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Why don’t more Americans support impeachment?

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For those of us who are determined to get rid of the catastrophe of Trump by any means, the latest Washington Post-ABC poll is troubling. The poll’s key finding is shocking: “The trend on impeachment has moved in Trump’s direction…despite [Tom] Steyer’s multimillion-dollar campaign. Last August, the result was a 49/46 plurality in support of impeachment proceedings beginning in the House. In just five months, that has flipped 18 points in the gap in this series.”

Even among Democrats, support for impeachment is falling, down from 75% to 64% since last August.

These numbers are all the more surprising given that large majorities of Americans don’t like Trump. The same Washington Post-ABC poll shows that 65% of Americans have no confidence in his ability to make the right decisions for America. Nearly as many (64%) don’t trust him. Just 33% believe he’s handled the deficit competently. Nearly two-thirds (65%) don’t think Trump understands their problems; nearly as many (61%) find him dishonest.

What are we to make of these conflicting numbers? Assuming they’re accurate (and as we all know, different polls can find different things), my take is this: Americans know that Donald J. Trump, the man, is thoroughly disreputable. Even Republican religionists, like Franklin Graham, concede Trump’s fundamental amorality.

I doubt if there’s a Republican in the Congress who would praise Trump’s ethics. Whether they admit it or not, even the knuckle-draggers at Breitbart know what an unpleasant, unscrupulous person he is. As for Democrats, they’ve been united on Trump’s personal unfitness from the beginning of his regime.

So why don’t more people support impeachment? And why is the number falling?

This is a tough question for people like me to answer. We’ve been calling for Trump’s ouster for years. We have a lot riding on seeing him fall. We believe, with all our hearts and minds, that we’re right: Trump is a disaster for the country, the worst president ever, and anyone who doesn’t agree is wrong. And yet, evidently, when it comes to impeachment, we’re in the minority.

I take heart in this: we’re in the majority as far as recognizing Trump’s horrible qualities. From the pussy-grabbing to the pathological lying, from not paying vendors to hiring illegal aliens at his golf clubs, from the adultery to stoking neo-nazi racism and white supremacy, from his authoritarianism to the insults of Democrats and threats against a free press, Trump has assured himself a negative reputation in the history books of the future. So when we say he’s a bad man, we’re in the solid majority.

But when it comes to impeachment, most Americans apparently have great hesitance taking that step. It is, admittedly, a drastic move; but it is entirely Constitutional (Article 1, Section 3 and Article II, Section 4), so it wouldn’t be an extra-legal affair, like a coup d’état. Perhaps many Americans remember the impeachment of Bill Clinton, 20 years ago, and how that ended up going precisely nowhere; the House did impeach him but the Senate refused to convict. Perhaps Americans just don’t want to go through all that angst again.

And maybe it’s because, so far at least, Mueller hasn’t been able publicly to connect the dots that lead to the conclusion that Trump really did engage in a conspiracy with the Russians. It’s true that many of his senior campaign and White House staff have now been arrested, indicted, convicted or pleaded guilty; but their crimes all seem peculiar to the men themselves—lying, perjury, wire fraud and so on—and do not yet involve Trump. The American people, it turns out, are fundamentally fair. While they know Trump is a rapacious scumbag, they don’t want to indict him until the evidence is solid. In this, the American public is functioning rather like a Grand Jury.

What happens when the evidence for conspiracy reaches a tipping point? Then, I’m confident the impeachment poll numbers will flip. But what happens if the evidence, in the end, simply isn’t there? We know Trump and his family actively solicited Russia to release (through Wikileaks) the stolen emails. We know Trump and his family lied about the Trump Tower meeting, which, far from being about adoption, was about trading the hacked emails for ending sanctions on Russia. We know how the Russians interfered in the election through social media, and we think we know they were aided in that effort by Trump supporters, who supplied key polling data and talking points for all the fake posts. We know, in other words, the broad outlines of the conspiracy.

But maybe none of it was illegal. Unethical yes. Fraudulent, yes. Deeply offensive to fairness, and deeply dishonest. But illegal?

Well, I don’t know, and neither do you. Only Mueller knows what he’s found, and he isn’t talking. But I have to believe that ultimately the percentage of Americans who support impeachment will rise, hitting 50% sometime this Spring, then continuing to go up. Am I wrong? God, I hope not. If Trump isn’t impeached, and survives this scandal, he’ll be out of control.

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