Trump Impeachment: A Pointless Charade?

We all knew this day was coming, and now it’s finally arrived, it feels a little like an anti-climax. Donald J. Trump has become just the third American President in history to be impeached, and the story already seems stale. We’ve sat through hour after hour of news coverage and testimony to get here, and yet we all knew that his impeachment was inevitable. That was all down to a simple matter of mathematics in the House of Representatives. The same simple matter of mathematics may also explain why it feels like an anti-climax – we all know how this is going to end.

In order for Trump to be convicted in a trial held in the Senate – a trial that will possibly happen as early as next February – two-thirds of all the members of the Senate have to vote in favor of removing him. That simply isn’t going to happen. The vote to impeach him was split down party lines, with two Democrats refusing to go along with the motion. If Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, and the other major players can’t persuade everyone in their own party to back them, what hope do they have of persuading Republican senators to vote their way when it really matters? The answer, as everybody surely already knows, is none.

Pelosi and Schiff knew they were gambling when they moved to impeach the President, but there are times when it makes sense to gamble, and there are times when it makes none. If the odds are in your favor, gamble. Even if the odds are unforeseeable, as they would be in an online slots game, it might still make sense to gamble if you believe you have a chance. Anyone who’s ever bet money on an online slots website like Dove Casino has stood a chance of coming away with a win. The odds of coming away with a win in online slots might be slim, but they’re better than the odds of the Democrats seeing Trump removed from power via this route. Short of a miracle occurring, Trump will be cleared of the charges against him when the time comes. What happens next will then be all-important, and it might be the biggest self-own in American political history.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., announces the passage of the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, against President Donald Trump by the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019. (House Television via AP)

We’ll never know if Trump stood a chance of being re-elected if the Democrats had simply left him to do his job, and got on with theirs. They’ve never, for a single second, accepted the result of the last election. They were hoping the Mueller report might bring him down, and they’ve jumped on the Ukraine scandal with every inch of their might. 2020 is an election year, and the Democrats should be focused on that, but it feels like they’re still contesting the 2016 election. For every move they make against Trump, they give him the chance to portray himself as being persecuted and victimized, and that stance plays well with his base. Every time the Democrats try to tighten the net with a move like this, they make it more and more certain that Trump’s supporters will vote him back in. What they risk doing at the same time is alienating people who may otherwise have voted for them.

Voters don’t like being told that they’ve got something wrong, and the hard fact of the matter is that Trump won the 2016 election. The smart thing for the Democrats to do would have been to lick their wounds, regroup, and focus on 2020. Instead, they’ve invested almost all the time since then trying to overturn that election result. In other words, their actions are showing the voters that they believe that the voters got it wrong. If Trump is impeached and removed, the 2016 election result is effectively null and void. That won’t play well with floating voters.

If you’d like to see evidence of that fact in action, look what just happened in the United Kingdom. Opposition parties have spent the past three years trying to protest or overturn the result of the 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union. When the country went to the polls, they heavily voted in favor of Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party, and their pledge to ‘Get Brexit done.’ People who wouldn’t usually vote for the Conservatives did so because they felt that the referendum result hadn’t been respected, and they wanted to teach the opposition parties a lesson. If the Democrats aren’t paying attention to this, they run the risk of the same thing happening to them.

With no realistic prospect of Trump being removed from office as a result of this impeachment, the Democrats may even have increased his chances of being re-elected. When the Senate clears him of all charges, he’ll be able to declare that he’s been vindicated and that the Democratic Party has wasted the nation’s time and money in pursuing a course of action that was never going to go anywhere. Trump will be portrayed as a great leader who has overcome injustice and adversity. The Democrats will be portrayed as desperate, grasping, and most importantly of all, failing and lacking in judgment. It’s not a good look to start an election year with, and it’s a position that’s likely to be almost impossible to recover from.

Whether or not Trump has actually done the things he’s accused of isn’t for us to say. We’ll have a chance to assess the evidence just as everybody else will when the matter proceeds to trial. We strongly suspect, though, that no matter what comes up at the witness box or in the paperwork, the Democrats will call it a smoking gun, and the Republican will call it immaterial. Everything is now so partisan that facts and evidence no longer seem to matter at all. These are dangerous political times, and care and nuance have never been more important when making big moves Unfortunately for the Democrats – and for reasons we may never fully understand due to the obvious futility of their impeachment efforts – the most significant move they’ve made in the past twelve months has been to shoot themselves in the foot before they’ve even started running.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.