Nancy Pelosi declared “alea iacta est” on Tuesday in crossing the impeachment Rubicon. Not every Democrat wants to get their feet wet, however. Roll Call reports that a number of House Democrats want to wait on starting impeachment proceedings, some for electoral issues and others unconvinced that Ukraine-Gate warrants such a move in the first place:
A cascade of Democrats facing competitive races backed an impeachment inquiry this week, which likely spurred Speaker Nancy Pelosi to drop her objections to using that word to describe ongoing probes.
Some vulnerable incumbents are not using the “I” word, however, and the Republican-leaning districts they represent help explain why.
These lawmakers are not defending President Donald Trump. But they want more information about allegations that he pressured the newly elected Ukrainian president to investigate a potential 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. They particularly want to read the full complaint from a whistleblower who raised concerns about the president’s actions. Some also say an inquiry should be bipartisan, while one has questioned whether Trump’s actions rise to the level of impeachment.
Of the 44 Democrats named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents, 10 had not backed a formal impeachment inquiry at press time.
I’m surprised it’s only ten. The electoral risks attendant to impeachment are enormous, as I point out in my column at The Week. Pelosi’s freshman class might just be sacrificial lambs for a doomed project:
More critically, Democrats have been selling impeachment for months — and the American public isn’t buying it, even with the shifting rationales Democrats have made in arguing for it. A new Politico-Morning Consult survey started after the Ukraine allegations first emerged last week shows that support for impeachment hasn’t budged since the release of the Mueller report, ticking down a point from the previous week to 36 percent. More than half of respondents had heard “some” or “a lot” about the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, but it didn’t impact the results at all.
Worse yet, impeachment isn’t selling where Democrats made their best gains in the midterms. A majority of suburban respondents oppose starting the impeachment process (35 percent/50 percent), with a wider gap among rural respondents (27/59), while urban voters are more ambivalent than one might guess (47/35). Impeachment trails by double digits in the South (33/53), Midwest, (36/48), and even in the Democrat-friendly Northeast (37/48).
Without a smoking gun more convincing than the Zelensky call, Democrats have no hope of moving those numbers, which have remained fairly constant since early this year. CNN reported this morning that some in Pelosi’s caucus had already started warning about what would happen when the transcript turned out to be less than advertised by impeachment advocates, and that moderates had tried to insist that Pelosi wait for an explicit quid pro quo before taking the leap.
That would have been good advice, as it turns out. Pelosi’s now stuck with delivering impeachment regardless of public sentiment about it, and then preparing for the backlash in the suburbs, Midwest, and South if she succeeds. Alea iacta est, indeed.
The problem here is that impeachment isn’t going to work. Democrats have been pitching it for months to no effect. Even if they do enough of their own caucus to impeach Trump, it’s going to look bitterly partisan rather than a reasonable course of action. Republicans are not going to cooperate, especially not in the Senate by removing Trump on the basis of a party-line impeachment on questionable grounds. All of that means Democrats will have sacrificed their suburban frosh class for nothing at all but appeasing their progressive base.
The smart play would be censure, not impeachment, but it’s too late for that now as well. Declaring “alea iacta est” means Pelosi’s on the hook to deliver an impeachment now. Whether these Democrats want to get their feet wet in that Rubicon is immaterial — they’ll drown in it no matter what.