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Interminable impeachment

President Trump’s acquittal in the U.S. Senate is a foregone conclusion. But it will not be impeachment’s conclusion for Democrats. Democrats’ decision not to send House impeachment articles to the Senate clearly signals their strategy: Delegitimize any action short of removal. They will not let impeachment go, now or ever, because they must counter their sagging – and President Trump’s strengthening – political position.  

Democrats have been calling for President Trump’s removal forever, pursuing de facto impeachment since taking the House this year, and pursuing it in fact since September. This marathon became a sprint: One week in the House Judiciary Committee and one day on the House floor. Now, it has abruptly halted at what should be its climax.  

House leaders say they are not sending the impeachment articles to the Senate in order to leverage a fair trial there. How this gives them leverage, or how a trial there could be less fair than the House’s proceedings, is unclear. What is clear is that Democrats intend to maintain impeachment as an issue beyond its constitutional course. To rephrase Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over, even after the fat lady sings.”

To understand why, it is necessary to understand the myriad reasons behind Democrats’ singular obsession with impeachment.  

First, they have a weak case. This was evidenced by the bipartisan opposition to impeachment and the Democrats’ inability to convince even one Republican to support it.

Democrats therefore must blame someone else, and they are laying the foundation for claiming that someone else – additional witnesses – could have provided it.  

Second, the left is pushing Democrats hard on impeachment, and Democrats are dependent on their left. The left forced impeachment on Democrats. The further left, the harder the push. Simply recall who Democrats’ impeachment leaders were and who stayed most assiduously away — even if ultimately voting for it.  

Democrats are as dependent on the left as the left is insistent on impeachment. The left is credited with the party’s 2018 success. In the Democrats’ 2020 presidential field, liberals dominate collectively, even if they have not yet coalesced around one candidate. The so-called moderates are running left, and the liberals are staying put.

Third, is political necessity: Democrats’ position is weak and weakening, while President Trump’s is stable and strengthening. Democrats’ dependence on the left comes at a cost: They are America’s smallest ideological group. In 2016, liberals made up just 26 percent of the electorate, versus 35 percent for conservatives and 39 percent for moderates.  

At the same time, liberals have never had greater influence in the Democratic Party. This puts Democrats at a significant disadvantage. Further, the fractured nature of Democrats’ presidential contest – after six months, front runner Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE holds less than a third of party supporters – only adds discord when cohesion is needed.  

In the face of impeachment, Trump’s position has been stable and now appears strengthening. Last week USA Today released a poll showing him leading all the major 2020 Democratic candidates. The day after his impeachment, Rasmussen’s 12/19 daily tracking poll on job approval showed him at a 49/49 percent tie; yet, that was better than Obama’s approval rating at the same time: Rasmussen’s 12/19/11 poll showed Obama with a 47/51 percent deficit. All this comes during impeachment.  

Two major trade wins and a strong economy only help the president going forward. Senate acquittal will only add momentum, putting impeachment to bed for many nonpartisan voters.  

All this returns us to why Democrats will not let impeachment end as an issue: They cannot. Their left has insisted on President Trump’s removal since his arrival. Democrats have always been dependent on their left, but now more than ever. And Democrats have rarely entered an election with a weaker presidential frontrunner or a more confused path to a nominee.  

Even without Democrats’ internal predicament, they would face one externally: An incumbent president with a strong economy and major recent achievements. Democrats need to stop Trump as much as they need to jumpstart themselves.  

The result is that Democrats are seeking to keep impeachment alive as an issue even after it dies in the Senate — assuming they ever send the impeachment articles over there. Recognize this as a necessity. Call it “interminable impeachment.”  

J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.