Impeachment Politics

This past week, House Democrats managed to adopt rules formalizing their impeachment inquiry. Not a single Republican voted for the measure. Two Democrats, both representing districts where heavy Republican sentiment is the norm, voted against the measure.

There are at least two conflicting ways to interpret that vote: (1) a victory for President Trump, since not a single Republican abandoned the party-line vote; or (2) a victory for Democrats, since a number of Republicans, especially those representing swing districts, could lose their seats next fall as a result of their support for President Trump.

Which interpretation is more accurate?

Spirited Reasoners know the obvious answer: It depends.

If the public testimony of witnesses during the coming weeks is so compelling that even Trump supporters must admit they have a problem, then the Democrats won a major victory by pushing these hearings. If, on the other hand, the public testimony can be debated away as just the ravings of “rogue Democrats in the White House” or “hearsay by those who hate the President,” then the Republicans will have gained a campaign argument. “The Democrats were afraid of the American people. They knew they couldn’t win at the polls, so they tried a procedural end-run.”

From where we Spirited Reasoners are sitting, there appears to be at least one flaw in the Republican position. Having heard the key testimony in private, why would partisan Democratic leaders vote to allow Americans to hear it all in public if the facts were not on their side?

Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, the Republican claim that this is all just a witch hunt. If that’s the case, why adopt a procedural set of rules that will allow the American people to hear the facts for themselves? If these witnesses really have nothing of substance to say, wouldn’t it be better for the Democrats to keep the testimony locked away to avoid embarrassing their party?

It’s a good bet that the testimony we are about to hear will be powerful. Not so much because of the content—the claims about President Trump’s statements and actions. We know most of that already. But because of the stature and integrity of the witnesses themselves. Voters will finally get to see, with their own eyes, that the people who were most troubled by the President’s actions were not partisans on a witch hunt. Rather, they are true patriots, courageously standing up against powerful actors who were engaged in unlawful behavior.

If we Spirited Reasoners are right, we can expect to see an increase in the number of rats fleeing the sinking ship over the coming months.