Humanosity says…Impeachment is going to dominate US politics for the next few months. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the history, process and the politics that are involved.
Our previous impeachments shed little light on this one. It’s generally unwise to make confident predictions without a relatively large data set to draw upon. Here, we have only had four examples of serious impeachment proceedings.
The first two – John Tyler and Andrew Johnson – do not help us understand our present politics. Both involved presidents who had weak relationships with their respective parties and who had succeeded to the office after presidents of the opposing party had died while serving. Perhaps more importantly, both took place in the mid-1800s, long before the arrival of reliable public opinion polling.
The other two examples are more relevant, but in both cases, it is nearly impossible to isolate the specifics of impeachment from the broader political context. Richard Nixon’s case would seem to offer a good example for Democrats, as his job approval suffered an astonishing decline from 67% at his second inauguration to a mere 24% as he left office after being told by GOP leaders that he would not survive a Senate trial. Republicans were crushed in the ensuing midterm elections, and Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, lost to an inexperienced Southern Democrat named Jimmy Carter two years later.
It is not, however, clear how much of this is attributable to impeachment itself. Nixon had the advantage of running for reelection amid 5% economic growth, which doubtless juiced his job approval numbers. But the economy began turning against Nixon at the beginning of his second term. The easy money policies pursued by the Federal Reserve began to catch up with the country, as the monthly inflation rate brushed up against 1% in March 1973 and almost hit 2% in August. Overall inflation for the year was almost 9%, and the federal funds rate hit 11%. In 1974, inflation surged to over 12%.
At the same time, in October of 1973, OPEC instituted an embargo of oil to the United States, causing widespread gas shortages. The country entered a serious recession, which lasted until 1975 – the longest recession the country had experienced since the Great Depression.
To be clear, my position is not that impeachment was irrelevant, as Nixon’s job approval declined before the recession took hold (though it’s also true that the president’s job approval fell below 50% before the Watergate committee began televised proceedings in May of 1973). The point is simply that we don’t know whether the president’s job approval would have collapsed, and remained depressed, without rising inflation, a serious recession, and a menu of other scandals that cropped up (such as the bombing of Cambodia).
On the other hand, Republicans would like to point to the impeachment of Bill Clinton as an example that benefited the incumbent party. After all, in the midst of the impeachment imbroglio Democrats picked up House seats, and Bill Clinton’s job approval soared…….