Democrats Learned the Wrong Lesson From Clinton’s Impeachment

President Clinton address Democratic lawmakers who joined him outside the Oval Office of the White House after the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president, Saturday Dec.19, 1998. Looking on is Vice President Gore. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)

It didn’t actually cost the GOP all that much.

By Ronald Brownstein

Democrats debating whether to impeach Donald Trump may be misreading the evidence from the last time the House tried to remove a president.

It’s become conventional wisdom—not only among Democrats but also among many political analysts—that House Republicans paid a severe electoral price for moving against Bill Clinton in 1998, at a time when polls showed most of the public opposed that action.

But that straightforward conclusion oversimplifies impeachment’s effects, according to my analysis of the election results and interviews with key strategists who were working in national politics at the time. While Republicans did lose House seats in both 1998 and 2000, Democrats did not gain enough to capture control of the chamber either time. And in 2000, lingering unease about Clinton’s behavior provided a crucial backdrop for George W. Bush’s winning presidential campaign—particularly his defining promise “to restore honor and dignity” to the Oval Office.

The Atlantic

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