If the Republicans hold the House of Representative, which seems likely thanks to gerrymandering, there are insanely partisan Representatives who’d like to start impeachment hearings against President Hillary Clinton on January 23, 2017, on the grounds that they’ve been trying to catch her at something for more than twenty years, so she must be guilty of something. If somehow enough social conservatives stay loyal to the Republican brand and our next President is Donald J. Trump, he, too, would face impeachment hearings on January 23, 2017, even if the Republicans keep the House. Being caught on tape talking casually about committing sexual assault is simply too horrible to tolerate if any of those politicians want to be reelected in 2018.
Impeachment is a protracted process, as many of us learned in the late-Nineties. A committee has to vote to send articles of impeachment to the full House. Nothing happens in the House without a debate, and then the full House votes — but impeachment is only an indictment, not a conviction. That happens by trial in the Senate. The Senate has convicted people in an impeachment trial before; there have been four convictions in my lifetime, all of Federal judges. Nixon resigned before the House started the inevitable impeachment process; a Federal judge after Nixon was impeached but resigned before his Senate trial. At any rate, if the House starts the slam-dunk impeachment of Trump on January 23, 2017, either Trump declares that he was never serious about being President and resigns on January 24, or he tries to lie his way out of it and is convicted just before Independence Day.
Impeachment requires a vote by two-thirds of the Senate. There’s no way two-thirds of the Senate will be Republican in the next term, even if you throw in a couple of coal state Democrats who are obliged to hate Hillary because of her position on coal. So, the rabble-rousers might try for articles of impeachment, and the feckless House leadership might tolerate it, on the grounds that it’d be a good not to actually deal with Hillary’s legislative agenda, but even if the House plays it out and votes for articles of impeachment, Hillary would be absolved by Independence Day, and she and Bill would be a footnote in history about the first couple of impeachment recipients. Actually, that would be overkill; she’ll be the first woman impeached in US history anyway.
If you accept this logic, then the revelation of the tape today makes this race Clinton v. Pence. At this point, all the scummy things Pence has done, both as Governor of Indiana and as an elected Representative, should come back to haunt him. It’s almost enough to make me wish the last two debates were indeed Clinton v. Pence, but Trump won’t allow himself to admit that his goose is cooked. So, the loyalists to the Republican brand will be happy to have someone with that brand in the White House, whether that’s plausible or not, and won’t admit their disgust until they lock up their chance to pack the Supreme Court. That assumes, of course, they have more luck filling Scalia’s seat than Obama has had. In this polarized age, I wouldn’t take that bet.