South Bend Tribune

President Donald Trump should not be impeached. Not now. Probably never.

Oh, sure, some angry Democrats call loudly for impeachment, wanting revenge for Trump’s 2016 election and how he has acted since.

Some Democratic progressives in Congress want impeachment now. Right now. Those calling the loudest represent districts described by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as so partisan that a glass of water would win if designated as the Democratic nominee.

Democrats in competitive districts, where to win they need to sway some Republicans, many independents and quite a few Democrats who supported Trump in 2016, aren’t as enthusiastic about impeachment now.

They see polls such as the recent NBC/Wall Street Journal survey that found 48 percent of Americans saying Congress shouldn’t hold impeachment hearings and that Trump should finish his term as president. Another 32 percent said investigations should continue to determine whether to impeach and only 17 percent said Congress should begin impeachment hearings now.

Even among Democratic respondents, only 30 percent wanted impeachment hearings now, while 50 percent preferred to wait for more evidence.

It’s far from certain that a majority of the Democratic-controlled House would at this stage vote for articles of impeachment.

It’s absolutely certain that the Republican-controlled Senate would at this stage acquit the president of impeachment charges. It takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to find a president guilty of impeachment charges and remove him. Two thirds? Wouldn’t even come close to a majority for removal now.

Zealots for impeachment argue, however, that Democrats controlling the House have a constitutional duty to impeach because Trump is undermining the Constitution — usurping legislative rights, violating guarantees of individual freedoms, ignoring the law and obstructing justice.

Constitutional duty?

Where in the Constitution does it say they must risk political suicide to go against the wishes of a majority of voters and impeach a president about whom they have such concerns? You won’t find it.

Impeachment is a political process. And it won’t lead to removal of a president unless there is widespread political support for removal. Widespread, as in substantial Republican support for it as well.

It’s not just Democrats in safe seats in New York and California who want impeachment.

So does President Trump.

It would help solidify his base and expand it once more to include Republicans who aren’t solid Trumpsters but are unenthusiastic about voting for a Democrat.

Since Trump would win acquittal in the Senate, he could campaign on being found “innocent.” No conviction. No collusion. Just a victim of Democrats seeking to overturn his 2016 presidential win.

Remember how Republicans, convincing themselves that they should impeach Bill Clinton, did so. The Senate refused to convict. Many voters thought Republicans had overreached. Clinton emerged with high approval ratings.

Impeachment-now Democrats, talking with each other, are convincing themselves that impeachment this time would be popular. Polls show the opposite.

It’s also argued by impeachment proponents that failure to act now, no matter the consequences, shows lack of courage and means that Trump gets way with impeachable offenses.

Is it courage to run head-first into a brick wall — a Senate that won’t convict?

And is he really getting away with misdeeds as investigations continue, courts uphold efforts of legislative committees and Trump faces defeat in 2020 if Democrats don’t overplay their hand and unite this time behind a popular alternative?

Maybe a smoking gun will be found. But remember that the president famously said he could shoot somebody in the middle of New York’s 5th Avenue and not lose his base.

If it’s not a smoking howitzer, it’s too late now to vote for removal through impeachment rather than concentrating on removal through votes in 2020.