The Question of Impeachment in a Red State

Posted on: June 3, 2019, by :

It’s happened only twice in this country’s history, impeachment of a sitting President. The first was Andrew Johnson back in the 19th century. The second was Bill Clinton in the 1990’s as a result of the Monica Lewinsky scandal (Nixon resigned before he could be impeached). Neither was ever convicted by the two-thirds of the Senate required for removal from office.

This country could potentially be looking at a sitting President being impeached for the third time. Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller broke more than two years of silence about his investigation into the Trump administration. More than a month ago, Attorney General William Barr said in a memo that Mueller’s report had cleared Trump of any wrong doing. This was apparently not the case according to Mueller himself. He cited how “under longstanding policy, a sitting President cannot be charged with a Federal Crime while in office.”

The most damning statement he made was that. “If we had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” as was reported by ABC news and other sources.
While cleared of Russian collusion, Mueller’s report left the issue of Obstruction of Justice open for further investigation, as many cite was the intent. Mueller said, regarding the question of obstruction, “(the) Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting President of wrongdoing.” He resigned as Special Counsel afterwards, news sources reported. Now Congressional Democrats must ponder their next course of action, namely impeachment. It has been a very contentious issue, given the partisan nature of Congress and the highly polarized electorate. And opinion on it varies greatly.

Here in Indiana for instance, Trump remains popular. The state went for him by almost 20% during the 2016 Presidential Election, helped by the presence of former Governor Mike Pence as Vice President. Indiana has always been a solidly Republican state, the only exception in the last forty years was Barack Obama winning the state by a razor sharp margin in 2008. No Democrats currently hold statewide office any longer after Joe Donnelly’s loss in the November 2018 Midterm Elections. Only two of nine house seats are held by Democrats, and the Statehouse has a Republican supermajority (as well as Indiana having a Republican Governor).

But how do the voters in this state feel about the question of impeachment?

“I don’t think there is actually enough to impeach and it will make the Democrats look bad right before a major election,” said James Morris, a resident of Bloomington. “Basically impeachment is a trap. If you go for it, you let Trump play up the witch hunt angle for months and months, probably will not be able to get the impeachment and will look ineffectual and insincere. Both are poison in 2020.”

When asked if he would like to see Trump impeached, he said “Yes, if they can actually do it. But I think it will cost them (Congressional Democrats) too much to do so, and that will be sacrificing long term goals for short term gains.”
Other Hoosiers voiced similar misgivings about moving forward with impeachment.

“If the impeachment fails, that will be deflating,” said Joe Brown of South Bend. “They need more than Justin Amash I’m afraid.” Amash is a GOP Representative from Michigan and frequent Trump critic who recently called for the President’s impeachment.”(They) need more to fill in the gaps from the Mueller report, to pencil in the wrongdoing. Because once you fail impeachment, you can’t try again.” He added, “Even if you impeach, you (still) get Pence. Not sure he’s (much) better.”

What does impeachment actually achieve? In Brown’s eyes, nothing more than a “slap on the wrist.” With the current makeup of Congress, it would be unlikely two thirds of the Senate would vote to remove him from office.

Egan Dargatz of Indianapolis had a similar view. “Impeachment is divisive and a long, difficult process. Ideally I’d like to see Trump resign and then be prosecuted in criminal court. Is that going to happen? No, no it isn’t.” He went on to say “I feel like the whole system is broken on all sides and I feel like this administration has shed light on the fundamental problems in our government so we can either let them be exploited over and over or work to fix them, even if it’s rocky.”
None of the three people I talked to voted for Trump. So what do Republicans and Trump voters think of impeachment here in Indiana? One Republican woman from Boone County who asked not to be named said impeachment would be “a mistake.” She had voted for Trump in 2016. As to her thoughts about the President in light of the investigation, she said “I don’t care anymore, don’t even pay attention anymore.” This sentiment seems to be reflected by voters of both parties, many of whom are simply sick and tired of the partisan bickering. She believed that impeachment “creates divisions that would make us vulnerable to our enemies.” She, like the others I talked to, didn’t believe Trump would be impeached.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said “he’s not worth it,” in regards to the question of impeachment. Whether that has changed or not since Mueller’s statements last week remains to be seen. It is clear that Congressional Democrats are on a slippery slope as voters grow tired of the partisan infighting. And with the highly polarized nature of the country, is impeachment really in this country’s best interest?

Morris made one more interesting comment pertaining to this polarization, the “demonization of political opponents,” that has become commonplace for almost a decade, more so now than ever. “Once you dehumanize your opponents, you feel justified in treating them any way you feel.”

It would seem to not only be a tactic used by Trump, but by his opponents also. And the partisan divide widens.

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