By attempting to impeach Trump, Democrats will accomplish either of two things.

  1. They will succeed in removing him from office. Mike Pence takes over. A career politician, well liked by conservatives, and somebody who will take on the 2020 elections with confidence. At this point, one must wonder whether facing Trump in the 2020 elections is the better choice than facing Pence...
  2. They will fail in impeaching him, thus serving Trump yet another victory, and possibly giving him a boost for the 2020 elections.

It's a lose-lose situation, it seems.

So what is there to gain politically for the Democrats here?

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    Impeachment does not result in removal from office, it merely begins a trial within the Senate. To remove from office, the Senate must convict the Impeachment trial with a 2/3rd vote. I am in the dark about what democrats are aiming to gain, but an important piece of this puzzle is that it seems unlikely that the Senate will convict if Trump is indeed impeached. Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 18:42
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    This question looks at a very cynical, but very real aspect of US partisan politics. I think it deserves up-votes, not down. Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 19:05
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    @Skoddie technically yes but in practice impeachment is colloquially referred to as the actual removal from office. Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 19:48
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    @Andrew - I have to disagree, since, if you argue it's primarily about law and duty to oaths of office, then you can't really explain Pelosi basically saying "the elections can take care of it" after the Mueller report and testimony. Political calculus has been the dominating factor in her strategy up until now. This question asks how the change in posture fits within that framework. Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 20:41
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    @Andrew - Isn't that the exact angle that OP takes in framing the question, that you take issue with, though? "It's politics, it's a numbers game... so why the difference?" It seems like you basically have an answer to the exact question that you've laid out in your response to my defense of the question. In any case, I won't belabor it any more. Good points, and enjoyable discussion. Thanks. Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 21:38

15 Answers 15


"What is accomplished" depends on whether you look at impeachment as a process that is strictly evaluated on partisan political gain, or whether you view it under its intended framework - as a tool for a co-equal branch of government to rein in potential abuses by the Executive Branch.

If the President has committed abuses of the powers of office, removing him upholds the oath of office and duty to the Constitution that every Congressional member swore when taking office. It reins in, punishes and discourages future abuses of office.

Whether that helps them or not in the next election should be secondary considerations for public servants who pretend to be statesmen/women. Sadly, it isn't, but that is how it is supposed to be, so questioning the value is to question the fundamental design of our democratic institution of divided, co-equal branches of government checking and balancing each other.

At the very least, if you think the party leadership is only interested in selfish, short-term gain, then consider the backlash among the voters who want their government to serve them, if they sit back and do nothing in response to a growing pile of abuses, because "it will help us win the next election." Voter enthusiasm for one's party is what drives turnout. If you are viewed as intentionally enabling the "evildoers," you lose the ability to be seen as an alternative in the eyes of the voters - you're just a different aspect of the problem. It may be that Pelosi feels she has no choice but to act.

Or, as pointed out in discussion at the original question, if there is the recognition of a major political component to the impeachment process, the delay could be the by-product of waiting until conditions were better for successful action - a critical mass of evidence combined with a critical mass of public sentiment. In which case the political calculation serves the higher ideals of duty to democratic principles. {thanks given to Andrew for laying a lot of this out}.

  • 8
    But by this logic, why didn't Pelosi start the process after the Mueller investigation revealed all the wrongdoings of the president? Were where your tales about "upholding the oath of the office" then?
    – grego
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 18:57
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    @grego - There's nothing in my post that states Pelosi is only driven by virtue and commitment to service. She held off for the very partisan political reasons you stated, until she felt she couldn't any more. I just happened to be adding a paragraph to address that aspect as you were commenting - a fortunate coincidence. Indeed, to my mind, it is unforgivable that she actively ran interference for the President as long as she has. My Congressman will know that, if the Dems keep the House, I expect him to not support her for Speaker going forward (I'm registered Independent, myself). Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 19:01
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    @grego there is a really interesting BBC article about why the Ukraine issue is different to the Mueller investigation.
    – Jontia
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 19:13
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    If any documents arise implicating any of the president's cabinet as a part of the investigation, presumably they wouldn't be eligible for office either.
    – Erin B
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 20:43
  • @grego I think it is fair to say that Pelosi held off as long as possible here. This Ukraine incident put tremendous pressure on her caucus to the point that she had to relent. Democratic voters simply wanted to see impeachment proceedings, pointless as they may be from a realpolitik point of view. Her reticence has been deepening a growing divide within her own party. This should be taken into consideration when evaluating this decision. I think this was a concession that Pelosi was clearly trying to step around for the reasons alluded to in the question. Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 23:14

