And despite Tom Steyer’s current contention that the I word has strong grassroots support—he says his number crunchers have identified 697,780 “infrequent voters” who’d go to the polls for impeachment in 63 competitive House races—an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, released in April, suggests that impeachment would turn off a huge share of independents. Yes, 42 percent of all registered voters would definitely support a candidate who calls for Trump’s removal—but 47 percent (including the same percentage of independents) said they’d definitely oppose such a candidate. For many independents, impeachment likely implies a worsening of the partisan gridlock they reputedly abhor.
This helps to explain why top Democrats like Jerry Nadler are so cautious. Nadler, a congressman from New York, would take the gavel of the House Judiciary Committee—the key impeachment panel—if a blue wave shifts the chamber in November. But here’s what he told a town-hall gathering back in February: “I would dearly love to preside over the impeachment of Donald Trump.” However, “I don’t know if we can do that, or will do that, or would do that.” It might hinge on what Mueller says publicly, and even if Democrats take the House, the impeachment evidence would have to be strong enough to convince at least “some appreciable fraction” of Trump supporters that action was warranted—because otherwise, Nadler said, “you will tear the country apart.”