Longtime Hillary Clinton aide Philippe Reines argues in the New York Times that the conventional wisdom about the Republicans’ drive to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998-99 is wrong: It didn’t do great harm to the Republicans. He is, of course, trying to make Democrats less fearful of the prospect of impeaching President Trump. Whether or not you share his aim, though, his basic point seems to me correct.
I also think the political downside of impeachment may be lower now than it was then. In the late 1990s, voters were basically happy with the state of the country (in August 1998, Gallup found 60 percent of the public was “satisfied” and only 36 percent “dissatisfied”) and didn’t want to see political turmoil. These days, voters are not happy with the state of the country (last month Gallup found 69 percent “dissatisfied” and 29 percent “satisfied”) and are used to a great deal of political turmoil.