Impeachment: An Acela Corridor Parlor Game for the “Entertainment and Confirmation” Crowd?


Independent Voters Don’t See Impeachment at All the Way You or I Do

I’m on the record saying Trump has committed a textbook abuse of power and needs to be impeached for his attempt to leverage Ukraine aid and support to develop negative information about the Bidens. I’m also on the record saying that the current round of impeachment hearings aren’t likely to benefit the Democrats politically and that they need to move quickly to get impeachment (which will almost certainly lead to an acquittal in the senate along mostly partisan lines) over and done with. Thankfully, the Dem leadership in the House seems to agree with me, and are moving to wrap this all up quickly and get it out of the way.

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve found the impeachment hearings to be riveting, and I am duly shocked by the depths of craven amorality to which the Trump administration has sunk. If you’re reading this, you probably did too. But the way we see impeachment is not the way still persuadable voters — the 15 or 20 percent of the electorate that will decide the 2020 election — see impeachment.

The dribs and drabs of recent polling on impeachment that I’ve seen seem to indicate that the numbers are perhaps starting to shift the wrong way, because less ideological voters see impeachment as a distraction, a partisan squabble divorced from the reality of their everyday lives, and the longer it goes on the more turned off they are by the whole spectacle. Anyway, there’s no indication that these high profile hearings are increasing public support for impeaching Trump. Rather, they are providing grist for the educated elites (like me, and probably you, and membership of the national media) in the “entertainment and confirmation” crowd (as we are characterized in the quote below) who are finding in the proceedings the ratification of deeply held pre-existing political beliefs. In other words, the latest polling appears to support the view that Dems need to get through the impeachment process ASAP, before key segments of the electorate turn on them for overreaching.

Ken Stern of Vanity Fair provides a timely and careful analysis, based on some recent impeachment polling, released on Nov. 19, of how independent voters are reacting to the impeachment proceedings. Here are his key findings:

“Three important factors are driving the views of Independents. The first is that, in their view, impeachment distracts from issues they care about… among the 11 issues that Politico and Morning Consult tested, impeachment ranked last, well below the deficit at 74%, health care at 72%, and infrastructure at 70%. Even Trump’s absurd border wall scored as a higher priority for Independents. Fundamentally, most Independents want Congress to focus on the issues that impact their lives. They have not been convinced that curtailing the bad acts of Donald Trump would have any tangible effect.

“The second factor is the view among Independents that impeachment reflects the agenda of the political establishment and the media. Regardless of what they think about Trump’s behavior, Independents see impeachment as a continuation of the partisan bickering and media excess that began even before his inauguration. By massive margins, Independents say that the impeachment issue is ‘more important to politicians than it is to me’ (62% to 22%) and ‘more important to the media than it is to me’ (61% to 23%). It is hard to read this as anything but a warning to the Democratic leadership and candidates: Stop talking about issues that matter to you, not to me. Impeachment proceedings are viewed as bread and circuses for the anti-Trump crowd in Washington and the media—or, as Stanford political science professor Morris Fiorina described it to me, ‘entertainment and confirmation.’ That’s a dangerous perception as Democrats approach one of the most consequential and fraught elections of our times.

“Third, as other reporting has suggested, Independents suffer from scandal fatigue and overall confusion. They agreed with the statement “[It is] difficult to tell all the investigations in Washington apart” by a roughly two-to-one margin… Confusion has been aggravated by a rating-seeking media, whose credibility has been undermined by the fact that some cable hosts and their guests have consistently predicated, with astonishing stubbornness and inaccuracy, that the next scandal will be the one that topples Trump. It may be that the Democrats finally have the best facts against Trump, and the clearest story line of all. But they face a segment of the public that is jaundiced by what has gone on before.”

This is sobering data, and stands as a warning sign. House Democrat have no choice but to impeach Trump given what he’s done, but they need to do it quickly, so it doesn’t undermine what’s really important: beating Trump in the November 2020 election.

Sandeep Kaushik
Sandeep Kaushik
Sandeep Kaushik is a political and public affairs consultant in Seattle. In a previous life, he was a staff writer and political columnist at the Stranger, and did a stint as a Washington State correspondent for Time Magazine and for the Boston Globe, back in the olden days when such positions still existed.


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