I believe there is an option 3: impeachment proceedings force senators to go on the book about whether or not they believe the actions of the president are worthy of removal from office or not. This provides ammunition for upcoming elections in 2020 where vulnerable seats, e.g. Susan Collins, can be targeted based upon how they vote.

Having a hard vote on whether or not the behavior is acceptable for the office of the president will be important ammunition in the upcoming elections. As the Democrats found out in the waning Obama years, control of The Senate is crucial to actually getting legislature passed. Since gaining control the Senate Majority Leader has routinely refused to present for vote anything that does not have majority support from the Senate Republicans, which includes much of the Democrats' legislative agenda.

In short, the goal of the impeachment proceedings is most likely to gain a majority in The Senate.


There are two levels on which to consider the question:

On the partisan level, it is not at all clear that an impeachment process will benefit the Republicans (despite Trump's claims). Each Republican senator will be forced to either vote against Trump or go on record voting to support someone being accused of soliciting foreign powers to attack his campaign opponents. That will be used against them in future elections.

On the historic level, each president helps to set the standard of behavior for future presidents. If you let Trump's actions go without punishing them, then you are giving a green light to future presidents to do the same thing. If you want to send a message that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, then you have to punish Trump (or try to) to set an example.

And about Mike Pence, maybe he will help the GOP in office or maybe not. He is close enough to Trump to be politically damaged by the process. He is certainly a more conventional Republican than Trump, but that's no guarantee he would win at the top of the ticket.


Arguments very much like as yours could have been brought against impeaching Clinton.

  1. His VP, Al Gore, a career politician, well-liked by Democrats, would have taken over. (Does it even matter what the name of the VP is in this argument, actually?)
  2. They fail to impeach Clinton and give his party/VP a boost for the next elections. (Only because Clinton couldn't run.) [Counterfactual.]

So this is arguing that impeachment is always useless, basically. In reality the halo effect makes arguments like this highly doubtful.

  • A successful impeachment (or equivalently a resignation under impeachment) would be a huge PR win for the opposition. Look what happened with Nixon and the Republicans in the immediate aftermath (Ford lost to Carter).

  • Even a failed impeachment is not without some advantages. It monopolizes the public attention on (presumably) the worst aspects of the other side of the political divide. It also mobilizes their own base to the polls. Gore lost to Bush, even though Clinton rode pretty high in the opinion polls, especially during the impeachment itself. Nevertheless Gore felt that Clinton was too damaged politically, and so didn't campaign on Clinton's coattails.

Of course, there are other issues at stake in subsequent elections. But one can easily "prove" that impeaching a president wins the next presidential election for the opposition with simplistic arguments of the kind you've made.

And to address a subsequent comment, which can be summarized as "why now?": in case you didn't realize, they aren't actually impeaching Trump. I mean, this is CNN saying:

So in the end, what's changed? Not a whole lot, other than Pelosi formally endorsing an impeachment inquiry. But for the past couple months, the House Judiciary Committee has made the case that it was already conducting an impeachment inquiry with the goal of deciding whether to vote on articles of impeachment. There will not be a separate vote to open up an impeachment inquiry, Democrats say. Pelosi would not give a timeframe over this process but she told her colleagues it would be done "expeditiously," and Nadler has hoped to conclude it by the end of the year.

I suspect that dragging the investigation(s) is beneficial for the Democrats. They can either say closer to the election "look we're just dropping it, because there's not enough time to finish the process, let the electorate decide". Alternatively, they could find enough dirt with all the subpoenas to really damage him in the public eye, even if not convince enough Republican Senators.

