We live in an era of seemingly never-ending political conflict and confrontation. Even before President Trump was elected, we endured years of all-out partisan warfare: government shutdowns, fiscal cliffs, a Supreme Court seat held open for the better part of a year.
The question facing Democrats is whether escalation is better electoral politics than issues and policy. Some Democrats think the way to win elections in the next few years is to focus more on people’s everyday concerns, and less on conflict with Republicans and Trump. Nancy Pelosi herself said, "I do not think that impeachment is a policy agenda,” and Chuck Schumer urged caution.
Democratic primary voters in a new WBUR poll (topline results, crosstabs) say the opposite. In a poll of the 7th Congressional District, which covers parts of Boston and a few surrounding cities, just 5 percent say Democrats are being too aggressive in standing up to Trump, while 61 percent say they are not aggressive enough.
In some ways, confrontation and policy work may be one in the same. National polling shows the public is not on board with major components of Trump’s agenda -- from efforts to roll back President Obama's health care and climate legacies, to moves on immigration and foreign policy. Slowing the breakneck pace of change on these issues would count as a win to many Democratic voters.
One looming question is whether congressional Democrats would look to impeach Trump if they take a House majority. On that question, the base is in favor, with 69 percent support in the WBUR poll. This echoes national polling, which also finds Democrats largely in favor of impeachment.
But look beyond the Democratic Party, and the politics of confrontation and impeachment are less clear.
Among independents, where both sides look for their winning margin, just 38 percent supported impeachment in a June CNN poll, while 56 percent oppose the idea. Impeachment is as much a political decision as it is a legal one. It took many months of Watergate hearings for a majority of voters to support President Nixon’s impeachment.
The post-Labor Day period is usually when the political campaign season kicks into high gear. What Democrats choose to talk about will be as interesting as what they actually say. But if the opinions coming from the Democratic base are any indication, the all-out war between the parties seems like to continue.
This segment aired on August 6, 2018.