The public starts to move on impeachment
Democrats are increasingly in support of impeaching President Donald Trump and removing him from office but the majority of Americans remain opposed to the prospect, a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS shows.
Trump's approval rating, meanwhile, holds exactly even with where it was in late April -- 43% approve and 52% disapprove of the President, according to the poll. That's the case even as support for impeachment rose slightly from 37% last month to 41% now.
Similarly, those backing impeachment hit 43% in December, down from CNN's previous high mark of this question with 47% in September 2018. The new poll finds 54% are against impeachment.
The shift on impeachment stems mostly from a rebound in support for it among Democrats -- 76% favor it currently, up from 69% in April. Whites who hold college degrees have also increased their support for impeachment. In surveys in April and March, fewer than 3 in 10 in that group favored proceedings, but that number has now climbed to 41%.
CNN's poll has trump's approval a little bit higher than most of the others. (538's average has him at 41.5) But the movement on impeachment is significant. And it's not because the facts have changed. Its because more and more Democratic leaders are standing up. Leadership matters.
Also, the Democratic party should probably pay a little bit more attention to their own base on this. 76% of Democrats favor impeachment! And a whole bunch of college-educated white people, many of whom used to vote Republican, are also on board. This is not a static opinion.
I don't know if the leadership has some grand plan to wait for support to rise before they impeach. But Pelosi insists that she wants to know in advance that the Senate would convict, which means she doesn't care if 100% of Democrats and Independents back impeachment, Republicans must be there too. Maybe she'll change her mind. I hope so.
Here's a little reminder of how this unfolded in Watergate:
The televised Watergate hearings that began in May 1973, chaired by Senator Samuel Ervin, commanded a large national audience — 71% told Gallup they watched the hearings live. And as many as 21% reported watching 10 hours or more of the Ervin proceedings. Not too surprisingly, Nixon’s popularity took a severe hit. His ratings fell as low as 31%, in Gallup’s early August survey.
The public had changed its view of the scandal. A 53% majority came to the view that Watergate was a serious matter, not just politics, up from 31% who believed that before the hearings. Indeed, an overwhelming percentage of the public (71%) had come to see Nixon as culpable in the wrongdoing, at least to some extent. About four-in-ten (37%) thought he found out about the bugging and tried to cover it up; 29% went further in saying that he knew about the bugging beforehand, but did not plan it; and 8% went all the way, saying he planned it from beginning to end. Only 15% of Americans thought that the president had no prior knowledge and spoke up as soon as he learned of it.
Yet, despite the increasingly negative views of Nixon at that time, most Americans continued to reject the notion that Nixon should leave office, according to Gallup. Just 26% thought he should be impeached and forced to resign, while 61% did not.
A lot of key scandal events were to follow that year and into 1974, but public opinion about Watergate was slow to change further, despite the high drama of what was taking place. For example, October 1973 was a crucial month as the courts ruled that the president had to turn over his taped conversations to special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and subsequently Nixon ordered for the dismissal of Cox in what came to be known as the Saturday Night Massacre. The public reacted, but in a measured way. In November, Gallup showed the percentage of Americans thinking that the president should leave office jumping from 19% in June to 38%, but still, 51% did not support impeachment and an end to Nixon’s presidency.
In the spring of 1974, despite the indictment of top former White House aides, and Nixon’s release of what were seen as “heavily edited” transcripts of tapes of his aides plotting to get White House enemies, the public was still divided over what to do about the president. For example, by June, 44% in the Gallup Poll thought he should be removed from office, while 41% disagreed.
Only in early August, following the House Judiciary Committee’s recommendation in July that Nixon be impeached and the Supreme Court’s decision that he surrender his audio tapes, did a clear majority – 57% – come to the view that the president should be removed from office.
Yes, I know this isn't Watergate. It's worse. Trump is a monumentally corrupt, criminal ignoramus who had no business ever even coming close to being the leader of the powerful nation on earth and wouldn't have except for the total collapse of the Republican Party. He welcomed Russian government help to win election and has cozied up to every strongman on the planet while blowing up the entire world order, particularly the relationship with our closest allies, because he's too fucking stupid to understand foreign relations and trade policy. Nixon was malevolent and psychologically damaged, but he wasn't stupid and he wasn't a traitor.
As I said, I don't know if Pelosi and company have a grand plan. But if they believe what they are saying, which is that you can't impeach Trump because Republicans won't convict him, then I think they are playing with fire.
Trump may survive impeachment through the partisan solidarity of Republican Senators who are happy to show themselves to be shameless toadies to their 40% president. He will say he ""won." But if they fail to impeach him in the House, he will run by saying that it was Democrats who exonerated him. After all, if they really thought he was guilty they would have done it, right?
Trump will run as the strongman who all alone defeated the Democratic House with his gigantic bare hands.
I don't think this is a decision that should be made on political terms. But if it is, it seems to me that the Democrats have the political argument all wrong. They actually have a better chance of winning in the long run by forcing the Republican Senate toadies to save him.