In commenting on another website, it occurred to me that my last post on this topic may have overstressed the role of public opinion as an independent variable to which politicians must respond, without noting that politicians can also shape public opinion. Thus, I indicated that the Democrats are smart not to be initiating formal impeachment hearings now because they don’t yet have sufficient public support for that course of action.  But ordinary citizens take cues from their political leaders.*  Some voters–especially Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents–may not favor impeachment because they assume that, if big-name Democrats aren’t pushing for impeachment, it’s probably not appropriate. So, I think it’s a good thing that some of the Democratic presidential aspirants are calling for impeachment.  I would like to also see Pelosi and the rest of the Dem Congressional leadership to be somewhat more explicit in acknowledging that impeachment is an eventual possibility and may become a necessity.  They are already moving in that direction.  It will be interesting to see how public opinion changes.


* Example—Republican voters used to be overwhelmingly distrustful of Vladimir Putin; over the last couple of years polls have shown them to have an increasingly benign view of him.  Why do you think that might be?



  1. Janet June 5, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Tony,
    I agree with your point that politicians shape public opinion. But I think they should be demanding impeachment hearings now. To me, it’s a moral imperative. The political consequences are uncertain and anyway, Trump will manipulate the Democrats’ decision either way.”They didn’t try to impeach me because I’m innocent,” versus “They tried to impeach me and failed.”

    • tonygreco June 6, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      The several investigations going on already amount to an impeachment inquiry in all but name. The question, then, is whether actually calling it an impeachment inquiry would make the current effort so much more effective that it would justify the risks involved in going against public opinion. I don’t think it would at this point in time. I am hopeful that the investigations before too long will have just enough impact on public perceptions to change that risk calculation.

  2. Jeremy A Graham June 5, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    The failure of congress to impeach is further proof that they don’t work for us. That’s what it comes down to after all the double-talk.

    • tonygreco June 6, 2019 at 12:04 am

      Since the polls indicate that a majority of Americans oppose impeachment, it would seem more natural to conclude that the problem is that members of Congress do work for us.

  3. Donald Campbell June 6, 2019 at 9:02 am

    I accept the relevance of your post regarding Max Weber and the quest for purity vs. pragmatism, and the points you made are well taken. However, regarding impeachment I see both facets of your argument in play.

    It would be reckless to pursue impeachment if that helped Trump secure a second term. There are other considerations and the above assertion is probably not true. First, is it not the duty of the congress as an agent of the constitution, to pursue impeachment against an obviously reckless and lawless president? The process of impeachment itself, given the proper motivations of the congress people, will bring high profile scrutiny to transgressions of the Trump administration.

    If during a trial the republican senators allow Trump and his minions to avoid conviction, won’t that be more likely to reflect badly upon them and their party as not? Certainly a great depends on how the case unfolds and certainly fear mongering social media posts and it concomitant foreign interference will probably play a part.

    Perhaps the democrats are being overly cautious, while building a case, which is probably prudent, but if they wait to long it will weaken their case. There is a time to act!

    • tonygreco June 6, 2019 at 12:15 pm

      See my reply to Janet above.

      I would add that I certainly agree that the prospect that the Senate won’t convict is not a concern. Everybody will know that the Senate’s action reflects partisanship over principle, but it would be all the more shameful if both houses of Congress abdicated their responsibility to hold a lawless president to account.

  4. Jeremy A Graham June 6, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Polls are far from perfect. Politicians want it both ways. They will act without approval from the constituents whenever they want to, and then point to the polls when they don’t want to perform their duty.

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