Conventional wisdom is that the Democrats are going to go ahead with articles for impeachment against President Trump and then vote to impeach him. This is in spite of the fact that their impeachment inquiry, even stacked in their favor, hasn’t yet produced bi-partisan agreement that there are actions worthy of impeachment. Nevertheless, according to the consensus opinion, the Democrats will then vote to impeach the President sending it to trial in the Senate. This is in spite of the fact that there is no hope that the Senate would vote to convict him. Democrats know they won’t be able to remove President Trump from office, yet they hate him so much they will vote to impeach him anyway.
That’s the conventional wisdom. Sure, the Democrats would love to impeach him, but they won’t. It’s not because they can’t remove him, but because actually impeaching Trump would hurt them politically. First, the Republican-controlled Senate would conduct a trial, which unlike the Democrat inquiry, would allow Trump supporters to question witnesses whose stories won’t help Democrats sway public opinion in their favor. A fair Senate trial would likely do exactly the opposite. Also, if the trail goes on long enough it will cut into the campaign season for several Democrats Presidential candidates. Finally, a public Senate trial will almost certainly damage front runner Joe Biden’s chances of representing the Democrats in their efforts to win the 2020 election.
Worse for the Democrats would be outing the “moderate” Democrats in the House as working in lockstep with the progressive party line. Remember they were elected promising to do the best for the country, and not just blindly following policies not popular with their constituents. While they could explain away voting for an “inquiry” to find out the facts, voting to actually impeach based on some pretty weak evidence of wrongdoing could very well see them voted out in 2020. Red and moderate district representatives gave the Democrats the majority in the House in 2018. The Democrat leaders know that they may very well lose the House if these representatives vote to impeach the President.
So what will happen, and what was probably the Democrat leadership’s plan all along, was to use the impeachment inquiry to smear the President hurting his chances to win in 2020, and to appease their base who have wanted Trump impeached even before he was sworn in. They may have hoped they could turn up something that could actually lead to a conviction in the Senate, but they knew that was a long, long shot. Using the inquiry as a free forum to tell everyone how awful the President is placates their progressive base. Letting the red and moderate district Democrats vote not to impeach will give them credibility in their districts as fair-minded Representatives deserving reelection. If that sounds Machiavellian to you, you haven’t been paying attention to what the Democrats have done.
One last caveat to this scenario is that the vote for the impeachment inquiry was 232-196. That would give 15 red or moderate district Democrat Representatives wiggle room to vote against impeachment if they thought it would help their reelection. If the Democrat leadership calculates that impeachment would actually help them win in 2020, they could very well pull the trigger, impeach, and let the cards fall where they may. I can’t see them doing that given the arguments listed above, but I’d be happy to be wrong.