For all of the incessant talk of impeachment among the media and politicians inside the beltway, there is one place where the “I-word” is conspicuously absent: the Democratic primary campaign trail.
Such was the observation of Edward-Isaac Dovere in an article for The Atlantic that he submitted on the road from Iowa following a big event in which only one of 13 candidates in attendance uttered any word whatsoever about impeaching President Donald Trump.
“The impeachment fight is all-consuming. It’s the biggest story in politics. No one is talking about anything else — except pretty much everywhere outside of Washington,” Dovere wrote.
The dreaded I-word
Dovere had been in attendance at a four-hour “dinner” in which 13 of the Democratic presidential candidates had taken the stage to address the crowd — but only one, California billionaire Tom Steyer, made mention of the effort to impeach the president.
That mention of impeachment was largely just Steyer taking credit for making the idea “mainstream.” Steyer pointed to his self-funded advertising push to promote the removal process, which came prior to his run for the White House.
“Steyer argues that his long record of being outspoken in favor of impeachment is a key part of why people should support his candidacy,” Steyer wrote, “yet his mention of impeachment Friday night got a warm but not overwhelming response.”
A “political calculation”
The liberal writer also noted that Janet Peterson, a top Democrat in the Iowa state Senate, told him that while Iowans care about impeachment and are paying attention to what is going on in Washington, they nonetheless are far more concerned about the issues that impact them on a daily basis, “like paying for preschool.”
Indeed, Dovere pointed out that the Democratic candidates certainly didn’t pull any punches in regard to their criticism of the president; rather, they had just made the “political calculation” that talk of impeachment simply wasn’t moving the needle for them, much like talk of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation earlier in the year.
“On some level, you could say that the stakes right now, the level of crisis we’re facing, is so great that it’s almost impossible to speak to it through a traditional political process like a campaign,” Pete Buttigieg, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told Dovere at a recent event in South Carolina. “In many ways, we may yet be underreacting.”
What do voters want?
2020 hopeful Andrew Yang had similar thoughts. “We have to face facts, where not a single Republican crossed the aisle to support the impeachment vote,” the entrepreneur said. “That would certainly suggest that impeachment’s going to run aground in the Senate and this is going to wind up [with] Donald Trump claiming innocence and vindication.”
Dovere heard something similar in a phone call from Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, who relayed that in all of her talks with constituents over the past week, not a single person from her state had raised the topic of impeachment. She, like the top Senate Democrat in Iowa, suggested that voters were more focused on other issues, such as “health care, climate change, and the perpetual feeling that they’re working harder and harder but never making enough to get by.”
Whether this particular message makes it back to D.C. or the cable TV newsrooms remains to be seen, but at least the Democratic candidates on the campaign trail have heard it loud and clear.