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Did impeachment hurt Democrats?

Did impeachment hurt Democrats?
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The Senate voted yesterday to dismiss the case against Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGaetz was denied meeting with Trump: CNN Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Police in California city declare unlawful assembly amid 'white lives matter' protest MORE for incitement of insurrection with his second impeachment trial. The House managers laid out a case that the former president made efforts to undo the election and presented harrowing video clips of the day of the riot at the Capitol. They showed evidence in the order of events to make a case that Trump clearly worked to cast the election as fraudulent and that the insurrection last month was the intended outcome of his efforts.

The video clips of the violence and chaos at the Capitol led seven Senate Republicans to vote with Senate Democrats. Yet the vote fell short of the supermajority needed to convict Trump, which would have been a rather reasonable action to take in light of this new evidence presented. Given the dismissal of the case, however, the ultimate political outcome of the impeachment trial will mean more division in our heated climate.

This is not to say that impeachment was not needed. I have supported it and I believe that Trump should be held accountable for his actions. But the effects of holding him accountable could well be deleterious for the chances of Democrats for 2022. The impeachment trial could also harm their ability to move legislation on causes they care about most, notably social justice, economic fairness, and critical health care reform.

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Indeed, voters were divided over whether Trump should be convicted. A Quinnipiac University poll last week found 50 percent of Americans said the Senate should convict him, while 45 percent said the Senate should dismiss. Democrats clearly favored impeachment, while Republicans for the most part opposed it. Yet independents were divided, with less than half in support of impeachment and less than half also against it.

To be sure, the first midterm election for an administration is always a difficult one for the incumbent party, so coming out of the box with an impeachment would make it more difficult rather than less difficult for Democrats to take action on critical legislation, and could make it less likely for those Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate will try to work on bipartisan legislation with one another.

While President Biden has issued dozens of executive orders since taking office and backs an economic stimulus without support from Republicans, the incumbent party needs to understand this is a narrow and limited way to govern with a greater chance of political downside in 2022. Biden won on a pledge to reach across the aisle to solve national problems.

But his slew of unilateral actions and determination to seek an economic stimulus with no support from Republicans send us a narrative that he is caving to the climate of division instead of addressing it. Combined with the dismissal of the case against Trump, Democrats may find themselves with a more perilous position ahead of the next midterm election.

Douglas Schoen is a political consultant who has served as adviser to Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Michael Bloomberg. His new book is “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”