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It’s Safe to Impeach Donald Trump

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Should five people stand in the way of Congress’s performing its constitutional, historical, and moral duty? Despite widespread agreement among Democrats that the president has committed multiple impeachable offenses, fear of the political consequences of proceeding with impeachment continues to dominate the behavior of House Democrats. They need not be so worried.

The political calculations and hesitation about proceeding with articles of impeachment are rooted in an incorrect understanding of what happened in the 2018 midterm elections and a vastly overstated estimate of the number of congressional districts where moderate voters made the difference. House Democrats won 235 districts in 2018, giving them a 17-seat majority. Contrary to the widespread political conventional wisdom, the defection of Trump voters to the Democratic side determined the outcome of contests in only five of those districts.

Democratic Georgia Representative Hank Johnson, a member of the Judiciary Committee, articulated the concerns of his fellow Democrats when he said, “I think we have to pay close attention to what’s going on in the 30 or so swing districts, what are those people thinking.” But the idea that there are 30 Democratic-held districts where Trump supporters are the dominant force is empirically unsound and mathematically unsupported. First of all, only 21 of the seats won by Democrats in 2018 were in districts won by Trump in 2016—fewer than half the seats that Democrats flipped. Second, 16 of those 21 districts are less moderate than most analysts think they are.

“Districts Won by Trump” Does Not Mean What You Think It Does

A frequent media and strategist talking point is that many new members of Congress come from districts that Trump won in 2016. That assertion implies that in those districts, many Trump voters switched allegiances in 2018 and backed the Democratic congressional candidate. Those new members of Congress, the thinking goes, are vulnerable to a backlash from moderate and conservative voters who could see impeachment as Democrats overreaching.

While on first impression it’s not illogical to draw such a conclusion about the implications of a Trump-won district, a closer read of the numbers and data reveals a very different picture. In fact, it reveals the opposite.

Quite simply, of those who voted in 2018, more people who voted against Trump in 2016 came back out to vote in the midterms than did those who voted for him in the last presidential election. In the decisive midterm races that flipped the House to the Democrats, significantly more Hillary Clinton voters returned to the polls than did Trump voters.

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