Did Democrats forfeit 2020?
The usually shrewd House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDivisions emerge over House drug price bills Budowsky: Speaker Pelosi rises to the occasion Overnight Defense: Senate breaks with Trump on Yemen war | Shanahan hit with ethics complaint over Boeing ties | Pentagon rolls out order to implement transgender ban | Dem chair throws cold water on Space Force budget MORE has just made a terrible mistake. In an interview with the Washington Post this week, she ruled out an impeachment investigation of President TrumpDonald John TrumpGary Cohn says Trump trade adviser the only economist in world who believes in tariffs House transportation committee chairman threatens to subpoena Boeing, FAA communication Pentagon sets new limits on transgender service members MORE unless there emerges some blockbuster new revelation and she secures overwhelming Republican support. By miscalculation, she has just handed Trump two precious gifts: victory in 2020 and carte blanche to continue undermining the ethical standards of presidential leadership without fear of retribution.
Like Democrats in 2016, Pelosi seems to believe that her party has the edge in the presidential election of 2020. When it comes to impeachment, “He’s just not worth it,” because Democrats are going to drive him out of office at the polls. In fact, right now, Trump is well-positioned to win again in 2020, absent impeachment. The currently positive outlook for the president is the verdict of the Keys to the White House, a historically based prediction system that I developed in 1981 in collaboration with Vladimir Keilis-Borok, one of the world’s leading mathematicians. The model has since successfully predicted the results of all presidential elections since 1984, including Trump’s victory in 2016.
The keys system is based upon the proposition that presidential elections largely turn on the strength and performance of the party holding the White House. The model identifies 13 true/false questions (or “keys”). When the answers to five or fewer of these questions are false, the incumbent party wins. When six or more are false, the incumbent party loses. Currently, the incumbent Republicans have lost only three keys. The party’s losses in the U.S. House elections have cost it the mandate key. The lack of any well-recognized foreign policy triumph forfeits foreign/military success key. Although Donald Trump appeals passionately to a minority of the American people, he lacks broad across-the-board appeal necessary to secure the incumbent charisma/national hero key.
The impeachment of Donald Trump would cost the Republicans a fourth key – the scandal key — and bring Trump closer to defeat in 2020. Any two additional setbacks would cost Trump the presidency: an election year recession, a significant primary challenge within his own party, the rise of a major third party candidates, a foreign policy disaster and the nomination by the Democrats of a charismatic candidate, the only key under the control of the challenging party.
Pelosi has also misread the lessons of the Republican-led impeachment of President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBudowsky: Speaker Pelosi rises to the occasion National emergency funding of border wall is unconstitutional Audio: Tucker Carlson made explicit jokes about Miss Teen USA contestant MORE. The impeachment likely cost the Republicans a few House and Senate seats in the midterm elections of 1998, but it handed the GOP a much greater prize, the American presidency. The impeachment cost the incumbent Democrats in 2000 a fifth key, the scandal key, which brought the party to the edge of defeat, with the third party candidacy of Ralph Nader hanging in the balance. Nader did not win enough votes nationally to turn the popular vote against the Democrats, but he won 97,488 votes in Florida. Republican candidate George W. Bush won Florida and the presidency by just 537 votes.
Already, based on what is publicly known, there is a stronger case for obstruction of justice against Donald Trump than against Clinton, on far more important matters than the coverup of a private, consensual affair. Trump is further implicated in two felonies for violating campaign finance laws, which are in place to avoid the corruption of our elections. There are serious allegations that the president has engaged in financial crimes and sold access to the presidency. He has likely violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids the president, without authorization from Congress, from taking anything of value from foreign governments or their agents. If all this is not enough to begin in impeachment inquiry, then the House of Representatives will have legitimized presidential transgressions short of “smoking gun” proof that he conspired with a hostile foreign power to rig an American election.
Pelosi also misunderstands impeachment. The framers established impeachment as a legal and peaceful means for removing a rogue leader without resort to revolution or assassination. Johnson’s impeachment benefited the nation by moderating his opposition to civil and political rights for freed slaves. Nixon’s resignation removed a serious threat to American democracy. Despite warnings of damage to the office of president, the presidency emerged stronger than ever after Clinton’s impeachment.
The Constitution grants the U.S. House the sole authority for impeachment. It is not members’ responsibility to consult a crystal ball to discern what the Senate might do after it fulfills its constitutional duty to try the president on the House’s charges. The words of founder John Adams should still resonate today: “Men are not only ambitious, but their ambition is unbounded: they are not only avaricious, but their avarice is insatiable.” Therefore, “it is necessary to place checks upon them all.”
Allan Lichtman is an election forecaster and distinguished professor of history at American University. Follow him on Twitter @AllanLichtman.
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