In case there was any doubt that Democrats believe impeaching President Donald Trump, which they will do later this week, is the right thing to do politically and philosophically, the events of Monday should erase them.
That’s because Monday saw a slew of House Democrats sitting in districts Trump won in 2016 coming out in favor of impeachment – from Michigan’s Elissa Slotkin to Utah’s Ben McAdams to South Carolina’s Joe Cunningham to Virginia’s Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger. In fact, at least 17 of the 31 Democrats who represent congressional seats where Trump won are now on record supporting the two articles of impeachment.
“If I wanted to do what was easy politically, I would just vote no and move on,” Cunningham told the Post & Courier Monday. “But it’s about doing what’s right for our country.”
That’s in contrast to just two Democrats in Trump districts who are expected to oppose the articles – Reps. Collin Peterson (Minnesota) and Jeff Van Drew (New Jersey). And those two could well be just one even before the vote happens later this week as Van Drew is widely expected to become a Republican over his disagreement with his current party on impeachment. (Van Drew’s opposition to impeachment has also created a number of problems for him in a potential Democratic primary next year.)
What those numbers make clear is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi – and the Democrats in those Trump districts – have decided to bet their majority that impeaching Trump will either be a positive or a neutral in the minds of voters come next November.
If Republicans have any chance at picking up the 18 seats they need to retake the majority, it would come from these 31 Trump seats. (There are only three seats represented by a Republican where Hillary Clinton won in 2016.) That almost half of that group is already on record as for the two articles of impeachment more than 48 hours before an expected vote suggests that they aren’t afraid that this impeachment vote will cost them their seats.
That’s a stark contrast to the rhetoric from House Republicans over the past few weeks. Colorado Rep. Ken Buck, a member of the Judiciary Committee, urged his Democratic colleagues to “go ahead” and vote for the impeachment articles, adding: “Say goodbye to your majority status and please join us in January 2021 when President Trump is inaugurated again.”
It’s worth noting – and Republicans do this a lot – that the last time the House impeached a president (and the Senate declined to remove him), was just before the 1998 election, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s prediction that his party would net 40+ seats wound up costing him his job. (Democrats netted five seats.)
One big difference: That impeachment was happening just as voters were making up their minds. This one will happen almost a year before the election.
The Point: The rapid movement of endangered Democrats to come out in favor of impeachment on Monday is very much a risk – albeit a calculated one.