Basically it's about conveying the message they are taking (concrete?) steps:

“He’s taken it to another level of betrayal, therefore we’re moving forward with another level of inquiry," Pelosi said.

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    "Does it even matter what the name of the VP is in this argument, actually?". No, but the point being made is that even if the impeachment succeeds, there is no choice who will replace Trump. We already know who that is (i.e Pence).
    – MSalters
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 13:41
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    While a successful impeachment can be a powerful tool (Nixon), it can also be damaging to the accusers. During Clinton's process, voters increasingly lost faith in Republicans - the following midterms delivered historic losses to the GOP in the house. Gingrich stepped down not only as Speaker, but as a congressman, and hasn't served political office since then. This answer might show Democrat's hopes, but it seems worth noting that so far half of successful impeachments have been catastrophic for the victors - it is still a massive gamble.
    – Knetic
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 14:18
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    @Knetic A "successful impeachment" of a president has never occurred in history, so we don't even know what that would look like. Nixon was never impeached. He resigned voluntarily before they could start the actual hearings. (It's quite likely that he would have been impeached had he not stepped down, but we'll never know for sure because that's not what happened.) Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 14:23
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    A fair point, we can substitute "successful impeachment" with "successful votes to engage the articles of impeachment" and the point remains the same - it has so far been disastrous to the opposition in one of the two cases it was used.
    – Knetic
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 14:31

The American system of government is based on the concept that each branch of government helps keep the other two from arrogating absolute power. Over the course of the past several administrations we've moved ever closer to an imperial presidency --one where the executive branch (the president) can do entirely as [he] pleases, with immunity from criminal prosecution, and with the ability to issue executive orders with the effective force of law. While Trump didn't start that trend, he's greatly accelerated it, by testing every possible boundary, and by his open contempt of Congress and the courts.

Voting Trump out of office doesn't change the growing power imbalance between the branches of government. If anything, it normalizes it. One of the most important ways to officially establish that Trump's actions are out-of-bounds is impeachment. It's important to recognize that the framers of our government recognized the overwhelming likelihood of this exact situation someday materializing, and that this is the remedy they outlined for it.

Is there political value in this for the Democrats? Not if their end goal is to take over and establish their own dictatorship. In that case, their best bet is to wait for the election, take power, and then just complete the process Trump accelerated. But if they want to preserve the American system of government as they inherited it, impeachment is a necessary (but probably not sufficient) step. As was noted over two thousand years ago by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, democracies have a strong tendency to degenerate into dictatorships. The American system has failsafes built into it to prevent that, but they only work if we use them.


One thing I don't see other answers bring up is that an impeachment investigation itself can uncover or provoke more damaging information or actions from the president.

For example, the Watergate investigation caused the Saturday Night Massacre, which is itself a blatant example of obstruction of justice. It also lead to the reveal of the Nixon tapes, which contained plenty of politically damaging information as well.

In the case of Clinton the Whitewater investigation eventually went far afield and got Clinton to testify in front of Congress about Monika Lewinsky with prosecutors like Starr and Kavanaugh formulating salacious questions either to force perjury or politically damaging truths out of Clinton. It's not clear how successful this was in the end, since the Clinton impeachment didn't have a conviction following it and the Republicans seemed to have suffered in the 98 midterms, but politically it can't be said that impeachment was 100% the wrong move for the Republicans, at worst it provoked Gore into distancing himself from Clinton and probably damaging his campaign in 2000.


They maintain party unity.

The left wing of the Democratic party has been calling for impeachment for a long time. The more evidence there is against Trump, the stronger their calls become, until the party leadership starts to face a serious risk of fracturing the party by resisting, which would be a disaster this close to the 2020 elections.


Surprisingly little. Impeachment isn't meant to be a partisan tool, it is a constitutional mandate for the checks-and-balances of our government to work properly. The Speaker is duty-bound by her oath of office to bring impeachment hearings when the President has committed actions unbecoming of his office.

The reason why she has avoided beginning impeachment up to this point, though? That part is intensely partisan. As the de-facto leader of the Democrats in the House, part of her job is to make sure the Democrats have a majority to be able to push through their agendas. Impeachment is severely unpopular with the American people, and has a strong history of causing the party of the President being impeached to actually gain in power. So by fulfilling her sworn duty as Speaker, she's failing in her duty of preserving Democrat supremacy in the House.

