- Democrats are divided over whether to pursue impeachment charges against the president if they succeed in flipping the US House in 2018.
- Recent polling shows that a majority of Democrats – up to 75% – support impeaching President Donald Trump.
- But many Democratic lawmakers believe the effort would alienate swing voters and cost the party its majority.
As Democrats launch an aggressive campaign to challenge Republicans in congressional races across the country in 2018, the party is faced with an uncomfortable rift over one key issue: whether to use a potential majority in the House to impeach the president.
Recent polling shows that a majority of Democrats – up to 75% – support impeaching President Donald Trump. A late October poll found that 49% of all voters support impeachment. And this fall, Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer launched a $10 million national television and digital ad campaign calling for Democrats to impeach the president, whose approval ratings recently dipped to 32%.
Earlier this month, 58 House Democrats, led by Rep. Al Green of Texas, voted to impeach Trump, defying party leadership, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said now “is not the time” to consider impeachment.
“I think a lot of the base would push strongly for impeachment. I think many of us feel like the lines have been crossed,” Rep. Jared Huffman told Politico.
But Democratic lawmakers are mixed on the issue. Many are wary that pursuing removal charges may alienate independents and conservative Democrats, costing them their majority in the House, if they do manage to flip the chamber next year, as many are predicting.
“Impeachment, it’s not something you ought to welcome. It’s not something you ought to be ready to – it’s not something you want,” Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, the body that handles impeachment issues, told Politico.
Nadler, who opposed President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, argued that Democratic lawmakers would owe it to their constituents to be transparent about their reasons for not pursuing impeachment.
“If we were in the majority and if we decide that the evidence isn’t there for impeachment – or even if the evidence is there we decide it would tear the country apart too much, there’s no buy-in, there’s no bipartisanship and we shouldn’t do it for whatever reason – if we decide that, then it’s our duty to educate the country why we decided it,” he went on.
Many Democrats representing swing districts fear the process would alienate voters who want the party to focus on policymaking, rather than politics.
“I realize that maybe I’m in the minority in our party,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, an Illinois Democrat whose district went for Trump in 2016, told Politico. “I know there are contrary views, obviously, with Al Green forcing us to vote on something that I think was entirely unnecessary and hurtful to people in certain districts.”
Bustos and other members who spoke with Politico think Democrats should allow the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to conclude before the party considers initiating the process to remove Trump. The effort, they say, would also surely be thwarted in the Senate, which requires a two-thirds majority to impeach the president, by Republicans. The House, meanwhile, requires a simple majority vote to begin the removal process.