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How Does Impeachment Affect the Military?

President Trump speaks at a campaign event in Anaheim, May 25, 2016.

On Wednesday, December 18, President Donald Trump became the third U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives, and the first to be impeached in his first term.

After over a month of hearings, debate, and the final vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that President Trump had been impeached on the first article — for abuse of power — and the second article — for obstruction of Congress. 

All of this is based on the Ukraine scandal, in which a whistleblower complaint claims that President Trump asked Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son during a phone call. 

“I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” the complaint read, per Vox.com. “This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals.”

The effort to impeach Trump did not include the Mueller Report. And this decision could come back to bite Democrats if the Senate votes to acquit him — a likely event, given that the House vote was mostly split along party lines, and the Senate holds a Republican majority. 

But it was a risky move either way; some say that Trump’s impeachment will only stoke the fire of his loyal fanbase, and paint the blue party in a bad light. Others think it could prove what the Dems have been saying all along: Trump is not fit for the presidency. 

Trump’s impeachment has far-reaching and obvious ramifications. Ramifications for our economy, the 2020 election, and a nation that has been vehemently divided since Trump’s 2016 victory. So, in this ever-changing political climate, how does impeachment affect the military? 

 

First: How Does the Military Feel About Trump? 

According to a recent poll from Military Times, half of active duty service members are unhappy with Trump. This number may come as a surprise, given the military’s historic conservative-leaning attitude. 

The poll shows that 50% of active service members hold an unfavorable view of Trump, as compared to 42% who approve of him. And while his approval rating has declined among troops, it’s still higher than his overall approval rating; the most recent Gallup poll reports that 43% of Americans approve of President Trump, versus 54% who disapprove. 



A notable part of Military Times’ poll, which surveyed 1,630 service members, is the fraction of those who said they have a “very unfavorable” view of Trump. 

Of the 50% who disapprove of the president, 45.1% of them hold a “very unfavorable” view of him, versus 4.8% who simply responded: “unfavorable.” Of the 42% who approve of the president, only 24.3% of them hold a “very favorable” view of him, verus 17.3% who responded with “favorable.” 

The conclusion can be drawn that service members who disapprove of Trump feel more strongly about their disapproval than those who support him. 

 

Why Do Service Members Disapprove of Trump?

Trump’s decline in popularity among the military community is probably due to some of his more controversial decisions regarding them. These decisions include: 

  • Using military funding for his infamous border wall. According to Military Times, 59% of service members disapprove of this decision. 
  • Firing former Defense Secretary and Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis, who holds an 86% approval rating among service members.
  • Calling for a very sudden withdrawal of troops from Syria; 58% of service members disapproved of this decision. 
  • Withholding military aid from Ukraine.
  • Granting clemency to three soldiers who committed war crimes.

Military Times.

It’s also interesting to take a look at exactly who disapproves of Trump. 

  • Officers dislike Trump more than enlisted. 43% of enlisted service members approve of Trump, versus only a third of Officers. 
  • Women dislike Trump more than men. 43% of military men surveyed approve of Trump. However, 56% of military women disapprove of Trump, and 53% hold a “very unfavorable” view of him. 
  • Non-white service members dislike Trump more than white service members. 46% of white military members favored the president and 45% expressed an unfavorable view. However, almost two-thirds of non-white military members disapprove of Trump. 

One thing to note is that Trump still holds higher favorability among troops than Obama did when he left office. In 2017, President Obama only had a 36% approval rating from service members. 52% disapproved of him. 

 

How Does Impeachment Affect the Military? 

The Military Times poll also touched on how troops feel about the impeachment inquiry. 47% of service members said they support Trump’s impeachment, versus 46% who said they don’t. That means that nearly half of the men and women serving our country want a new commander in chief — and sooner rather than later. 

So how does impeachment affect the military? What changes can our service members expect to see if the Senate somehow votes to remove Trump from office? Can they expect to see any changes, even if he is acquitted? 

It’s hard to answer these questions when we’ve only experienced two other impeachments in American history. Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both impeached by the House before being acquitted by the Senate. And President Richard Nixon resigned before he could get formally impeached. 

It’s difficult to relate Johnson’s impeachment to Trump’s, given that it happened over 150 years ago. However, Clinton’s was a mere 21 years ago. The former president was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury — mostly due to the fact that he lied about his infamous relationship with Monica Lewinsky. 


The San Diego Union-Tribune.

And really — the impeachment didn’t have a big effect on the military. While a 1998 poll showed that only one-third of Americans supported Clinton’s impeachment, a large portion of those supporters may have been military; Clinton was known for spearheading controversial policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and his failed military mission in Somalia, as well as the action of doing nothing during the Rwandan Genocide. 

Suffice it to say he wasn’t very popular with the military community. But as far as change — the military didn’t really see any. So the answer to “How does impeachment affect the military?” is: It doesn’t. Not much more than it affects civilians, at least.

However, this time around there is more of a clean divide when it comes to impeachment approval versus disapproval among military personnel. As tensions heat up around the nation, there could also be increased discord within our troops. In fact, 40% said that there has been significant division. 

So, what happens if Trump is ousted from office? 

 

How Does Senate Impeachment Affect the Military? 

The biggest and only real change that service members will see — and this is only if Trump is removed from office — is they will get a new commander in chief: VP Mike Pence. 

Given that many disapprove of Trump’s decisions regarding the military thus far, this could be a good thing for them. But maybe not if they’re hoping to avoid combat. 

In a speech to West Point graduates in May, Pence said: “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”

 

How Does Impeachment Affect the Nation?

At the forefront of most Americans’ minds is how this impeachment will affect the U.S. Main concerns are with the trade wars, the stock market and the upcoming election. 

Trump’s tariffs on steel, European cars and Chinese goods has incited panic among specific groups like farmers, and overall concern about the state of our foreign relationships with economic powerhouses like China. Some fear that Trump’s impeachment could lead to him acting rashly in regard to these tariffs — i.e., imposing more and further aggravating the situation.

Another fear is that the impeachment will lead to repercussions in the stock market. But an article by The New York Times pretty thoroughly debunks that — citing stock market ebb and flow from both the Watergate scandal and the late ‘90s, and how neither time had a huge impact on market trends. 

The biggest consequence of President Donald Trump’s impeachment will be shown in the results of the 2020 presidential election. If Trump pulls off a second term, fingers could quickly point blame to Nancy Pelosi as Dems wonder if there’s something they could have done differently. 

If Trump loses to any of the Democratic hopefuls, it could be a direct result of national distrust, cultivated by the Mueller Report and the fact that Trump has made history as the third president to ever be impeached. 

Most can agree that we’re in a politically-charged era where colleagues, friends, and even family have been torn apart by staunchly-divided party lines. It’s an era of “pointing fingers” and name-calling. And, as the Senate breaks for the holidays, we have but a small reprieve before another trial commences over the presidential character of Donald Trump. 

While service members are split on both their approval of Trump and their approval of his impeachment, they do agree on one thing: Over 75% of service members report polarization within the military. And it makes sense. The entire country has polarized, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. 


For more, read about a 1950s law that is hurting our service members today.

 

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