The full House of Representatives voted October 31 to ratify the Democrats’ impeachment resolution and formalize the rules of the inquiry already begun and aimed at removing President Donald Trump from office. One is reminded of a quatrain from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, written around AD 1120 by the Persian poet and scholar:
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.”
Likely, few Democrats in Congress have heard of Omar Khayyám, but his written words will haunt them – whether they realize it or not – all the way to November 2020. Arguing the merits of the impeachment effort itself or the ethical or legal boundaries of the president’s actions is, of course, a matter of pure political ideology, even though it really shouldn’t be.
Three Big Takeaways
This is now a matter of realpolitik, and there are three highly significant effects to come out of Thursday’s vote: First, that House Democrats will now be almost entirely consumed with investigating the president – as if they had not already been – and little actual legislating will get done, at least over the next two or three months. The 116th Congress has affirmed its reputation as both the most partisan and the least productive probably in all of American history.
Second, there are only around three months left before the Democratic Party convenes to select its nominee to challenge Trump next year. What remains of the primary campaign, then, will be greatly overshadowed by the impeachment investigation. The possible repercussion of this is that the opposition party’s voting base will be less engaged in the primary process: Many of those voters may now even believe that Trump’s fate is sealed and, therefore, that the previous urgency to select a candidate who is capable of beating him at the ballot box is all but irrelevant.
The third effect of today’s vote is that Trump now has one more weapon in his re-election campaign arsenal: That Democrats rammed through an arbitrary set of rules aimed at giving them the best chance of removing him from office rather than face him in an election. Considering the former and still ongoing brouhaha about election interference, the Democrats – Trump may argue – have weaponized congressional rules in order to influence the 2020 election.
As for the vote itself: It is worth repeating that it was not a vote to impeach the president but merely to formalize the rules by which the impeachment investigation will be conducted. The final count was 232-196 in favor of moving forward. The Democrats needed 217. Not a single Republican voted to support the impeachment resolution and two Democrats, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey, also voted against. Four members of the House did not vote.
Moving forward, the whole process of investigating the president will move somewhat out of the shadows. Committee hearings will now be public and Republicans now have a limited ability to influence developments and challenge their Democrat counterparts.
From this point on, the conduct of Democrats involved in the investigation can be more closely scrutinized. The fairness of the entire process will be constantly and publicly examined. How the president’s opponents conduct themselves will have little effect on the likely outcome of a Senate trial but it will almost certainly decide their fate – and control of the White House – in 2020.
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