“Does Nancy Pelosi Know Something?” asks Charlie Cooke. He’s talking about Pelosi’s highly publicized remark to the Washington Post Magazine that she’s against impeaching President Trump because “he’s just not worth it.” Why would Pelosi announce her position now? She’s under fire from her younger, more radical colleagues. And Robert Mueller’s report is yet to be released.
What Pelosi knows is just how unpopular impeachment is likely to be. She’s in the rare position, at least in the House, of having institutional memory — of knowing how polarizing and difficult earlier attempts at impeachment have been. And she can read. Democrats might tell pollsters they want to impeach Trump, but Democrats, thank heaven, do not make up the entirety of the country. Pelosi’s majority rests on districts that have voted for Republicans in the recent past, districts where voters are resistant to sudden change, whether it be eliminating private insurance or removing a president from office prior to an election. Last November, voters told exit pollsters that Congress should not impeach Trump, 56 percent to 39 percent. Half of respondents in a December CNN poll were against impeachment. A March Monmouth poll had support for impeaching rising slightly, but still at only 42 percent.
The calendar also works against impeachment. The first Democratic presidential debate is three months away. Beginning a process to remove Trump, first by House vote and then by Senate trial, would roil the primary. The Senate would vote for acquittal just around the time the parties are readying their conventions. Voters, already sour on impeachment, may rebel against the Democratic attempt to force the president from office months before the public has its say. The politics aren’t right. Impeachment might be the rage at the Women’s March and on some cable networks, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that could backfire and send Pelosi home to San Francisco.
There’s something else Pelosi knows. The publicly available information about President Trump does not warrant his impeachment. Shady contacts with Russian operatives and a potential campaign-finance violation aren’t enough. Nor can Mueller be counted on to provide the smoking gun. That’s why the House has embarked on its fishing expedition, why the New York state attorney general’s office is poring over the president’s business record. They’re getting desperate. Pelosi’s against impeachment because she understands that the Democrats’ best chance at overturning the 2016 result remains the 2020 election. Now all she needs to do is convince the radicals who increasingly drive the agenda of the Democratic party.