This week we are likely to see the U.S. House of Representatives impeach a sitting president for the third time in the history of the United States. What impact will this have on both U.S. and Idaho politics in 2020?
My suspicion is not much.
The two impeachment articles focus on the attempted Ukraine shakedown and on obstruction of Congress.
Both are factually grounded. Trump did, for a period, withhold aid to Ukraine to pressure that country to investigate Joe Biden and his son. And, Trump and his administration have refused to cooperate with congressional investigations.
But, the real question now is should he be impeached for one or both reasons?
That is a much closer call. It is clear that House Democrats have sought partisan advantage from impeachment, at least with their base. If constitutional duty was the driving force, they should have slowed down and sought court intervention to get key witnesses to testify — Mulvaney and Bolton, at least, and maybe Vice President Mike Pence. But speed was more important than thoroughness. And Hunter Biden’s profiting from Burisma was indefensible.
Republicans have been shameless. The entire Ukraine-might-have-interfered-in-2016 claim is absurd. As Fiona Hill made clear, that is right from Putin’s playbook to obfuscate his own involvement and divide our country. People like Sen. Kennedy and Rep. Nunes have seen the intelligence and know better. The Trump was trying to root out corruption argument is also silly (he has never been concerned with such anywhere).
The reality is that impeachment has become an “us versus them” bit, rather than a focus on Trump’s odd, erratic behavior (tweeting against an autistic 16-year-old??). The polls are roughly split on the question. The Senate trial appears to have a foreordained outcome.
So, what will be the political fallout? I suspect it will be minimal because of partisan tribalism.
Some Republicans think it will be the pathway to Trump’s re-election and wins in other races. That is unlikely. His position is relatively weak. The Real Clear Politics average shows 44% of Americans approve of his job performance whereas 53% disapprove. Those numbers have been static through most of 2019. He would lose today the national vote by more than he lost it in 2016.
His best hope is that Democratic voters choose Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. They may prove the equivalent of the Labor Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn in the recent British election. He was so far left that the Conservative Party won its biggest victory since 1987.
The electoral college is key like it was in 2016 and the focus will be on Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. But, some polling has shown competitive environments in Texas and Arizona with Democratic candidates almost even with Trump. The outcome will be driven by whether Trump is less weak in those states than nationally.
Republicans should also be focused down ticket. Democrats should hold the House. They lead in the generic vote and numerous Republican retirements have weakened the GOP’s competitive position.
I am keeping an eye on the U.S. Senate. Democrats need to win four seats. Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Maine are certainly in play. A weak performance by Trump in the national vote could tip the Senate.
Under Trump, Republicans have lost numerous governorships and legislative seats. That trend is likely to continue in 2020.
What about Idaho? Trump should win this red state. Presumably multiple Democrats will contest our presidential primary next Spring.
Will Trump benefit Republicans in Idaho? He’ll hurt in much of the Treasure Valley but should be a net benefit statewide in driving turnout.