The Political Impact Of Impeachment

The truth is that many voters are paying attention to issues that have nothing to do with impeachment or simply ignoring politics altogether.

A friend on Twitter raises an interesting and important point regarding impeachment and the public reaction to the entire process:

Similar observations can be found in a recent New York Times report about how the impeachment story has united many in Americans in a desire for a break from politics. It also mirrors conversations I’ve had myself with members of the public who aren’t as obsessed with politics and the news as those of us who follow those subjects on a regular basis. They also mirror conversations that I’ve had with the same types of people over the past several months. Many of these people are people who, if asked, say that they believed that the President should be impeached and removed from office, while others are people who are more ambivalent on the matter, with many of those believing the question should be left to the General Election. They include people who voted for President Trump, Hillary Clinton, or some other candidate in 2016. The one thing they have in common is that they aren’t as obsessed with impeachment as the punditocracy is, and are more concerned with everyday pocketbook issues and how that is impacting them and their families.

On some level, this is hardly surprising. For generations, post-election exit polling and other data have shown us that the primary concern of the general public is the economy and the well-being of their families. Additionally, the attitude that what happens vis a vis Ukraine doesn’t really impact the United States in general or them in particular. This is especially true given the fact that many people seem to have filed the impeachment charges as something dealing with foreign policy, which hasn’t been a significant issue in electoral politics since at least the end of the Cold War.

In addition to people more focused on other political and policy concerns, there are also a lot of ‘regular people’ who are simply not paying attention at all. Many of them have been paying more attention to the holidays, to family, to sports, and to their own private concerns. Still more have simply decided that everything going on in Washington is a mess and that the allegations against the President are just another part of the partisan mess that American politics has become. To be frank about it, it’s hard to blame them, and it’s hard to blame the guys in the above-referenced Times article who were more interested in what was on ESPN than what was on CNN the day the House voted to impeach the President.

Perhaps Democrats can turn this around. Perhaps they can convince voters that the charges against the President don’t just relate to something going on in Ukraine and that they go to an effort to undermine the integrity of the electoral process here in the U.S. If they’re not careful, though, they could end up getting too far ahead of public opinion and paying a price for it in November and beyond.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Donald Trump, Impeachment, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    We don’t need to convince on impeachment. The lines are drawn. And we don’t have a choice, we have to impeach or say good-bye to democracy. We have to stand for what’s right or we are complicit.

    We should talk about real-world issues in a realistic way. I’m convinced we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  2. erin ryan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    “democracy” .. the idea that a vocal minority know better than we how we must live our lives, and are willing to use force to insist
    Trump’s real crime is his not being a Democrat; that’s all this has been since November 2016, and as a libertarian it’s easy to see why the demise of the Øbama legacy is such a tragedy
    Personally, he’s just an orange Øbama .. obsessed with control, albeit less of a warmonger than Clinton or her puppet masters
    But I love “Impeachment”, and your presumption of guilt .. this is Amerika, land of the eternal criminal..

  3. JKB says:

    Impeachment is losing its breathlessness. Everyone, even Fox, reveled in saying “impeachment” over and over. Just like they did with “quid pro quo”. But like the latter, people are slowing learning what impeachment means. And to impeach means only to accuse, before a tribunal. It also means to impede, to interfere.

    So Trump has been accused. Democrats have been accusing Trump since 10 minutes after the election was called. Sure, now House Democrats are on record with “written accusations” and should they send them to the Senate, the accusations must be adjudicated by the Senate, but they are still just accusations. Accusations by the same House members who have slandered the President for years, even to Nancy Pelosi accusing Trump of being a Russian agent.

    Democrats picked the two best Articles of Impeachment for someone who was elected to Drain the Swamp and push back at the tyranny of the Administrative State. Of course they believe it is contempt of Congress and, of course, they think he’s abusing his power. Impeachment for Trump is not a “stain.” It is a battle scar.

