The interplay between impeachment and polls
Both Republicans and Democrats are likely to retain their respective baseUpdated: Feb 06, 2020 18:38 IST
The decks have been cleared for what will be among the ugliest presidential elections in recent United States (US) history. Voting almost solely on partisan lines, the Senate declined to uphold President Donald Trump’s impeachment. Mr Trump will be the first US president to seek re-election despite having gone through an impeachment process. The widely expected Senate exoneration means the impeachment charge has no constitutional repercussions, but the original lower house vote still stands. All this had been preceded by Mr Trump giving an election clarion call masquerading as a State of the Union address. The president’s refusal to shake the hand of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and her ripping a copy of his speech before the cameras, signalled to their respective parties that the campaign had begun, and the gloves were off.
The impeachment process had no material impact on either Mr Trump’s popularity, which continues to hover at about 42%, or the Democratic Party’s own support. But the entire drama did underline the president’s unusual hold over the base of his party, and how this, in turn, means the Republican establishment cannot turn on him. Less than 10% of Republican voters believed Mr Trump deserved impeachment. That he violated laws and rules worthy of impeachment does not seem in doubt.
However, impeachment is a political, not a juridical action. The Democrats have not got away empty-handed. Their supporters and some independent voters have deepened their enmity to the president, and this will be used to raise funds and mobilise votes. This year’s presidential elections will be noticeable for the lack of any real middle ground between the two parties, and coloured by strong personal views about the incumbent. An additional layer is the deep ideological conflict within the Democratic Party. Mr Trump will hope this battle will be as damaging to his opponent as the Democrats had hoped impeachment would be to him.