As the 2020 election approaches, the recently announced impeachment inquiry has sparked new commentary and speculation on both sides. With the feasibility of ousting the president unclear, it seems likely that we will be pulled into a drawn-out spectacle around impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has received criticism from within her party for describing impeachment as impractical and favoring a win at the ballot box, despite believing that President Trump should be impeached. At this point, it seems unlikely that Trump would be found guilty in a Senate trial and forced from office, since 67 votes are required and there are only 47 Democrats (counting two independents who consistently vote with Democrats) in the Senate. It appears unlikely that enough Republicans would cross the aisle and vote to convict the president. If we assume that to be true, the potential outfall from a failed impeachment has the ability to drastically affect the 2020 election in one of several ways.
The initial and perhaps most obvious result would be further damage to the president’s reputation—which frankly does not matter, since many of his critics believe he should have been impeached from the day he was elected and since those who support him will continue to do so (they have made it clear that no amount of investigation into claims against Trump would affect their vote for his re-election). Beyond damage to his reputation, some have theorized that an impeachment would force junior Democrats from “purple” states to run the risk of angering their constituents, many of whom are far more politically centrist than the fact they have a Democratic representative or senator would suggest. A Quinnipiac University poll released on September 30 found that 47 percent of Americans still oppose impeachment and removal, although 57 percent of Americans disapprove or at least don’t approve of Trump’s results as president according to RealClearPolitics. Trump’s approval rating has been a much lower 43 percent, according to RealClearPolitics. This means there’s a segment of the voter population that, despite not supporting Trump or his policies, still disagrees with his removal from office. In the 2018 congressional election, more freshman Democrats were elected than the country has seen in over 40 years, and with some of these younger politicians hailing from states with a large percentage of conservatives who voted for Trump, their support of the impeachment inquiry could signal to many constituents that their elected officials aren’t representing or fulfilling the opinions and desires of the public. This would feed right into Trump’s rhetorical claims that the impeachment process is a coup designed by Democrats who don’t see a way to beat him in the 2020 election.
Regardless of the outcome of an impeachment drive, its ripples will surely affect politics for years to come, and the possible unintended consequences have the potential to shift the course of American history.