  4. Slugger says:

    I wonder if the founders of our country might have wanted it to be easy to oppose and depose the president not just on high minded philosophical grounds but for practical reasons. At that time the crown was held by George III who was volatile and often strangely authoritarian. He eventually earned the sobriquet of “Crazy George” with various medical causes postulated for his mental problems. His problems were surely well known in the New World. Washington, Jefferson, et al might have expected throwing out the president more frequently than we have.

  5. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @erin ryan: People that actually know how to live their lives know its too nuanced to go around with a self imposed label. So your a “libertarian”—a white is right ideology for adults looking for another fairy tale now that the beans have been spilled about Santa Clause. Thank you for the revelation that Obama and Trump are the same. Congratulations —you might as well have said “As a poopy-head…”

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @erin ryan:

    a vocal minority

    This is false. Trump was elected by a minority, not a majority. In fact the majority voted against him and the majority despise him.

    and are willing to use force to insist

    This is a lie. We are using the constitution. There has been no violence, nor have we threatened any.

    your presumption of guilt

    Drivel. We have presented documentary evidence and witness testimony. Trump refuses to supply witnesses. Your comment consists of lies and is of no value.


    Democrats have been accusing Trump since 10 minutes after the election was called.

    Yes, because we can read. And we can reason. And we love our country and despise traitors.

  7. Gustopher says:


    Of course they believe it is contempt of Congress and, of course, they think he’s abusing his power. Impeachment for Trump is not a “stain.” It is a battle scar.

    Would it have been appropriate for Obama to have told the BENGAZI!!! investigations in the House and Senate to go pound sand?

    Would it have been appropriate for Obama to ask a foreign government to publically smear his opponent in his reelection?

    You’re staking an awful lot on a power grab by an obese 70 year old man. Even if you dispise democracy, like @erin ryan, you’re assuming you can kill it with one fell swoop and your party can hang onto power forever.

    Not a good bet. A big recession would change everything. El Presidente Octavio-Cruz is coming some day — don’t you want her constrained?

  8. Modulo Myself says:

    People like JKB come from the land of dumb dudes with huge pickups and arsenals. They don’t hunt and they’re lowly IT assistants at the suburban office park, but it’s all battle scars and coups, and leftist mobs attacking innocent white tough guys.

    That’s why this analysis fails. There isn’t just a class of normal people who wish to lead their lives and then a class of educated political junkies, but there’s also class of right-wing weirdos deep into the rage of being oppressed by everybody else. What keeps Trump from being impeached is how disturbingly adjacent this nutjob world is to normal white life if you’re just an average person spoonfed on Jesus and making money. I suspect there are a number of voters who don’t believe in impeachment because they’re terrified of the results on the white idiots in their immediate lives. The question is whether they will be terrified of voting against him when it’s time to vote.

  9. Kurtz says:

    @erin ryan:

    Ah yes, Right Wing “libertarianism.” Let me guess, you were introduced to this by Ron Paul.

    This is the dumb, adolescent, simplistic idea that the government is the only source of coercion. In reality, your philosophy is closer to oligarchy than anything other form of society. How cute. Run along now, I’m sure there are some middle schoolers just dying to discuss the finer points of Atlas Shrugged.

    Adults have things to figure out.

  10. Kathy says:

    Back on topic, we’re back to where we were in 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid.” The good news is the main Democratic candidates seem to know this.

    BTW, nice to see Paul Hsieh here. I owe him my renewed love affair with history, which happened when he shared a link to Duncan’s “The History of Rome” podcast on Facebook.

  11. Kurtz says:


    Yeah, that podcast is excellent.

  12. Kathy says:


    You know what’s great? Finding it when it has almost ended, so you never have to wait until next week, or, worse, next time, to find out what happens next. 🙂

  13. Kurtz says:

    Do you listen to Dan Carlin at all? I haven’t been able to get into it.

  14. Jay L Gischer says:

    @erin ryan: The thing is, Trump’s impeachment has nothing to do with “how we should live our lives’. It has everything to do with how any President should conduct business while in office. Which is to say, he needs to not withhold military aid in the form of taxpayer money unless a foreign leader promises to do him a personal favor. That’s my money, and he doesn’t get to do that.

