In a New Republic piece today, Jeet Heer writes about what he calls "The Democrats’ Dangerous Obsession with Impeachment." I don't think it's dangerous to hope for impeachment, but it's dangerous to believe that impeachment will come easily or quickly. Here's Crispin Sartwell at Splice Today:
Republicans in Congress have taken a lot of grief for not jumping off the Trump train, though of course a number of them have. But he has alienated many of them. There’s going to be that moment, that story, or that defection which starts them stampeding in the other direction, and I think it’ll happen in the next few weeks. They’ll suddenly see how they can disassociate themselves from him, and they’ll suddenly see that they’d better. Then they’ll want him gone quickly, before jockeying begins for 2020. They’ll threaten him with impeachment in the hopes that he’ll resign. If he doesn’t, they’ll impeach him and remove him from office, and be justified in doing so. Or at least, I think that’s a likely scenario.
No, it isn't a likely scenario.
A simple majority is needed to impeach in the House, but it takes a two-thirds majority to convict in the Senate. Republicans control both houses now -- if Democrats vote as a bloc (not a certainty), you'd need 22 Republican votes in the House right now to impeach and 19 Republican votes in the Senate to convict. Heer is right to say that GOP defections seem less likely than they might have early in Trump's term:
As Peter Beinart pointed out Sunday in The Atlantic, ... “mass Republican defection” from Trump “has grown harder, not easier, to imagine. It’s grown harder because the last six months have demonstrated that GOP voters will stick with Trump despite his lunacy, and punish those Republican politicians who do not.” Republican support for Trump has never fallen below 79 percent since he became president. Republicans who dare criticize Trump, such as senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, have crashed in popularity among the GOP base.
And this is before Trump has managed to get any major legislation passed. I think a consensus is forming on the right, even among those who've been skeptical of Trump, that he's developing into a pretty great right-wing president. Here's something Rich Lowry published this week at the formerly anti-Trump National Review:
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But Gorsuch ... and Other Excellent Judicial Picks ... and a Tax Cut ... and Major Deregulatory Actions ... and Immigration Enforcement ... and the End of the Individual Mandate ... and a Roll Back of the HHS Mandate ...
. . . and the reversal of the insane Title IX policy on campus ... and an exit from the Paris Accords ... and the avoidance of whatever Hillary would have wrought.
There is a meme used by anti-Trump conservatives on Twitter. Whenever Trump steps in it, they tweet the words “But Gorsuch.” It is meant to mock Trump loyalists who hold out Gorsuch’s nomination as a Trump accomplishment that overshadows any of his failings....
[But] it’s simply not true that all we have to show from the Trump administration is Gorsuch.... Now, it appears very likely that [the Trump administration] will get the tax bill, which includes a rifle-shot elimination of the individual mandate. And the administration has been steadily reversing the executive aggrandizements of the Obama administration.
Trump has governed so far as more of a Republican and conservative than I expected.
Soon you're going to start reading op-eds from more and more conservatives who've been on the fence about Trump describing him as a highly successful president and the best president since Reagan. That'll be conventional wisdom on the right. Congressional Republicans aren't going to jump off the bandwagon under those circumstances.
The Republican Party has proven that they will tolerate just about anything from Trump. They continue to stand with him despite his demented tweeting, the political support he’s given to Roy Moore, his repeated expressions of contempt for the justice system, and his cavalier threats to launch a nuclear war.
"Despite ... the political support he’s given to Roy Moore"? The GOP is now fully behind Moore, as it was fully behind Trump a couple of weeks after the Access Hollywood tape broke.
Unless Robert Mueller finds the possibly apocryphal “pee tape,” Republicans are likely to remain loyal to Trump. In fact, there’s a real possibility that even if the “pee tape” is real and widely viewed, Trump would still remain politically sacrosanct among his own party.
Here's something that seems obvious to me: The party's refusal to abandon Moore proves that the release of the pee tape, if it exists, would have absolutely no long-term effect on Republican support for Trump. If you won't abandon a man who's credibly accused of groping young teenagers, then why would you abandon a man who watched prostitutes urinate for sexual gratification? I can just hear the Bible Belters now: If I wanted to elect a perfect person, I'd write in Jesus Christ. Of course the pee tape won't change anything.
The most promising route for stopping Trump, then, is through the ballot box. Democrats need a convincing platform and effective organization to win elections at every level. If the party can win back Congress in 2018, it can immediately start hamstringing Trump’s presidency without resorting to the unlikely path of impeachment. Democrats can launch investigations into Trump’s many improper acts. They can stall his nominees, especially in the courts. They can also start laying down rules for reining in the imperial presidency, including the thermonuclear monarchy, so that no future commander-in-chief has the dangerous power Trump possesses.
I'll add that even if you're more focused on impeachment, resounding Democratic victories in 2018 are the only way you'll get there. Whatever the expectations are going into the 2018 voting, Democrats have to beat them -- not just because they need to wrest as much power as they can from the GOP, but because Republicans won't turn against Trump unless the 2018 election results scare them into doing it. Right now they're more afraid of their own Trump-loving voters than they are of the vast majority of the country that disapproves of Trump. Only Democratic victories in what are perceived to be safe GOP seats will persuade Republicans that their cleave-to-Trump strategy is a failure.
Even if Trump is removed, we'll still have to contend with awful Republicans holding other offices, and not just President Pence. The Republican Party is the problem. Its power must be diminished. It's also true that Trump needs to go -- but he won't go until a lot of other Republicans go first.