On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Donald Trump, the 45th president, on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump is one of three presidents to ever be impeached in the history of the United States, others being Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. However, impeachment does not mean immediate removal from office. In fact, impeachment does not prevent the president from running again for reelection. With the amount of public uncertainty of how this impeachment will end, many are led to wonder how it all may affect the upcoming presidential election.
On the first charge, abuse of power, President Trump was accused of soliciting help in the upcoming election from Ukraine. Trump attempted to trade military aid with Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Then came a formal inquiry from the House of Representatives of Trump’s solicitations with Ukraine. Interestingly enough, after the impeachment inquiry began, Trump’s approval rating barely budged. Trump directed his administration officials to ignore the House’s subpoenas and to withhold testimonies and documents, which constituted the second charge, obstruction of Congress.
“If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty. It is tragic that the President’s reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice,”said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. “It is a matter of fact that the President is an ongoing threat to our national security and the integrity of our elections: the basis of our democracy.” Congressman Eric Swalwell, who represents parts of Alameda and Contra Costa County, argued that Trump solicited Ukraine’s investigation only after Biden announced his candidacy.
Now that Congress has voted to impeach Trump, the trial will move to the Senate. In order for Trump to be removed from office, two thirds of the senators would have to vote for his conviction. With there being 100 senators, at least 67 senators would have to vote in favor to convict. Out of those 100 senators, 53 are Republicans, 45 are Democrats, and two are Democratic-caucusing independents.The conviction requires at least 67 votes, so if every Democratic and independent senator voted for Trump’s conviction, there would need to be 20 Republicans who also vote against Trump in order for his removal. However, the incentive for Republican Senators to vote against Trump is very low considering that Trump has a high approval and favorability amongst the Republican Party. Many Republican Senators represent states that support Trump and wouldn’t want to risk losing their own reelections. The Senate will probably acquit Trump, just like every other president to be impeached.
“Since Trump is only the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached…, this is an historic event,” said Lynn Schwab, a history teacher at Las Lomas and Campolindo.“The implications are hard to predict.”
While Republicans hold a US Senate majority, locally, there is a significantly higher ratio of Democrats to Republicans. In Contra Costa County, there are nearly three times as many registered Democrats as there are Republicans. Even with their majority, Democratic activists remain vocal in the Bay Area. On December 17, the day before the impeachment vote, activists staged several impeachment rallies across the Bay Area. In Walnut Creek, activists held the “Nobody is Above The Law” Rally at the intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and Main Street. The following day, local Congressman Mark DeSaulnier voted in favor of the articles of impeachment against Trump. “The reality and urgency of this moment could not be more consequential to American democracy. President Trump violated the law by soliciting foreign interference in our elections,”DeSaulnier said. “With the President’s pattern of escalating behavior, failing to hold him accountable for his actions will lead to more violations. This President is a threat to our national security. That is why today I voted to defend our democracy, uphold our oath of office and the Constitution, and impeach President Trump.”
Even in the unlikely event that Trump is removed from office, the Senate could decide not to stop him from running for reelection. So the question once again turns from whether he’ll say in office to how this will all affect the presidential election.
According to the 2019 American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, one-third of Trump supporters say there is nothing the president could do to lose their approval. The same survey also claims that 28% of Americans will support Donald Trump no matter who becomes the Democratic nominee. This, combined with Trump’s mostly consistent approval rating, shows that many Americans are sedentary in their views towards Trump.
Despite how rigid many Americans’ views towards Trump are, some experts are still unsure as to how this impeachment may affect the election, viewing it as a sort of wildcard. Some say that it could galvanize some Trump supporters who feel that he’s been victimized, others that this may be the nail in Trump’s coffin.
With Trump’s acquittal being almost a certainty, the question now lies in voters’ response. Will voters remain static in their views towards Trump? Or will the impeachment influence public opinion? As the late Congressman Elijah Cummings said,“When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked:‘… what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?’”