Democrats risk it all moving full speed ahead with impeachment

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPress: GOP freak show: Who's in charge? Democrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China Dole in final column: 'Too many of us have sacrificed too much' MORE last week announced that the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats offer bill to raise debt ceiling, avoid filibuster First Amendment group calls on Rep. Massie to unblock critics on Twitter Share of global wealth held by billionaires climbs during pandemic MORE following a whistleblower complaint charged that he pressed the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, one of his leading political rivals. This charge was confirmed by the release of the transcript from the phone call between the two leaders, and it was also revealed that Trump, before asking Ukraine to examine actions by Hunter Biden, reminded Zelensky that the United States sends security aid to Ukraine.

When a president uses his power for his own political gain, at the expense of the public, it is the epitome of an impeachable offense. It has been confirmed that both the White House lawyers and the Justice Department worked to cover up the phone call, having the transcript moved to a highly secure system. “The transcript and the Justice Department’s acting in a “rogue fashion” in being complicit in the president’s lawlessness confirm the need for an impeachment inquiry,” Pelosi declared.

From a political and practical standpoint, while these accusations against the president are indeed serious and disturbing, the Democrats will almost certainly not achieve their end goal of removing Trump from office, given the Republican Senate majority. With Trump already weakened in the polls, and the Democrats ahead on a number of key issues like health care and climate change, it is a profound error to focus the country on an impeachment inquiry, notably at a time when close to 60 percent of the American people are currently against impeaching the president.


Moreover, an impeachment inquiry of this magnitude only detracts from the ability of the Democrats to connect with 2020 voters on critical issues such as the economy, health care, and climate change. It once again places national attention solely on Trump instead of policy proposals. Amid the mass of Democrats who came out in support of impeachment this week, however, many of them still believe it is a bridge too far.

Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey told the Washington Post last week, “I wish we waited a little longer. I wish we looked at it a little more, continuing the investigation, continuing the hearings that we have had.” Representative Ben McAdams also said that, while he found the transcript to be improper, the House needs to “get all the facts on the table before deciding how to proceed” before it formally impeaches Trump.

This news has been calamitous for Biden, as talk of Trump and Ukraine have precluded him from getting any positive campaign messages out, and has brought his son into the spotlight. While Democrats may appear to have a lot to gain from impeachment, they also have a great deal at stake. Come 2020, Democrats could lose it all, from the presidency to governorships to Senate seats to House control, if the American people determine that they overreached on this issue. A notable number of districts that swung blue in the 2018 midterms were in traditionally Republican areas such as Orange County, yet the Democrats who won those districts claimed victory with 1 percent or less of the vote.

Undoubtedly, I want the Democrats to win. I am a Democrat who has worked for Democrats, but it would be a fundamental mistake for moderate Democrats to give into the left wing of the party and begin impeachment proceedings without a proper investigation and analysis of the facts as they pertain to the phone call with Ukraine. When I worked for President Clinton during his impeachment in 1998, the American people saw in clear terms how extensively the Republicans overreached in their investigation. Indeed, this partisan impeachment hurt Republicans in the 1998 midterm elections, when we campaigned on progress, not politics.

Democratic leaders would be wise to heed the lessons of the past. No president has ever been convicted in the Senate after being impeached. Given all of the available information at this point, it is clear that there is simply no open and shut case on impeachment. It is still not yet clear whether the Democrats are actually going to go forward with a formal vote on impeachment. Party leaders have certainly given the nod in that direction, but they have not voted yet, and they could easily back off.

Moving forward, Democrats must ensure they have a strong bipartisan coalition as they press on with their investigations. If they do end up voting on articles of impeachment, they should be absolutely sure they are not doing so merely on partisan lines. If Trump is not convicted, he and his base will become emboldened, and Democrats will ensure both his reelection and risk losing the hard fought electoral gains of 2018.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”