Trump Scandals & Indiscretions May Make Impeachment a Midterm Issue By Luke Perry
Brad Sherman (D-CA) recently introduced articles of impeachment in the House premised on obstruction of justice. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the move as “utterly and completely ridiculous and a political game at its worst” via a subsequent off camera press briefing.
Still, David Ignatious of The Washington Post has already called 2018 the “impeachment election.” Others have already begun to analyze what the impact of impeachment and resignation would be. Meanwhile, special election defeats this year have generated pushback against the notion that impeachment is a viable campaign issue.
I’ve written previously that a GOP controlled House and Senate are not likely to vote for impeachment or removal, even if Republicans prefer Mike Pence. That doesn’t mean; however, impeachment will be a nonfactor. The more Trump damages his ties with the Republican Party, the more likely this becomes.
It’s important to recognize that House races exemplify the adage that “all politics is local.” National political journalists tend to adopt a big picture view of electoral tends that focuses on party control of Congress and key figures.
House races, particularly in rural districts, which span most of the country, tend to be less about national issues and more about parochial concerns. This is in part why the House was geographically proportioned how it was. Members were given short terms of just two years to keep them more accountable to the people than the Senate and presidency.
This means that House candidates cannot typically premise their campaigns on national concerns unless they align tightly with local concerns. Constituents are often more concerned about more immediate circumstances. This helps explain why GOP Senators in states that expanded Medicaid were less willing to support their party’s proposed repeals of Obamacare.
Wars and wave elections, where a president and/or party is particularly unpopular, can change this. Analysts are already considering if 2018 will be a wave election. It’s too soon to tell, but the scandals surrounding Donald Trump’s campaign, administration, and family, have no doubt been very damaging to his presidency.
The midterms will be won and loss by turnout. The Trump presidency has bolstered Democratic organization and enthusiasm like nothing else in recent memory. Conversely, moderate Republicans were already ambivalent about Trump. One reason they voted for him is because they couldn’t bring themselves to support Hillary Clinton. Without her in the picture, they are more inclined to stay home.
House Democratic candidates in conservative and moderate districts (left or right) will likely not make impeachment a dominant campaign issue in 2018. This doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for Republican incumbents, who have to continually answer questions from constituents and media on various twists and turns of the ongoing Russian investigation.
Recent revelations regarding Donald Trump Jr. is case and point. Congressional Republicans outside of thoroughly Republican districts will have difficulty justifying his behavior, which may lead to criminal charges. The Republican Party is already at odds with the President for his approach to Russia.
Republicans are also tired of Trump’s tweeting and inability to harness support for major GOP legislative ambitions. On top of that, Trump and Mike Pence have electorally attacked their own sitting Senators, Dean Heller and Jeff Flake, a bold move when the GOP maintains a slim Senate majority. Not surprisingly, Flake recently released a book urging Republicans to separate themselves from Trump.
It doesn’t help that Trump’s popularity has fallen lately, both overall and among Republicans who had strongly supported him. And that Rience Priebus and Sean Spicer, two people tightly connected with the Republican Party, are leaving the White House. And that Trump responded to the failed effort to repeal The Affordable Care Act by threatening and insulting GOP Senators.
The President needs to make life easier for the elected office holders in the party he leads. Otherwise, the thread holding the party to Trump may break. If it does, then impeachment becomes much more interesting, both in terms of his presidency and the 2018 midterms.
Luke Perry (.@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.