December 18 just went down in history as the day Donald Trump became the third American president to be impeached by the US House of Representatives, after Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1998). Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before facing an impeachment vote.
There are other historic firsts. Trump is the first president who has been a target of impeachment from the day he took office. He is the first president to be impeached on a pure party-line vote. Four Democrats voted ‘No’ on impeachment, as did all the Republicans.
Trump is also the only first-term president to be impeached. If the Senate does not remove him, he will be the first impeached president to run for re-election.
So, will the Senate remove him? Unlikely. It takes 67 votes to convict, and even if all the Democrats unite, that’s only 47 votes. A couple of Democrats may vote against conviction. Trump has a comfortable margin and will survive.
Based on current polling, he has an excellent chance of getting re-elected. There are no more investigations, no more reports, no more damaging information forthcoming — unless, of course, a new scandal develops.
If popular votes decided American elections, Trump would probably lose. But elections are won or lost, state by state, according to the electoral college, ie the total number of legislators in Congress. There are 538 members in the House and Senate. So the winner needs 270 electoral votes to become president.
In the 2018 elections to the House, 32 Democrats were elected from swing districts that voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Many of those who voted for Trump’s impeachment will likely lose next year. Trump could then win big in 2020. And the Republicans may even take back control of the House.
Fearing such an outcome, Democratic leaders gave Trump important legislative victories last week, including approving a huge trade deal with Mexico and Canada called USMCA, which has significant protections for American workers, a favourite goal of Trump’s.
Americans have always rewarded presidents a second term if promises are kept. Under Trump, the economy is booming. Unemployment is down to 70-year lows. Wages are up for every demographic. The stock market has reached record highs. The White House just announced a Phase-1 trade deal with China. There have been no new wars. The ISIS’ leader and deputy were both killed.
Globally, nationalist policies are slowly taking hold. Boris Johnson’s massive victory in the UK over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party — that promised free everything to everyone — is an ominous warning for the US Democrats. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are proposing a Corbyn-style restructuring of the American economy, which the vast majority of voters will never accept.
Former VP Joe Biden is still in the lead, but he is a shaky debater. Besides, it was his son, Hunter Biden, who had profitable Ukranian business deals that were at the centre of the impeachment story. With all this infighting, the Democratic nominee may not be known until we’re well into May.
Meanwhile, Trump has already raised more money than all the Democratic candidates combined and is using sophisticated social media tools to get new voters. Incumbency has its advantages. He can instantly commission Air Force One to take him to an international meeting or an American military base. Plus, he can command the microphone any time he so wishes.
Granted, Trump’s brand is shaken. The media will remind us every day that he was impeached. But the average American is chronically fatigued with being fed negative stories 24/7. And Trump will remind us so at every election rally.
There is every chance that Trump will win again in 2020.
The writer is Managing Director, Rao Advisors LLC, Texas