TL;DR? It's a bunch of slimy politicians being forced to do what's right instead of what's advantageous.

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    There is a really interesting article bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-49819351 about the differences. But a key point has to be the Ukraine issue now pushing the process will come down to the transcript of one phone call that is available without any hint of innapropriate fishing. It will be a simple situation to discuss and present to the public. Not a complicated legal issue or hints of hints or hearsay testimony.
    – Jontia
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 19:20
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    This answer does suffer a bit from "survivor bias"; impeachment has a bad track record because the obvious case (Nixon) never made it to the Senate. IOW, impeachment works best when it's used as a threat.
    – MSalters
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 13:45
  • @MSalters Unfortunately, the only other modern example we have (Clinton) is much less clear-cut in regards to its political fallout. Clinton left with super-high approval ratings, Gore chose not to campaign with Clinton, Gore (barely) lost.
    – Carduus
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 14:35

Your two listed options are far from the only possibilities, nor are the implications as obvious as you seem to think:

  1. They will succeed in removing him from office.

This requires either Trump resigning (unlikely), or the House approving articles of impeachment, and the Senate voting (by super majority) to remove Trump from office.

Note this means that a number of GOP senators would have voted to remove, which (depending on their district), could either hurt them or help them in their own re-election campaigns.

Mike Pence takes over. A career politician, well liked by conservatives, and somebody who will take on the 2020 elections with confidence. At this point, one must wonder whether facing Trump in the 2020 elections is the better choice than facing Pence...

Mike Pence is not well liked by conservatives, even in his home state. See this July 2016 article: Trump flirts with unpopular Pence. As VP, he's mostly stayed behind the scenes, but its clear even now that he doesn't have the same intensity of support that Trump does.

It is not at all clear what Pence's chances would be in a general election, but I have a hard time thinking he'd garner a lot of enthusiasm.

  1. They will fail in impeaching him,

This could occur in a host of different ways:

  • House does not vote for articles of impeachment
  • The House impeaches, but the Senate acquits
  • The House impeaches, but the Senate delays or refuses entirely to hold a trial for removal

thus serving Trump yet another victory, and possibly giving him a boost for the 2020 elections.

If Trump is acquitted in the Senate, then yes, one possibility is that it boosts his changes in the election. In fact, that's why Pelosi has been hesitant (so far) to move in this direction.

But that's not the only thing that could happen:

  • The facts exposed in the trial could tank Trump's support, despite him not being removed, resulting in a landslide loss
  • The trial could keep the focus on Trump's corruption throughout the election season, resulting in his narrow defeat

Other options exist as well. Heck, Trump could go off the deep end entirely after being impeached, resulting in his removal via the 25th Amendment.

Nobody knows how it might play out, but the conventional wisdom that an impeachment will necessarily backfire on the impeaching party isn't necessarily true:

See Democrats Learned the Wrong Lesson From Clinton’s Impeachment

  • "the conventional wisdom that an impeachment will necessarily backfire on the impeaching party isn't necessarily true" .... Looking at the two "modern" impeachment inquiries suggests that the underlying matter may be crucial to both the immediate and historical results of an impeachment inquiry. In the case of Nixon, public and political (Republican) sentiment supported him as long as he maintained culpable deniability of the break-in, an offense and abuse of Executive Power no one considered petty. In Clinton's case the underlying matter was considered by many to be personal. Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 23:00
  • @RichardStruss I agree that the underlying matter is crucial, but your analysis assumes that Clinton's impeachment was a net "loss" for the Republicans, which is what the linked article attempts to dispute.
    – BradC
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 13:31

By attempting to impeach Trump, Democrats will accomplish either of two things.

They will succeed in removing him from office. Mike Pence takes over. A career politician, well liked by conservatives, and somebody who will take on the 2020 elections with confidence. At this point, one must wonder whether facing Trump in the 2020 elections is the better choice than facing Pence...

