One theory of impeachment

Steve has ably set forth four theories as to why House Democrats have decided now to impeach President Trump. Here’s another, more pedestrian theory:

House Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi hate Trump and would like to see him impeached. Pelosi held off until now because she thought impeachment was a political loser. However, the pressure on her to give in was mounting, and Trump’s Ukraine phone call made her think that (1) she would have great difficulty keeping the lid on the caucus and (2) the politics of impeachment might no longer be adverse.

Why did Pelosi conclude that the politics of impeachment might no longer be adverse? For two reasons, I suspect. First, the scandal (if it’s fair to call this matter that) is easy to describe in understandable terms: Trump used the power of the presidency to pressure another country (and one in distress) to investigate a political enemy. That’s pretty simple and it sounds pretty bad.

Second, Pelosi probably saw polls that show considerable support for impeaching Trump. Indeed, early polling suggested that a plurality of Americans favor impeachment.

However, Pelosi might have misread the politics of impeachment. The media pushed the Ukraine matter hard. Its early coverage might well have influenced the initial polling. The pro-Trump forces have only just started to fight back.

It may also be worth noting that when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, President Clinton apparently had Dick Morris take a poll on how the public would feel about Clinton having sex with an intern and concealing this fact at a deposition. Morris reported that people would forgive the sex but not the lying. Clinton responded, “Well, we just have to win; don’t we?” In other words, we have to keep denying the sex.

Yet public sentiment on impeachment moved in favor of Clinton, even after his denial of having sex with “that woman” fell apart. Neither the sex nor the lying was enough to get the public behind impeachment.

I don’t put much stock in early polling about impeachment.

A final consideration for Pelosi might have been the desire to get out in front of the impeachment movement, the better to control it. And control it, she does. Pelosi has insisted that impeachment proceedings be confined to Ukraine and that Adam Schiff, whom she trusts, lead the proceedings instead of Jerry Nadler, whom she doesn’t. In addition, Pelosi has set a goal of getting impeachment done by the end of the year.

None of this means that Pelosi made the right call, even given the pressure she faced to make it. As Trump likes to say, we’ll see what happens.

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