    This has nothing to do with “how we should live our lives”. I don’t give a flying fruitcake how you live your life, as long as you don’t steal my stuff or hurt my people. Trump has done both.

  15. Kathy says:


    Maybe I should.

  16. Kurtz says:


    Haha? Was that a joke at my expense?

  17. Ken_L says:

    Presidents have three core responsibilities: execute the laws passed by Congress efficiently and effectively; develop and implement foreign policies that are in the nation’s long-term interests; protect and defend the integrity of the institutions upon which a democratic republic depends for its existence. Trump has failed miserably at all three, but unfortunately, they are no longer the criteria by which the media and the majority of voters judge presidents.

    Both parties have willingly helped create the fiction that their presidents deserve the credit for good economic times and the other party’s are to blame for bad ones. They can’t complain if they have to live with the consequences.

  18. Hal_10000 says:

    @erin ryan:

    as a libertarian

    As a libertarian, you should be one of the first in line to see such blatant abuse of power addressed.

    Ultimately, I don’t think impeachment will have much of a political impact. Lots of people don’t care. And those that do aren’t going to have their vote changed by it. I still think it’s more likely than not that Trump gets re-elected. And everyone will scramble for their narratives. But it doesn’t matter. This election turns on the economy.

  19. Kit says:

    Strange, if you just step back. The average guy is too concerned with his day-to-day life, even in a strong economy, to give much thought to other matters. Well, I guess that’s why we have a republic, so that elected representatives can give such matters their proper thought. Unfortunately, those same representatives turn around and say that they must let the voters decide. But those voters only pay attention to the economy. This is a failure at every level.

  20. Kurtz says:


    Merry Christmas, Kit.

    Jacques Ellul, in his book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes argued that modern people need propaganda due to the complexity of the current times.

    He wrote that in the early 60s.

  21. Kit says:

    A merry Christmas to you, too, Kurtz!

  22. Kathy says:


    No, not at all. It’s just I never got around to Carlin, whom I gather is quite popular in the history podcasting community.

  23. Kurtz says:


    I probably should have worded that differently or at least added a winky face.

  24. Kathy says:

    Quick Trump joke Time!

    Headline 2025:

    “Trump Presidential Library Burned! Both books destroyed!”

  25. moosebreath says:


    Including the one he was still coloring.

    I’ve heard that joke about a variety of Republican Presidents going back through Gerald Ford.

  26. Kathy says:


    Is coloring with a black Sharpie still called coloring?

  27. Kurtz says:


    At least one of the books is filled with stick figures with giant hands surrounded by busty foreign women. All drawn with Gold Sharpie.

  28. sam says:


    At least one of the books is filled with stick figures

    OT, but… Years, and years, and years ago I had a book on etiquette by Emily Post (haven’t the foggiest where I got it). The book was populated with stick figure drawings showing the do’s and dont’s. The credit page said: Artist – Andrew Warhol.

  29. Pete S says:

    @moosebreath: @Kathy:
    Given what we know about Trump Organization accounting practices, shouldn’t the joke be updated to “both sets of books destroyed” ?

  30. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Kathy: @Kurtz:

    Carlin is very good, but I can see how it’s hard to get into him now. Nowadays, his podcasts are 4-8 hours long, and come out twice a year. For those who are already into him, it’s great. But if you haven’t listened to him before, that’s a steep hill to climb. I recommend either checking out his older ones (behind a paywall, but it’s pay-what-you-want) or check out his Hardcore History Addendum podcast, which is essentially the old (shorter) version of his podcast re-labeled.

    If you like Duncan’s History of Rome podcast, his “Revolutions” podcast is even better. And check out “Philosophize This!” by Stephen West. Similar to History of Rome, but the history of philosophy.

  31. Kurtz says:


    I took a break from Civ VI to look this up. I had no idea that he illustrated many books, including many children’s books.

    As a side note, most of my rival civilizations hate me because i am Cyrus, a warmonger. Plus I convert their cities to my religion, Leostrianism. I guess they don’t like the lion symbol I chose.

