Impeachment Talks are the Favored Pastime of the Minority Party

“The political realities of impeachment make it very difficult to implement, but it won’t stop politicians from grandstanding and pontificating on the matter as they self-righteously call for it.”

In the past few days, the Trump administration has been rocked by several scandals. After firing FBI director James Comey, opponents accused Trump of treason and a coup. Trump then made a tweet that suggested the possibility of tape recordings of conversations between Trump and Comey.

On Monday, news stories reported that Trump leaked classified information to the Russians, and then on Tuesday the New York Times reported that Trump asked Comey to finish the investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn’s Russian ties. This has naturally led to a rise in calls for Trump’s impeachment, with Congressman Al Green being the most recent. But calls for impeachment are the favorite pastime of the minority party, and they are almost always impotent.

Just several weeks into Trump’s presidency, Maxine Waters called for Trump’s impeachment. The calls have grown louder this week with the additional revelations, but there is still a good deal that we do not know. Trump is known to shoot from the hip in his Twitter feed, and there hasn’t been any confirmation of these anonymous leaks. With more information and a rational assessment, it might be a non-story.

But the Clinton impeachment shows a great deal about why impeachment is a nonstarter regardless of the validity of the current scandals. Despite Bill Clinton’s perjury, most Americans viewed the impeachment as a partisan matter. The Republican-led House voted for impeachment, but the Democratic-led Senate voted against it, with several Republicans defecting.

The Republicans suffered politically in the next midterm elections because most of the country tuned out the hyper-partisan bickering. They wanted their politicians to enact meaningful legislation and reform, not spend their time arguing. Bill Clinton finished his full term and is viewed relatively well by historians. The Republican-led Senate and House in 2017 will not vote for impeachment unless there are Watergate levels of corruption.

The increasingly shrill arguments from Washington will likely mean that more and more Americans will tune out the controversy. Because Democrats have made every event—from ending the funding for PBS to a phone call to Taiwan—into the worst offenses, it’s tough for Americans to now care about this scandal, especially when Democrat politicians have become even more strident in the past week. But eventually nobody believes the boy who cried wolf. The political realities of impeachment make it very difficult to implement, but it won’t stop politicians from grandstanding and pontificating on the matter as they self-righteously call for it.

 

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