From the diaries
What I like to call “Trump Impeachment Syndrome” started as an epidemic among the Democratic Party fringe that began on Inauguration Day 2017. The epidemic then grew exponentially as a real political threat to the GOP.
Now, “Trump Impeachment Syndrome” has morphed into an anti-impeachment, get-out-the-vote, motivational tool for Republican voters in the midterm election.
What could be viewed as an unorthodox or even desperate Republican political strategy was chronicled in Sunday’s New York Times in Jonathan Martin’s piece, “Republicans Seize on Impeachment for Edge in 2018.”
Starting as a theme for smaller fundraising appeals, the anti-impeachment pitch slowly grew into a full-blown GOP strategy. Now party officials, candidates, and strategists all believe that “floating the possibility of impeachment” is a wise offensive move that could help Republicans keep control of Congress in November.
This recent strategy is based on the perceived threat (real or imagined) that if Democrats win control, they will immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump. When I asked an RNC official (name asked to be withheld) to confirm the strategy he told me, “The strategy was true because it’s based on truth —Democrats will do just that.”
Sadly, this “fight fire with fire” pro-active strategy is appropriate for today’s bizarro political climate reflecting the “Divided States of America” led by an unpopular president. But — and this is a YUGE BUT— if Trump tries to fire Special Counsel Mueller, the GOP’s anti-impeachment strategy could vaporize before the midterm election. In fact, numerous Republicans in Congress might join the march toward Trump’s impeachment or even help force his resignation if impeachment were imminent, a la President Nixon in August 1974.
Assume for a moment that Trump does not fire Mueller, but a Democratic “blue wave” in November threatens Republican control of at least the House. Republicans should bolster their midterm election anti-impeachment strategy with the argument that if Democrats take control and begin impeachment proceedings, our nation increasingly risks plunging into a dangerous domestic and foreign crisis.
Given the exceptionally fragile state of the world, impeachment proceedings would likely embolden our enemies to test our nation with aggressive actions while Trump is fighting for his political life.
Therefore, Republicans should strategically position impeachment as a national security threat.
Additionally, impeachment is a homeland security threat. It is realistic to think that impassioned loyal Trump voters could be in the streets clashing with pro-impeachment advocates. Back in September, in my piece about the midterm elections, the potential for impeachment, and Civil War levels of anger, I included an intriguing quote from a national security expert. When describing the fragile state of our nation, he said, “It is like 1859, everyone is mad about something, and everyone has a gun.”
Impeachment is political dynamite and there are no good options for removing Trump before the 2020 election. In fact, he could run for reelection while impeachment proceedings were ongoing and might still get reelected! With Trump, anything is possible.
But, with Republican leaders planning to use impeachment as a strategic “get out the vote” message, there is a strong case to be made that interjecting impeachment proceedings into our exceptionally polarized, highly-armed nation in a world on the brink of multiple wars and continuous terrorist threats, risks encouraging a DEFCON-1-like threat level at home and abroad.
However, the GOP’s anti-impeachment strategy to save Congress from a Democratic takeover assumes Trump does not fire Mueller and in the end, Mueller’s investigation does not reveal any clear-cut impeachable offenses. If either situation does occur, all bets are off, and political chaos is the only safe prediction.