Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced on September 24 that the House would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump, charging him with “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.”
This announcement comes alongside allegations that Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to open a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and his son. It was the final push Democrats, who have been warily holding back from impeachment proceedings for months, needed to move into more confident action.
Impeaching Trump is still a major risk for the Democrats. Whether successful or not, the fallout will be deep and enduring. Here are ten risks for the Democratic Party:
10. Some will see it as a usurpation of the democratic spirit that earned Trump the White House in the first place.
If the politically elite successfully remove from office a legitimately elected U.S. president, it will be grounds for an “approaching cultural war,” says The Conversation. Voters may feel that they are being denied their nation’s right to democracy by a political establishment that did not approve of how they voted. It would be better to allow Trump to leave office at the end of his term in 2021 rather than try to cut his time short. By doing this, his supporters will not be able to claim that he was removed by an unfair and unconstitutional political move.
9. Trump is extraordinarily good at playing the victim.
The president is not afraid of bad press. In fact, he thrives from it. He will set the agenda and play the victim; and it will (probably) work, as always. No matter how solid the reasons for impeachment are, the Democrats may not be up for the task of removing a master manipulator from the White House.
8. The distraction of impeachment proceedings may be exactly what Trump wants.
Impeachment is what Trump wants the Democrats to do. It will provide his chaotic administration with a focus and purpose. And Trump can say that his opposition has pitiful motives and even more pitiful priorities. Trump will powerfully claim his persecution is proof the Democratic Party has lost its bearings and is no longer looking out for voters.
On September 24, he tweeted to this point, stating: “The Democrats are so focused on hurting the Republican Party and the President that they are unable to get anything done because of it, including legislation on gun safety, lowering of prescription drug prices, infrastructure, etc. So bad for our Country!”
7. The Democrats’ effort would be more well-spent focusing on winning the 2020 election.
Perhaps it would be more beneficial for Democrats to focus energy on running a great 2020 campaign rather than redirecting too much attention to this endeavor. After all, Trump has barely more than a year left in the White House, and after considering the few months it will take for the impeachment process to be completed—if it even is successful, which seems unlikely—is it really worth the time?
Democrats will be better served by working out how to beat him at the ballot box in 2020 and addressing the issues that gave rise to Trump in the first place.
6. Despite Trump’s lengthy list of former transgressions, he has easily avoided impeachment in the past.
Trump commits so many small transgressions that no big one ever sticks to him. He has become a master at dodging criminal charges and simultaneously claiming they are part of a Democratic witch-hunt. He has become the perfect manipulator and dodger of justice, and his supporters too often follow along without question.
5. A failed impeachment will enliven Trump.
Bill Clinton’s failed impeachment exemplifies what could happen if this impeachment does not reach fruition. In 1998, Clinton was found not guilty in the Senate and his final two years in office, despite the shame of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, were among his most impressive. These two years allowed him to leave office as one of the most popular presidents in U.S. history. Long story short, looming impeachment became Clinton's greatest presidential blessing.
If the Democrats’ impeachment effort leads to an acquittal in the Senate, the outcome won’t be a weakened president but, rather, an emboldened one.