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Commentary – Making Impeachment Matter

The Republic: “A national poll in September, one of the first taken after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry regarding the president’s dealings with Ukraine, turned up a plurality of respondents already backing Trump’s impeachment. The spread of opinion was as follows: 42 percent of Americans thought Donald Trump deserved to be impeached, 22 percent thought it was too soon to say, and 36 percent had already made up their minds that Donald Trump should not be impeached.
 An October 1998 poll conducted shortly after the House of Representatives opened a formal impeachment inquiry against Bill Clinton, unearthed by NBC News’ Steve Kornacki, showed that 60 percent of Americans did not believe Clinton deserved impeachment. And 37 percent believed he did.
 That rough third of American voters who were convinced from the start that Clinton must go and Trump must stay are the same—functionally, not literally, as many among that cohort died off and were replaced between 1998 and 2019. Every serious attempt to remove a president has had to confront this segment of the electorate’s loyalty—or fervent opposition—to the president under investigation. If Democrats have spent much of Donald Trump’s presidency acting as if they fear Americans are not on their side, it is because these are the Americans they are thinking of.

In a bit of fortuitous timing, spring 2019 saw the publication of Brenda Wineapple’s The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, a new history of the barely remembered impeachment of the seventeenth president. Johnson is known mostly as Lincoln’s reelection running mate, a loutish, ticket-balancing Southern Democrat who, after his elevation to the presidency, became a bitter foe of the Radical Republicans’ plan for postwar Reconstruction in the former Confederacy…”

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