Trump’s bipartisan impeachment is historic

This vote makes Wednesday’s impeachment the most bipartisan impeachment of all time.

To be clear, 197 Republicans still voted against impeaching Trump. That shouldn’t be too surprising, as only about 15% of Republicans nationally want Trump to leave office before his term is up next week.

Still, the fact that so many Republicans got behind removing Trump from office is historic.

Only three other impeachments have ever taken place. They all tell a similar story: impeachments are almost always down the party-line affairs.

During the impeachment of Democrat Andrew Johnson in 1868, no Democrats voted to impeach him.
Just five House Democrats voted to impeach Democrat Bill Clinton in 1998.
And finally, no Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2019.

What makes the Trump vote even more amazing is that we’re at a very high level of polarization right now. The Democrats who abandoned Clinton were all moderate Democrats. Two (Virgil Goode and Ralph Hall) would eventually switch parties and serve as Republicans.

There are very few moderate House Republicans right now. Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Tom Rice, who voted for impeachment, are certainly not what most objective observers would consider moderate.

The relatively high number of Republican defectors comes at a time when Trump’s job approval rating with Republicans has dropped below 80% (though it is still well above 70%).

From a statistical angle, it would have been unexpected if more Republicans went against Trump. Trump may be in a valley of Republican support, but he’s still got a lot of it.

Most Republicans hail from safe districts where there is a far greater chance of losing a primary than a general election. Two of the Republicans who voted yes (Rep. Don Newhouse and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler) hail from Washington state, where there is the untraditional top-two primary system in which all the candidates regardless of party run against each other.

The only historical parallel to what happened on Wednesday is the abandoned impeachment of Republican President Richard Nixon in 1974. Nixon stepped down before the House could impeach him.

Although no formal impeachment vote took place involving the entire House, seven of the 17 House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted for at least one article of impeachment against Nixon in July 1974. Keep in mind, there were a lot more moderate Republicans in the House in 1974.

Perhaps as interesting as the divide within the Republican ranks is the uniformity within the Democratic ranks.

Not a single Democrat voted against impeaching Trump. That’s a record for an impeachment.

In 1868, an Independent Republican and Conservative Republican voted against impeaching Johnson.

In 1998, four Republicans voted against all the articles to impeach Clinton.

And when it came to Trump’s last impeachment, two Democrats voted against both articles and one voted present for both.

The fact that Democrats are unified makes a lot of sense. Neither of the Democrats who voted against impeaching Trump last time are still sitting Democratic members of Congress. One of those Democrats is now a Republican (Rep. Jeff Van Drew) and the other (Collin Peterson) lost re-election last fall. The member who voted present (Tulsi Gabbard) is no longer in Congress.

Further, the Democratic caucus is smaller than it was last go around with fewer moderate members overall.

Of course, impeachment is just the first step in a two-step process.

The big question going forward is whether the Senate partisan divide mirrors that of the House. If it does, there will be a lot of votes against Trump — but still not enough to convict.

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