President Donald Trump has described the impeachment process as a “partisan witch hunt” – and absolutely no one can deny the partisan nature of them.
Last night the House voted on two articles of impeachment, the results of which were essentially a party line vote with minor exceptions. Every single Republican voted against impeachment (including one who accidentally voted yes, then corrected his vote), while Democrats had three defectors. New Jersey Democrat Jeff Van Drew (who is switching to Republican) voted no on both articles of impeachment, as did Minnesota’s Collin Peterson. Maine’s Jared Golden voted yes on the “abuse of power” article but no on “obstruction.”
Democrat Tulsi Gabbard voted “present,” while Republican turned Independent Justin Amash voted for impeachment.
In the end, it was a 230-197-1 and 229-198-1 vote on the abuse of power and obstruction charges, respectively.
In stark contrast, during the Clinton impeachment five Democrats voted in favor of three of the four articles of impeachment, and it was thanks to dozens of Republicans that two of them died. In the end two articles passed – the perjury charge was approved 228-206, and the obstruction of justice charge 221-212. The abuse of power article was shot down because 81 Republicans voted against it, and 28 voted against the civil perjury charge. During the impeachment of Richard Nixon, over a third of Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee joined the Democrats to approve three articles of impeachment.
To a large extent, this polarization is because the Democrat Party has become more extreme in recent years. While the GOP has remained largely consistent ideologically since the 1980s, the Democrats have gone off the rails. After all, we can just play back what they said during the last impeachment to see how their standards have changed.
While more bipartisan than the current impeachment mess (hardly a high bar to clear), Democrats still complained during the Clinton years that impeachment must be a bipartisan effort. As Jerry Nadler said in 1998: “There must never be an impeachment supported by one of our major political parties and opposed by the other. Such an impeachment will produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come.”