Are we sure impeachment is a bad political strategy for the Democrats?

Are we sure impeachment is a bad political strategy for the Democrats? Yes, it backfired on Newt Gingrich in the 90s. And yes, the presence of that many cameras will lead multiple Dems to make fools of themselves repeatedly. But consider this:

  • Presidents get re-elected when the economy is good and we’re not at war. Whether you like Trump’s economic policies are not, the numbers are good. GDP is up. Unemployment is down. The trade war with China may end soon. Yes, some Dems will argue that the economy isn’t really helping Trump voters but that feels more like clever messaging than anything else. And yes, the world is as scary as ever. But we’re not drafting people into the army. We’re not losing soldiers at a rapid clip. We’re not at war. The economy is good. That usually adds up to re-election.  

  • Trump is an outlier, good and bad, in every conceivable way. If anyone can buck the trend of winning in times of peace and prosperity, he can.

  • To beat Trump, the Democratic nominee will need to win most independents and generate much better turnout than Hillary did in 2016. Otherwise, the math isn’t there.

  • An impeachment fight keeps the focus relentlessly on Trump. It forces Trump to be Trump. Sure, he’s an effective counter puncher. But he’ll always take the bait and that keeps people talking and thinking about his flaws and misdeeds rather than a strong economy or a period of relative peace.

  • To win independents, they need to believe that Trump is just so awful that even if the economy is strong, they still can’t vote for him. That means they need to see him at his worst all of the time (we saw him at his worst for all of 2017 and 2018 and the midterm results showed it).

  • Yes, the Democrats will screw up impeachment. Pretty much all of them are driven by desperate insecurity and an insatiable need for attention and validation. In trying to one up each other, many of them will look like idiots. That’s a cost of doing business. But impeachment will also get all the crazy progressives who stayed home in 2016 to come out and vote. The nominee, whoever she or he is, will need them. And at the same time, impeachment satisfies some of the left wing blood lust so the Presidential candidates won’t be forced to try to out-progressive each other every day.

I get why Pelosi doesn’t want to run with impeachment. It turns her chamber into even more of a circus and eliminates the possibility of getting anything else done. If you believe that a Democratic House, a Republican Senate and a Trump White House is poised to accomplish big things, then impeachment wouldn’t make sense. But if you assume Congress will be as inept and dysfunctional as always (a pretty safe assumption), then all that matters is 2020. And on that front alone, impeachment proceedings could really help.  

Bradley Tusk