Michelle Goldberg: It is time to march for impeachment

Brian Kilmeade — the dark-haired guy on “Fox & Friends,” Fox News’ morning show — was surprised. During the program on Monday, a correspondent reported that a Fox News poll showed that 50% of voters favored impeaching and removing Donald Trump. (An additional 4% favored impeachment alone.) “I was stunned to see that that’s the number, because I thought that things were trending away,” said Kilmeade.

It’s tempting to think that he simply made the mistake of watching too much of his own network, but recently the idea that impeachment has been bad for the Democrats has been widespread. “Democrats’ impeachment obsession is backfiring,” The Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen crowed last month. “Indeed, it could prove to be the biggest political blunder in modern times.”

It could, but so far it hasn’t. After weeks of contentious, often exasperating hearings, most polls show backing for impeachment holding steady, with more people supporting than opposing it. Support for removing Trump from office is generally higher than was support for removing Richard Nixon in July 1974, the month before he resigned.

True, impeachment is less popular in several important swing states, which is cause for Democratic worry. And there have been a couple of polls that show it underwater with voters at large, including a recent one from Quinnipiac. But as David Graham recently wrote in The Atlantic, one underappreciated aspect of the Trump impeachment is how popular it is given the rarity and severity of the remedy. It’s certainly more popular than Trump himself.

That’s particularly true in some states where Republican senators are up for reelection in 2020. In Maine, where Susan Collins is still reportedly deciding on her political future, an October poll showed support for impeachment at 53%. Her own approval rating was 35%. The same month, a poll in Colorado, where Cory Gardner is facing a tough reelection battle, found that a plurality of 48% favored Trump’s impeachment and removal.

For some reason, though, I rarely hear pundits wagging their fingers at Republicans about the price they’ll pay for clinging to a president who is consistently out of step with mainstream American values. I suspect that’s because the media tends to unconsciously accept Republican ideas about who constitutes an “average American,” so that the majority of Americans who oppose Trump are treated like an elitist fringe.

After Brett Kavanaugh’s agonizing Supreme Court confirmation, Republicans insisted that Democrats would face a reckoning from outraged voters. Anger about Kavanaugh’s treatment may indeed have contributed to Democratic losses in North Dakota and Missouri. All the same, more voters opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation than supported it, and polling indicated that the hearings motivated Democrats more than Republicans. Women furious at the treatment of Christine Blasey Ford, who upended her life by publicly accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault, helped power the blue wave that won Democrats the House and made impeachment possible.

Ultimately, there’s no way to know how small polling fluctuations on impeachment now will affect an election that’s almost a year away. But Trump’s skill at intimidating the political class into believing that he is anything but historically reviled still matters. It keeps his supporters in line and demoralizes his opponents. That’s why, with an impeachment vote in the House expected on Wednesday, it’s important for anti-Trump America to make itself visible.

For months now, many people, myself included, have looked at mass protest movements around the world and wondered why Americans horrified by the depravity of this administration aren’t taking to the streets. Well, on Tuesday evening, in every part of the country, many will be.

Over 550 protests calling for the impeachment and removal of Trump are planned, sponsored by a coalition of progressive groups including Public Citizen, Indivisible, the Service Employees International Union and the Sierra Club. There will be at least one protest in every state. [Including Utah.] If you are disgusted by Trump’s behavior, and by the way elected Republicans have built an impenetrable wall of lies to protect him, you should go.

Think back to how bleak it was the day of Trump’s inauguration. Then remember the exhilaration of the day after, as millions of people marched in the largest single day of protest in American history. The Women’s March helped blunt the momentum of Trump’s presidency before it started, sending the message that there would be popular resistance at every step.

High-profile protests have, perhaps naturally, waned as the Trump presidency has dragged on. Ordinary people can’t sustain a sense of emergency month after month, and much of the Resistance has poured itself into organizing around local elections. But this moment, when the political valence of impeachment is still unclear, and the fight for a thorough, transparent trial in the Senate is just beginning, citizens can make a real difference by gathering en masse and voicing their outrage.

Demonstrations aren’t just about pressuring Republicans, though. Despite cable and social media, local TV news is still many people’s primary news source. Because there are going to be demonstrations everywhere — there are eight planned for Montana alone — local TV will likely cover them. “Right now the message is coming from Washington,” Jonah Minkoff-Zern, an organizer with Public Citizen, told me Monday. “Tomorrow night, people are going to hear their neighbors’ voices.” If you want those voices to be amplified, you have to show up.

Michelle Goldberg | The New York Times (CREDIT: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)

Michelle Goldberg is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.