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New Poll: Trump will leave office with 38% approval

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore under CC licence

In many ways, this is completely remarkable:

Those numbers are terrible, of course. When over half the country wants to see a politician criminally prosecuted, it’s fair to say they’re not popular. But it’s worth putting the numbers into some context: President Trump has been the subject of universal media and political denunciation for the guts of two solid weeks. He’s been accused of attempting a coup d’etat against his own country. And still, after all that, four in ten Americans approve of his job performance. Bear in mind – that makes Trump more popular in the United States than any political party is in Ireland. He’s more popular than Fine Gael, Sinn Fein, Fianna Fáil, or all of the other Irish parties, combined.

Four in ten Americans, it’s clear, just don’t listen to the American media.

By contrast, George W. Bush, the last Republican President, and a man who’s generally regarded as having carried out the duties of the office honourably, left office in January 2009 with an approval rating in the low twenties.

The other thing to consider here, of course, is that Trump’s support has been persistently, and consistently, under-estimated by opinion polls throughout his presidency, by four to five per cent. It’s reasonably likely that the true figure is in the low to mid forties.

There’s no real lesson in this, of course. His approval ratings are, for the most part, irrelevant. He’s leaving office next Wednesday, and by this time next week, Joe Biden will be the President.

The lesson, though, is that the United States is so polarised that to a large extent, what you do in public office doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the letter, R, or D, that comes after your name.

The one thing that Trump still has to worry about, though, is the possibility that he will become the only US President ever to have been successfully impeached – and the only US politician ever to be impeached after leaving office. To convict him, 67 Senators will have to side against him. There are 50 Democrats, all of whom are certain to convict. That means 17 Republicans would have to vote to convict him.

In ordinary times, that would be impossible. But after last week? Here’s Republican, Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska:

The House of Representatives has impeached President Trump for an unprecedented second time, under a charge of “incitement of insurrection” in the wake of the unlawful and violent siege of the Capitol on January 6. This second impeachment stands in stark contrast to what we faced last January—an impeachment that was partisan from the beginning and left no opportunity for a fair trial in the Senate. The resolution to impeach President Trump for a second time passed by a vote of 232-197, representing the most bipartisan support and the largest number of votes for a presidential impeachment.

“For months, the President has perpetrated false rhetoric that the election was stolen and rigged, even after dozens of courts ruled against these claims. When he was not able to persuade the courts or elected officials, he launched a pressure campaign against his own Vice President, urging him to take actions that he had no authority to do. On the day of the riots, President Trump’s words incited violence, which led to the injury and deaths of Americans – including a Capitol Police officer – the desecration of the Capitol, and briefly interfered with the government’s ability to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. Such unlawful actions cannot go without consequence and the House has responded swiftly, and I believe, appropriately, with impeachment.

She doesn’t sound like someone who’s about to vote with the President on impeachment, does she? You can probably add two more Republicans as dead certain votes to convict – Senators Mitt Romney, and Susan Collins. That gets the Democrats to 53 of the 67 votes they need. After that, it will come down, if we’re honest, to the opinion polls. If Republicans think their own voters will let them away with it, Trump will be impeached. If they think he’s still more popular than they are with their own voters, then they’ll stick with him. Morality and loyalty won’t come into it. American politics is as cynical as politics anywhere else in the world.

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