The impeachment drama on Capitol Hill generates screaming headlines portending the imminent end of the Trump presidency. But public opinion is not heading where the Democrats are trying to lead it.
Take, for example, the MSN Daily Presidential Tracking Poll. Since late August, when this issue began to blow up, the president’s approval rating has fluctuated between 42 and 46 percent, showing no distinct trend. Granted, there is good reason to argue about the polling methodology and whether this number undercounts Trump’s support. Major polling organizations have shown no signs of having learned any lessons from their disastrous showing in 2016.
The important factor here is the trendline, which is basically flat. Neither approval or disapproval are moving in any solid direction, which is to say the impeachment spectacle is not changing anyone’s mind. The same is true for the question of whether the Senate should remove the president if the House impeaches. MSN claims that number is at 52 percent, but it was at 55 percent on Oct. 4, so it’s not exactly a groundswell for removal.
Likewise look at the aggregate data from the FiveThirtyEight site. Support for impeachment was mired in the mid-thirties throughout the Mueller/Russia imbroglio, and only jumped to the low 50s in September when the Democrats began making impeachment part of their vocabulary with respect to Ukraine. But after the initial surge in interest, the numbers flatlined, suggesting this movement had more to do with anti-Trumpers being given party-line permission to talk about impeachment more than any facts that have been put in evidence.
Likewise look at the FiveThirtyEight aggregate Trump approval rankings. Trump’s lowest approval during his presidency was in December 2017, when he was supposedly in the in the mid-30s. Now his numbers are almost ten points higher by their reckoning. And Trump is not even at their supposed low for the year, which occurred last January. Again, you can judge FiveThirtyEight’s results against their abysmal 2016 performance, but the trendlines are the key, and they don’t show the public rallying against the president.
The press is naturally doing its part to push the narrative. Take Thursday’s Washington Post print edition headline, “Diplomat acknowledges ‘quid pro quo,’” referring to Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony. Those of us who follow the story know Sondland only acknowledged his personal presumption of a quid pro quo, produced no evidence that it actually existed, and admitted later when questioned by Republicans that the president specifically stated that he wanted nothing from Ukraine and there was no “quid pro quo.” The irony value of The Post’s “Democracy dies in darkness” motto grows day by day.
But are people even paying attention to the breathless headlines? Reportage of the Mueller investigation trained people not to keep their excitement in check. We had two years of “bombshells,” “tipping points,” or “the beginnings of the end” that came up flat. These days it seems more like congressional Democrats, liberal pundits and their media allies are simply talking to each other. Live coverage of the proceedings drew only 13 million on day one, and then eroded by a few million as the week wore on.
This could be the import of the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll this week that showed that “the overwhelming majority of Americans across parties say nothing they hear in the inquiry will change their minds on impeachment,” either pro or con. Two-thirds of Democrats and three-quarters of Republicans are locked into their positions. Even 56 percent of independents have made up their minds and tuned out.
Paradoxically, those who are following the proceedings are even more dogmatic in their views, with Democrats and Republicans dug in at over 80 percent and independents split down the middle. And this is even with the process unfairly rigged against Republicans, with cross-examination stifled, witnesses and evidence suppressed, and the usual unrelenting media bias.
The biggest impact of the impeachment farce may be to rally the respective bases of the parties. It may or may not result in a formal impeachment process, or actual vote on impeachment. But Democrats are running against the clock at this point. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11 about his report on FISA abuse and the origins of the Russia probe. Then we will begin to see how the real high crimes were committed, and by whom.
Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research for Judicial Watch, a nonprofit watchdog group. He previously worked as a counterintelligence case officer.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.