They will fail in impeaching him, thus serving Trump yet another victory, and possibly giving him a boost for the 2020 elections. It's a lose-lose situation, it seems.

So what is there to gain politically for the Democrats here?

There are three problems with your question that I believe is limiting your ability to grasp the goals of the various components of the various members of the national Democratic party.

The first is that you are viewing this as a straight gamble or bet where the payoffs map one-to-one with the strategy employed. To give a more financial example, a chance to win $50 if you are homeless is a profoundly different thing than if Bill Gates or Warren Buffett are given a chance to win $50. Equal payoff do not mean the same thing to two different people.

To give a political example, Max Baucus of Montana largely built and pushed Obamacare through Congress even though there was a preposterously high probability it would end his political career. It did. The payoff to Baucus was in tens of millions of lives improved. If you enter public service to improve the world and you finally get the chance to make a difference, even if it ends your career in service, many many people would do it.

Members of Congress are required to take an oath to support the Constitution. Some members have done so in combat. There is currently one presidential candidate who has been recalled to active duty. For some members of Congress, they are as willing to lose their jobs as to lose their lives to protect the country. If impeachment destroys them, so be it. The nation must be governed in such a manner that the Constitution is defended.

The second problem is short term versus long term thinking. You are framing it in terms of the 2020 election. Any career politician will tell you that a career is much longer than the next election. Careers do not end with a loss in an election. Democracy has to survive for elections to happen. Republicans have been up to a lot of shenanigans since the 2000 election.

It started almost by accident. Most elections are won by a very small number of votes. In Ohio, Republicans radically reduced the number of voting machines in the 2000 election in democratic precincts. There were lines to vote that ran until 3 am. Many people just walked away. Actually, thousands walked away. Al Gore lost the US election by one vote per precinct in Ohio. People focus on Florida but that was not the interesting case. Since then it has been obvious that Republicans have been attempting to restrict the vote everywhere they can.

That is pragmatic. Prior to Trump, the Republican party was dying off. The crisis was how to get new members when fewer and fewer people were registering Republican. The number of Democrats in the U.S. as a percentage of voters remained unchanged, but the number of Republicans fell dramatically. It wasn't that they were becoming independents. It was that they were graying, balding and then dying.

If Democrats impeach Trump and lose the 2020 election to Bill Weld, who among current Republican candidates for President is the most likely to carry broad support and pick up Democratic votes, they will have picked up the 2022 election as the next battleground.

To someone like Mitt Romney or Nikki Haley who could also win in 2020, the goal isn't the next election. The goal is to win it all or stay in forever. It does mean you want to win in 2020, but Lincoln lost his congressional seat and then came back to win the Presidency.

The third issue with your post is the role of Mike Pence. Pence may be a good candidate in 2024 but he is a terrible candidate for 2020.

Once impeachment starts, it won't be a question of whether the courts let the Congress have free reign on data. It will happen. The President cannot interfere with having free access to everything in an impeachment case. His tax returns will be handed over. His phone records will be handed over. The Attorney General will likely be impeached and there is a reasonable chance Rudy Giuliani will find himself under criminal investigation. Every embarrassing phone call and bad decision will be on television.

My earliest memory is breaking a window when I was 2 years old. My second memory is men landing on the moon. The third memory is Nixon's impeachment hearings. They bored me to no end but the adults kept watching them.

Republican members of Congress have had to be careful because Fox has been censoring the news. I do not say that as an accusation. I assigned 20 people to watch Fox, Rachel Maddow and PBS New Hour. While I can give you a whole boatload of reasons Maddow is irritating to viewers when required to watch her for hours and hours, one thing you can see is what isn't being said on Fox.

If every broadcast and cable news channel is broadcasting the hearings and Fox is selectively doing so, then Fox viewers will go elsewhere. That will change the dynamics for Republican elected officials.

Based on what is currently in the public record, Pence is a bad 2020 candidate. He is a good 2024 candidate but a bad 2020 candidate. He also was a middling politician anyway. He was always more of a John Delaney level candidate than an Elizabeth Warren level candidate to have a democratic comparison. He is pretty good but not great.

