The Right Catches Impeachment Fever

I don’t mean to single out Byron York, whose thoughts on impeachment are increasingly common in conservative media; he presents them well.  There is growing interest in the narrative that the Democrats are absolutely bent on impeaching Pres. Trump and will do so should they regain control of the House of Representatives in 2018.  But York adds the crucial caveat at the end of his analysis:

“In the end, though, it all depends on the facts of the Trump-Russia case. If there are piles of new and damning evidence that emerge between now and November 2018, that will certainly encourage some Democrats to run on impeachment. But if Trump-Russia is still a story in which a reasonable person could determine that the president did nothing to warrant removal, then Democrats face a danger in appearing over-eager to bring down Trump. One could even imagine Republicans using the issue against Democrats, charging that the only plan they have if elected in 2018 is to impeach the president, as opposed to, say, trying to improve the voters’ lives.”

Well yes, if piles of incriminating evidence mount, some (or more) Democrats would raise impeachment as an issue.  But the more significant part here is about the Republicans, though it is so far conservative media primarily stoking the idea that the GOP can run a midterm campaign based around the idea that Democrats will impeach Trump if they win.

This notion has been fueled by polls like the one from Politico/Morning Consult showing 43% of registered voters want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.  And that seems like a high number, but Dem pollster Peter Hart notes it’s difficult to tell how much those results are simply reflecting disapproval of Trump (43% is right around Trump’s “strong disapproval” number).

The fact is that extremist views are frequently inflated in public polling for this reason, including Birthers, Truthers, and those who thought George W. Bush and Barack Obama were the Antichrist.

Moreover, the Democratic party apparat, unlike its base, realizes that they cannot retake the House by focusing on impeachment (again, absent a change in the facts of the case).  They know that voters care much more about the economy, healthcare and other issues.  In Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, the hot-on-impeachment candidate, Tom Perriello, lost rather soundly.  In the special election for Georgia’s 6th CD, Jon Ossoff is not hot-on-impeachment.  At the moment, Dems know they aren’t going to win swing districts campaigning on impeachment.

However, fanning the idea that Democrats are all about impeachment may be appealing to the media, as audience size is driven by conflict and appeals to the niche market of political junkies who get a rush from thinking of politics as war.  The more you are marinated in political media, the more likely you are to think the Trump-Russia probe is all anyone is thinking about, when only 12% rate it as a top issue.

Nevertheless, impeachment fever is also appealing to the claque of conservatives for whom the opposition is a constant excuse for avoiding discussion of the merits of the Trump administration and the Republican Congress to date.  And it’s an idea that may become more appealing to a Republican Party looking for boogeymen to rally their base in the event that they fail to deliver on the major legislation they promised in 2016 (and prior cycles).

The result would be to tie both the GOP and a swath of the conservative media even more tightly to Trump and his (mis)fortunes.  I would call that a tragedy, had Trump’s successes not already revealed just how little the party was tethered to an overarching philosophy.  With so little commitment to ideas, it would not be surprising to see them rally to the most powerful man in the room, even at great risk to their own fortunes.

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