Pelosi understands that if congressional Democrats get ahead of the public and impeach Trump on, essentially, a party-line vote in the House, but then fail to gain the two-thirds Senate supermajority required for conviction — which is almost certain, given the way many Senate Republicans have bent over backward to excuse Trump’s questionable behavior — they risk making the mistake Republicans made 20 years ago, making Trump the new “comeback kid” and jeopardizing their own 2020 prospects.
It’s true that Clinton’s approval ratings during that time far exceeded Trump’s approval at any point during his presidency — the former president’s approval rating jumped to 73 percent immediately after he was impeached. Yet despite Trump’s low public approval, Americans are still divided on the question of impeachment: A CNN-SSRS poll released Sunday found that Trump’s approval stood at a fairly weak 43 percent, but also that only 41 percent favor impeachment — a significant number, but still far from a majority.
Members of Congress must lead, and at a certain point, their actions can’t be dictated by polls. But they also have an obligation not to plunge us into an event that could further fracture an already bitterly divided country, something an impeachment showdown risks if Congress can’t persuade the public — not just Democrats — that it cannot be avoided.