SOUTH BEND – Impeachment is a dirty word.

Not in the sense of coarse words in the way President Trump talks and in the way a new Democratic congresswoman talked about him, but in the sense of a word that many people don’t want to hear spoken in public. And for two entirely different reasons.

President Trump and members of his unwavering base don’t want to hear impeachment spoken about in any serious way in Congress. Actually, the president uses the word himself in a scoffing way, belittling the possibility of impeachment as he rallies his base. It could become a new mantra. Like his: “No collusion. No collusion. No collusion.” A new presidential chant of choice could be: “No impeachment. No impeachment. No impeachment.”

Impeachment also is a dirty word that Democratic leaders in the House don’t want to hear mentioned in public by their members. Not now. Not yet. Maybe not at all as President Trump completes what they hope will be his only term.

They regard it as a word to be avoided for an entirely different reason than that of Trump supporters. Trumpsters no doubt would like to respond to those feisty Democratic House freshmen who shout for impeachment by forcefully washing their mouths out with soap. Democratic leaders just want those freshmen to shut up.

Those leaders know first of all that impeachment now is impossible. Even if the House voted for impeachment – and there’s no way it would right now – the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t come anywhere close to the two-thirds vote needed for conviction and removal of the president.

Yes, there are newspaper columns and TV commentaries arguing that Trump has committed impeachable offenses, obstruction of justice and multiple violations of law. These are persuasive for progressives who loathe and fear Trump and want to see him gone from the White House as soon as possible. These presentations, however, are in newspapers and on cable news channels seldom read or viewed by most of the voters who sent Trump to the White House. If they do look at such impeachment arguments, most Trump voters would just reject it all as “fake news” or nonsense or both.

So, Democratic leaders, looking ahead to what they see as likely to be a tough presidential race in 2020, don’t want their House members or their party to be viewed by Trump loyalists and others in Republican and independent ranks who elected Trump as obsessed with quickly overturning the 2016 election. They don’t want a premature and failing impeachment attempt to create sympathy for the president. They don’t want a Democratic House to ignore key issues that helped win in 2018, health care and pocketbook concerns, while embroiled in a lengthy and divisive impeachment battle.

After the Mueller report?

Maybe. Depends on what’s in it. Progressives assume it will be devastating to Trump. Maybe. But we don’t know. It could be highly critical of some of the Trump associates already charged but stop short of linking the president directly to clear violations that would widely be regarded as impeachable offenses.

More than a smoking gun would be needed. The report would have to show that the gun, while still smoking, was in the president’s hand. And that he loaded it, pointed it and pulled the trigger. It would take that type of proof to get the two-thirds vote required for conviction in the Senate.

While progressives would jump at any indications of an impeachable offense, the Trump base wouldn’t, believing instead that it probably was Hillary Clinton who fired the gun.

Coarse language by the president and his detractors may not be disturbing in Washington. Impeachment? Well, that is a dirty word, disturbing for both sides for very different reasons. 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.