    Btw, it doesn’t give me an option to name links. How do i do that?

    ETA: nvm, figured it out.

  32. Kurtz says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I have listened to some of all three of those! I second those recommendations!

  33. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I’ve been listening to Revolutions since shortly after it started. I’m already looking forward to what Duncan will do next. Yes, I know he’s in Paris researching/writing his second book, “Citizen Lafayette.” But I hope he’ll do another podcast eventually.

    And check out “Philosophize This!” by Stephen West.

    Damn. Now I’ve looked it up. 🙂

  34. Raoul says:

    One of the ironies of the economy being a political issue is that as long we avoid a recession it become a less impactful. That’s not to say that that are great swaths in the country not doing so well, but in strictly data terms the economy is averaging a tad north of 2% growth the last ten years- the difference being that Obama did it with half the current deficit which probably means growth is being artificially stimulated.

  35. DrDaveT says:


    I took a break from Civ VI to […]

    Whippersnapper. I took a break from Civ II to reply to you.

  36. Neil Hudelson says:

    @DrDaveT: @Kurtz:

    Man, I must have spent yearsstaying up late at night as a tween playing civ ii with my friend who was lucky enough to have a decent computer. I’m a devotee to civ v, and I’ve downloaded vi but haven’t seen too much of a difference from V. The city-state interactions are a bit better in vi (better than the buy-their-favor method in V). On the flip side, the permanently semi-hidden map gets annoying.

  37. DrDaveT says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Man, I must have spent years staying up late at night as a tween playing civ ii with my friend who was lucky enough to have a decent computer.

    When Civilization first came out in 1991, my youngest brother (who was 18) bought it and installed it on my parents’ computer. I came to visit (possibly over the Christmas break), and he showed me the game. I sat down after dinner to try it out… and when I looked up it was 3:00 in the morning.

  38. Kurtz says:

    @DrDaveT: @Neil Hudelson:

    I haven’t had a decent computer for a long time. It recently came out for PS4, and the UI works really well. It was overpriced for a game that is a few years old, so I haven’t added the expansions yet. I’ve heard they add a lot to the base game.

    By the end of the day, I had shown Roosevelt a bigger stick.

    Dr. Dave, not too much of a whippersnapper–I started playing Civ on a Packard Bell (!!!).

  39. Kari Q says:


    Sid Meier is a genius game developer. Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Pirates. Back in the day, I would buy anything Microprose (or later Firaxis) put out. I played his games obsessively.

  40. Gustopher says:

    @DrDaveT: I was playing the Civilization board game!

  41. Kit says:


    Jacques Ellul, in his book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes argued that modern people need propaganda due to the complexity of the current times.

    He wrote that in the early 60s.

    I just finished reading Wikipedia’s long article on that book. Wow! Frankly, any work that dense requires serious time in order to digest.

    The aim of modern propaganda is no longer to modify ideas, but to provoke action. It is no longer to change adherence to a doctrine, but to make the individual cling irrationally to a process of action. It is no longer to transform an opinion but to arouse an active and mythical belief

    In some sense, I couldn’t help but wonder what Ellul would have made of the internet and it’s decentralized nature:

    Propaganda must be total in that utilizes all forms of media to draw the individual into the net of propaganda. Propaganda is designed to be continuous within the individual’s life by filling the citizen’s entire day. It is based on slow constant impregnation that functions over a long period of time exceeding the individual’s capacities for attention or adaptation and thus his capabilities of resistance. In order for propaganda to maintain encirclement, it must be exerted by an organization capable of influencing psychological channels that reach the individual.

    And what he would have made of Trump:

    Only a bad propagandist would make a direct attack on an established, reasoned, durable opinion, accepted cliché, or fixed pattern. [taken from Wikipedia and not a direct quote, so perhaps not representative of Ellul’s views]

    In any case, thanks for that.

  42. Kurtz says:


    Sure thing. From what I remember, that’s pretty representative. I may have to find my copy to go back through parts of it again.

    Thinking back, it amazes me how precient Ellul was.