Though public support for impeaching President Donald Trump has skyrocketed in the wake of the Ukraine whistleblower scandal, it remains unclear whether this latest and greatest political battle will actually injure Trump's prospects in the 2020 election.
But on Monday, Ben White argued in Politico that impeachment could doom Trump in an indirect way — by goading him into such erratic behavior that the economy collapses, and workers and consumers turn on him altogether.
"During the Clinton impeachment, the dot com boom was making Americans exuberant about the economy," wrote White. "Today, the economy is slowing, consumer confidence is dipping and corporate America faces a gauntlet of worries including the trade war with China, the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and slowing growth around the world."
"And now investors, consumers and corporate executives face the prospect of a Washington consumed for months by impeachment drama and the uncertain reactions of a volatile president with a penchant for lashing out under stress," continued White. "This complex stew could damage an economy already showing signs of flagging. That in turn could further erode Trump’s standing on the economy, up to now his strongest issue."
Trump administration officials sharply dispute the idea that the economy is flagging, or that an impeachment fight would have any impact on markets. "It’s like the entire media is trying to push us into recession," complained Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
But White notes that impeachment could have a negative effect on the economy in a number of ways. First of all, it could distract Congress from working out a bargain to raise the debt ceiling, which could trigger a U.S. default that destabilizes global markets relying on Treasury bonds. But even if that worst-case scenario is avoided, business investment and consumer confidence could tick down, as uncertainty about the future of policy rises.