Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
House Democrats who still oppose initiating impeachment hearings better buckle up, because there’s a wave of progressive energy coming their way. That’s what I’ve heard from Democratic listeners who have called my nightly SiriusXM radio show, as well as from others I’ve interacted with at events like the Netroots convention, an annual gathering of progressive activists. As one radio listener, who is attending an upcoming town hall for his Democratic representative who still isn’t backing impeachment, phrased it, “The time for civility is over.”
First, however, some good news for those of us who support beginning a formal impeachment inquiry of Trump to investigate his possible “high crimes and misdemeanors” – ranging from alleged acts of obstruction of justice, as identified in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, to the Trump campaign utilizing data stolen by Russian hackers in the 2016 campaign as part of their “messaging strategy,” as Mueller testified on Wednesday before Congress. (Trump continues to deny any wrongdoing). Since Mueller’s testimony, more House Democrats have now come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry, including the highest-ranking House Democrat to date, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
And, on Sunday, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee where the impeachment hearings would begin, said on CNN, “My personal view is that (Trump) richly deserves impeachment.” According to CNN’s tally, 105 of the 235 Democrats in the House are now publicly in support of impeachment.
But the troubling news is that there’s still a huge contrast between the number of House Democrats supporting impeachment and the percentage of the Democratic base supporting it. A Gallup poll released earlier this month found a whopping 81% of Democrats supporting impeachment, while fewer than half of the House Democrats support it. (That same poll found, of all Americans, there are far more who support impeachment of Trump – 45% – than supported impeachment of President Richard Nixon before the impeachment inquiry into his misconduct began, which then ranged from 19% to 38%.)
Other recent polls show support for impeachment growing among the Democratic rank-and-file, with a Washington Post poll conducted before Mueller testified finding 61% on board and a new Politico/Morning Consult poll taken after Mueller testified that found 64% in favor.
This gap between the percentage of House Democrats supporting impeachment and that of the Democratic base is causing growing resentment toward certain Democratic members of the House – and the Democratic leadership, as progressive activists have explained to me in calls to my radio show. Many among the Democratic base rightly feel they worked hard to win control of the House in 2018 and now they want the Democrats they elected to do the job they sent them there to do, namely hold Trump accountable with every legislative weapon available – including impeachment.
Given that Congress is now in recess until September 9 and many members will hold town halls in their home district, I would expect that they will soon be hearing from very passionate Democrats who support impeachment. And those Democratic members who aren’t holding town halls – possibly fearing a viral moment when they are confronted by their constituents – can expect phone calls, op-eds in their local papers and even rallies outside their district offices, all designed to pressure them to support impeachment.
House Democrats who still won’t support impeachment may feel even more pressure, given what we will likely see this Tuesday and Wednesday during the Democratic Presidential debates on CNN. I expect many of the candidates to use the national debate platform to make the case for impeachment. In fact, since Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday, many of the leading 2020 Democratic candidates have again renewed calls for impeachment of Trump from Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, and even former Vice President Joe Biden, who in late 2018 had opposed impeachment but this past week stated, “I think there are impeachable offenses and that the President should be tried for them.”
If House Democrats continue to ignore the will of the clear majority of the base, we are likely going to see the Democratic grassroots follow the lead of the GOP base, who in the past supported primary challengers to Republican incumbents who were out of touch with their needs. House Democrats – and especially the House leadership – need to be aware that this is where the base of the party is today, and ignoring them may be far more of a threat to their political futures than any Republican challengers.