If I were a democratic candidate running for office and I had a choice of running against Mike Pence or Nikki Haley, I would choose Pence any day. Haley could win and would bring enough democrats over to shake the party. Pence would galvanize opposition.

Pence was likely betrayed early in the transition by those that really understood what was going on. He made decisions though and those decisions are going to look to Republicans as well as Democrats like really bad ones. He can claim ignorance up to a point. He would have to claim that he was the Vice President but completely left in the dark. If that is true, then he has no positive experience related to his role as Vice President except to be made a fool of. If it is isn't true, then he will be vilified.

In 2024, if Weld or Haley do not end up as President, Pence could win. Pence could go to Trump's base and say "Trump is a bad person but his goals were still good. He couldn't pull it off because he was so limited but I can."

Trump would cripple Pence the same way Clinton crippled Gore.

Finally, Trump has a strong interest in running for the presidency in the 2020 election even if he is impeached and even if he is not nominated.

Based on the contents of the Mueller report, he needs the statute of limitations to run out on him. It is unlikely that he would be prosecuted while a candidate. It would split the Republican ticket and Democrats would win in a landslide.

With all of that said, both of us have ignored one thing. If the House runs this slowly and carefully the news services are going to go bonkers. They will get ahead of the story just to have something to report. They will dig just to say they got it before the House did. They may start looking closely at senior Republicans in a way that is not normally done. For example, they may look at that Russian owned factory suddenly announced in Kentucky. They have touched it a little but they haven't spent two hours a night on it.

This has the potential to be like influenza. It could spread from Trump to key Republicans. If I were Fox News, or rather if I were Roger Ailes ghost, I would have started the process of immunizing the Republicans that I liked. I would give the non-commentary news branch free rein to report readily confirmed facts. It would give them an air of authority because they wouldn't be reporting speculation. I would begin preparing the base for a shock because of the things they have previously not heard about Trump.

I would try and make my base feel good about themselves in the commentary section. I would talk about the nobleness of pursuing ideals even with flawed instruments like David King of Israel. I would talk about the risks using those flawed instruments bring and how it has gone bad in the past. We picked up the dice, we gambled, it went badly. He was just too flawed. It is sad. Let us find a good replacement here on Fox.


I'm not sure "what's good for the Party" is the proper level of analysis. I'd suggest instead: "what's good for their particular politicians".

Democrats were basing their rhetoric that Trump is pure evil, thus face a conundrum:

  • either they admit that maybe he is terribly unethical, but technically speaking this time mostly innocent - then they lose credibility in front of voters and face a backslash within their own party (dangerous for their careers). They were pushing "Russian collusion" story a bit too long, so some hardline voters may expect impeachment anyway.

  • or they push the impeachment process and claim a moral victory

Moreover, on the far left the situation is effectively a win-win:

  • either some of moderates could be sidelined because of lack of zeal in disciplining Trump, or:
  • they may have the whole Ukraine issue investigated, which is a guaranteed success for them, regardless of conclusion:
    • Trump abused power concerning investigation of Biden's family business and finally they have a smoking gun, or
    • Trump was right concerning Biden's family business, so while chasing Trump they just "accidentally" purged some moderate from their own ranks
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 16:49
  • I'm not American, but I find it hard to believe that the entire Democratic platform is "Trump is bad." That's about as believable as that the entire Republican platform is "AOC is bad" or "Nancy Pelosi is bad." (Chat room was deleted) Commented Nov 19, 2019 at 10:17

I tend to agree with professionals who anticipate that 2020 will be decided by whose base turns out, not by swaying a small pool of swing voters. The Trump base, fed on Fox News and InfoWars, is already pretty enthusiastic. Leaving the legal merits aside, impeachment became imperative for Democrats once it was obvious that watching Trump and Rudy slime the Bidens with impunity was demoralizing their base. Secondarily, leaving the repudiation of Trump to the 2020 electorate becomes more risky, rather than less, when we see that Trump will ask foreign governments to cripple his eventual opponent—no reason to think Biden is unique.

Mike Pence takes over. A career politician, well liked by conservatives, and somebody who will take on the 2020 elections with confidence.

