This is not your father’s impeachment

Political Theater, Episode 94

Luke Skywalker, played in the “Star Wars” saga by Mark Hamill, seen here, might as well have been talking about political conventional wisdom about impeachment when he counseled Rey in “The Last Jedi” that things don’t always go as planned. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images file photo)

The conventional wisdom is that impeaching President Donald Trump could imperil Democrats in 2020. But beware the conventional wisdom, and relying on dated data and small sample sets, like the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

“Make no mistake about it: Backing impeachment will cost the Democrats their majority in 2020,” Rep. Tom Emmer, the head of the House Republicans’s campaign arm, thundered after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the start of a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday. Every Republican from the president on down has echoed this sentiment. 

Republicans seem to be banking on what they see as lessons from the Clinton impeachment — that the GOP overreached and was punished at the ballot box, and it forced the resignation of Speaker Newt Gingrich

But as CQ Roll Call elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales points out, folks might want to take a deep breath and watch “The Last Jedi.”

“This is not going to go the way you think,” a grizzled Luke Skywalker tells his young charge, Rey.  

We don’t know how it is going to go, which is just reality. As any good financial analyst will tell you, past performance of a stock or bond is no predictor of future performance. We do not know enough about voters’ attitudes this far out, and the Clinton and Trump scenarios are vastly different. 

Even the common readout of the 1998 impeachment fallout is in for closer examination. Republicans did not lose their majorities either in 1998 or 2000, and they won the presidency in 2000. And Gingrich had a lot of problems with his own troops that went beyond impeachment. 

Nathan discusses the politics about this on the latest Political Theater podcast, with a little Jedi wisdom thrown in for free. 

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