But the fact that an impeachment absent Republican support would be divisive and lead to Trump’s acquittal does not mean that impeachment would be futile. The ultimate judges of the evidence presented in a trial would be the American people, not the President’s apologists, who would be forced, during an election season, to defend conduct that the majority of the public might find indefensible. We can see impeachment in the way that many Democrats have been framing it—as a legal process analogous to a trial in the criminal-justice system, where the outcomes are respected because the process is considered impartial—or we can see it, instead, for what it really is: a quasi-legal but ultimately political, and perhaps moral, exercise.
Additionally, the fear that impeachment may weary voters and cause a backlash that might ultimately help Trump does not seem to be terribly well founded. Two months ago, before the release of the Barr letter, before the release of the Mueller report, and before triumphant hoots of vindication on the collusion charge from the President and his allies, Trump’s average approval rating in polls compiled by FiveThirtyEight was at just over forty-two per cent. It is now at forty-one per cent. If it was true that constant coverage of Democratic investigations and claims of exoneration by the President would bolster his standing in an impeachment process, one might expect those things to have boosted his numbers somewhat already. They have not.