It's pretty common to hear the opposition party stating they are 110% sure the president will get impeached. Trump will get impeached. Obama should have gotten impeached. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon (oh wait, he actually was). Unfortunately, impeaching Trump would just give us Pence, Obama would have given us Biden, and Bush would have given us another Republican president. Impeaching a sitting president still results in having a president from the same party.

If the end result of impeachment is a president from the same party, what is the point of arguing for impeachment? During this presidency, you'd still get a republican president (who is arguably better equipped to implement a conservative agenda) and would still have a republican congress. What is the point of arguing so hard to impeach the sitting president?

closed as primarily opinion-based by K-C, user11249, Drunk Cynic, user9389, Avi May 16 '17 at 22:12

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    You are asking for the plans of 50 years of politicking. And I'm not sure there have been many serious attempts. – user9389 May 16 '17 at 19:40
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    @notstoreboughtdirt I'm not really asking about serious attempts -- I'm asking about the less than serious attempts still pushed elected officials. See this handy Wikipedia article that shows every president since Reagan has had an impeachment campaign. I'm really asking, what is the net benefit of pushing such an agenda? Even if a sitting president were impeached, it's not like the opposition party would suddenly be put in power. – Sidney May 16 '17 at 20:20
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    It's like asking why people believe their football team's opponents will be slaughtered next Sunday. – user1530 May 16 '17 at 21:59
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    Nixon was not impeached - he resigned first. Clinton was impeached, but not convicted. WRT to the current President, it's not entirely a partisan issue, tellingly illustrated by a comment by an unnamed GOP House aide: "Gross incompetence is not an impeachable offense" (Quoted in CNN article: cnn.com/2017/05/16/politics/trump-james-comey-memo ) – jamesqf May 17 '17 at 6:21
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    Is sore loser-ship not a reasonable enough assumption? People are petty and can't seem to reconcile with the fact that perfectly normal and intelligent people think entirely different than they do. – 2578 Jun 8 '17 at 23:04

Nixon (oh wait, he actually was)

Richard Nixon wasn't impeached; he resigned. Bill Clinton actually was impeached, although not removed from office.

But this shows part of the issue. Nixon resigned and replaced with Gerald Ford, who then had less moral authority in dealing with Congress. That was somewhat relevant at the time because the Democrats controlled Congress (both House and Senate). Ford ran for election, but couldn't rally support behind himself. Consider what could have happened if Nixon had completed a normal second term. Someone like Ronald Reagan could have run to succeed him. Rather than running against an incumbent, Reagan would have had an open field. Reagan almost beat Ford as it was.

Another part of the issue is that they're trapped in their own rhetoric. If you argue that your opponent is of low moral character and does things that are illegal, then you have to argue for impeachment. If you don't suggest it, then someone else will. You have to agree, because otherwise you just sound silly. Such-and-such is really horrible, the worst ever, but not quite bad enough to impeach. See? Silly.

Finally, sometimes it does matter. If George W. Bush and Dick Cheney had been impeached in 2007, then Nancy Pelosi would have been president. In most modern administrations, the vice-president would be entangled in any actual wrongdoing, like use of torture.

If Nixon had been impeached after the resignation of Agnew, Carl Albert would have been president. They let Ford become vice-president as part of a compromise to remove Nixon.

If Obama had been impeached and Biden had become president, Republicans might have been able to accomplish more. For example, there was a rumor of a grand deficit-reduction bargain between Biden and Republicans that came to naught when Obama rejected it.

Wikipedia says:

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who, prior to the election, had been reassured by private polling that Clinton's scandal would result in the Republican Party gaining as many as thirty House seats.

The expectation at that time was that even a failed impeachment of Bill Clinton would improve the Republicans' position in the House and Senate. And in that case, the Republicans would almost certainly have been able win the presidency in 2000 (as they did anyway) and keep or even increase those gains. The reality was that they lost seats.

Something similar had happened previously. Democrats won the presidency in 1976 after the Nixon resignation, but then lost the next three presidential elections. Impeachment cut both ways. Nixon supporters weren't enthusiastic about Ford, but Jimmy Carter never built the support that he would need for reelection.

If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, Republicans would be in great shape now. They could be looking forward to winning around nine Senate seats in the 2018 election. They could hardly improve their gubernatorial holdings, but they probably would have kept them. They would be the ones talking about the president's shady dealings with Russia and pouncing on her every misstep (possibly including her firing of James Comey). But they won and got Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court and repealed a bunch of regulations.

Given Trump's popularity (or lack thereof), impeachment might actually help Republicans. Or perhaps the outrage would hold until 2020, as happened with Nixon. We don't have a lot of examples from which to extrapolate.

Politicians may believe that impeachment talk helps them more than it actually does. It rallies the base and brings in contributions. But it also rallies one's opponents and brings in their contributions. The thing is that most politicians can see the effect on themselves more directly than that on their opponents. Or to put this another way, most politicians are near-sighted idiots. They see the gains without counting the costs.

  1. Your biggest mistake is assuming people are motivated by rational reason and not emotions.

    Modern cognitive psychology disputes that assumption, greatly. Especially when it comes to core tribal identity issues, which include (or are led by) politics.

  2. As you said in the comments, it's not always a serious push.

    Often enough it is about what's know as "signaling" (expressing your {dis}approval of something via the most visible or striking way possible). That can be intrinsic (a need to express strong feelings/opinion) or extrinsic (signaling other members of one's tribe that you share those feelings/opinion).

    As such, the benefit is NOT directly to force out a president; but instead to (one or more of these)

    • Help oneself feel better

    • Bond with people sharing your views - which actually has a political benefit.

    • Provide distraction to opponents (someone on the other side will now spend time arguing against impeachment instead of doing something more politically productive)

  3. There's politically tactical benefit.

    Impeachment is usually preceded by investigation. If you're lucky, the party in power will either

    a. get tangled in investigation and be distracted

    b. starts to cover up something more innocuous and get caught in - and punished for - the coverup (Nixon had that happen to him). Remember, it's not the transgression; it's the cover-up.

    c. Investigation will reveal some other weakness/transgression/line of attack. This is a typical fishing expedition done by lawyers during discovery process, and is just as effective in political investigations - IIRC, the whole Lewinsky thing came out of prior investigation of Clintons (whitewater one).

  4. In the unlikely event the impeachment succeeds, the President's party will likely suffer electoral dispopularity, as it will be associated with whatever bad thing the President got impeached for in the mind of voters, especially independents.


Parties and, more importantly, their supporters and/or pundits, will pretty much say anything.

The Republicans were in control of the House for much of Obama's presidency. There was nothing stopping them from initiating impeachment proceedings (lack of actual substance does not stop one from going through the process). They did not.

The same is true for the Democrats and Bush. In fact, Pelosi famously said, immediately upon the Democrats getting elected to the majority, before the new session even started, that impeachment was "off the table."

NY Times: Pelosi Says Bush Impeachment "Off The Table"

I don't think any of that actually qualifies as any kind of "push so hard." Neither party has done anything when they've had ample opportunity. Bluster to gin up outrage and contributions? Sure. An actual push for action? Not so much.

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