Facing Pence instead of Trump has its good and bad parts. Yes, he's more conventional. But he doesn't have Trump's knack for connecting with the white working class over shared resentments. I don't know of any polling to suggest he would bring back the sliver of Never Trump conservatives in larger numbers than he would lose Trump voters who found his audacity, his unfettered id, if you will, to be his most attractive point.


The successful impeachment of Nixon was followed by Carter's victory in 1976. So history shows that it might benefit them.

However, to gain such a benefit, they would need to find a level of misconduct similar to what they found with Nixon. Whether that will happen is an open question.

  • 1
    Nixon was not impeached; he resigned before articles of impeachment were voted. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 15:00

The point of impeaching Trump is to remove from office and punish a president who has committed impeachable offenses, implementing a check on the executive branch by the legislative branch, as specified by the constitution. The choice of when to initiate the process is based on expectation of outcome. Success depends on having the quantity and quality of evidence to support impeachment, and the required house and senate votes, so the process couldn't have even started until the Democrats won back majority in the house. Given the need for a 2/3 vote in the senate, there must be some expectation that the there will be sufficient incontrovertible evidence accepted by enough Republican senators to attain an impeachment. To start the process and fail would be counterproductive as it would leave him in office, likely handing him a second term further emboldening him, certainly failing to be the check it was designed to be.

  • It was always going to be extremely unlikely for 20 Republican senators to break ranks and vote to convict. Removal from office was a huge longshot before the trial even began, so there must be other purposes for the impeachment besides removal. There was never any expectation that enough Republicans would vote for removal. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 15:50
  • @NuclearWang If nothing else, it's on the record that Trump has been up to no good, those seeking to prosecute him for it will be on the right side of history, those seeking to protect him or turn a blind eye will be on the wrong side. It would likely lead to the ouster of some Republicans in November, and just as likely secure the seats of others... the question is how many of each, and how the composition of Congress will end up. It's entirely possible that the Democrats will get a second and successful kick at a Trump impeachment.
    – Anthony X
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 23:42

Like the most downvoted answer here I would suggest that the single biggest reason to raise the impeachment concept in relation to the Zelensky call is to reframe the narratives around what is very likely something very damaging to the Democratic party.

The transcripts have been released and one can easily understand that this was a high level call where the President directly asks for assistance with an investigation into CrowdStrike, Ukrainian mafia, and their connection with those in the US .

The CIA agent close to this connection is obviously feeling threatened and by blowing the whistle is hoping that either the secret contents of the transcript would be declassified or that the opposition party would take this opportunity to reframe the clearly approaching new narratives. Those involved in the CrowdStrike situation obviously did not anticipate Zelensky's leftfield entry to power.

To add weight to the above argument, and for posterity, I will quote Skoddie's comment above:

"Impeachment does not result in removal from office, it merely begins a trial within the Senate. To remove from office, the Senate must convict the Impeachment trial with a 2/3rd vote. I am in the dark about what democrats are aiming to gain, but an important piece of this puzzle is that it seems unlikely that the Senate will convict if Trump is indeed impeached"

Further, as a commenter noted below, the transcript comes with a caveat. The commenter noted the following:

A memo of the transcript has been published. With "CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion." at the top

The interesting thing is that the latest news at the time of this edit (27.9.2019) is suddenly (and in oddly coordinated fashion) claiming that the transcript is 'merely a memo' or even a 'heavily redacted memo' in the more extreme cases.

This is a disingenuous attempt to discredit the transcript and twist the full meaning of the caveat. What the caveat actually says in the transcript is this:

The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty Officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place. A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation. The word "inaudible" is used to indicate portions of a conversations that the notetaker was unable to hear.

This, in short, means "sometime the line will be mangled or the note taker won't understand the accent". This caveat will apply to any eavesdropped conversation.

This adds further weight to the above arguments, in that the disingenuous and coordinated media efforts to discredit the transcript are clearly part of an effort to manipulate the public into believing a certain narrative. Why they would target the public, aside from direct voter manipulation, is a matter for conjecture and speculation.


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