding Fathers. Besides, do Democrats really want a President Pence?
Given all of the above, I stand by my prediction that impeachment will be the most overused word in 2018. Impeachment is tantamount to verbal catnip for use by Democrats who yearn for a higher media profile and a party seeking to placate a base that is demanding political payback while still reeling from devastating loses in 2016.
In our political system, absent “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors” the voting booth should always trump impeachment.
And with that thought in mind, remember 2020 is only 34 short months away!