To have the confidence to act or behave in accordance with one’s beliefs or ideologies, especially in the face of resistance, criticism, or persecution. That is the definition of what it means to have the courage of one’s conviction. On December 18th, 2019 the Democratically controlled US House of Representatives voted on a nearly party-line basis to impeach the 45th President of the United States.
On Article I: Abuse of Power, 230 members voted yes. Of those who voted in favor, 229 were Democrats and 1 was a registered Independent. 2 Democrats and 195 Republicans voted no.
On Article II: Obstruction of Congress, 229 members voted yes. 228 were Democrats and 1 was a registered Independent. 3 Democrats and 195 Republicans voted no.
On both articles, we saw 1 Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard (HI) vote present. 1 Democrat, Jose Serrano (NY) and 2 Republicans, Duncan Hunter (CA) and John Shimkus (IL) did not vote at all. According to an Associated Press report published on the NY Post’s website Hunter, who pleaded guilty to illegally using campaign money for personal expenses, was warned by the House Ethics Committee not to vote again, citing legislative rules that block those convicted of a serious crime from voting on the House floor. Shimkus, who is not seeking reelection, was on a long-planned trip to visit his son in Tanzania, where he’s serving in the Peace Corps. Serrano, who also is retiring, has Parkinson’s disease and suffered a recent health setback.
Whether Trump is guilty or not of the charges passed is neither here nor there. The Senate will have the final say on if Trump will be acquitted. Seeing as how you need 67 Senators to approve the impeachment and Republicans holding a 53-47-seat majority, the chances of him being impeached are slim to none. What I want to concentrate my energy on are the people that went against the pre-determined consensus of their party. These are men and women who chose to stand up for what they believed in and potentially risked their political careers to do so.
Politico.com has a breakdown of all the Representatives and how they voted. The NY Times has a similar report, which analyzes the votes by party affiliation and whether or not Democratic members of Congress represent districts that Trump won in 2016. The only two Democrats in that category that voted against both articles of impeachment were Collin Peterson (MN) and Jeff Van Drew (NJ). Democrat Jared Golden (ME) voted yes to the abuse of power charge and no to obstruction of Congress.
The lone Independent in the House of Representatives who voted in favor of both articles of impeachment is Justin Amash (MI). A former Republican who left the party this past summer, Amash has drawn the ire of many on the right and praise from the liberal media for his admonishment of the president. Amash attributed his departure from the Republican Party to broader concerns about two-party politics, and not strictly frustrations with Republicans. “The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions,” Amash wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece. He argued that the two-party system champions party loyalty above serving Americans. “Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis,” Amash said.
His departure from the two-party system was recently one-upped by Jeff Van Drew (NJ). Not only did he vote against both articles of impeachment he essentially voted against the entire Democratic Party when he sat with Trump in the White House and announced he was joining the Republican Party. “Pledging his undying support” for the President, Van Drew said he did not think Democrats had made their case that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate a political rival. He told reporters after the vote that it would boost Trump’s prospects in the 2020 presidential election. Reaction to his departure came swift as several of his congressional staffers quit after hearing of his plans to switch parties.
The Minnesota Star Tribune published an article that covered Collin Peterson’s decision to vote against impeachment and his possible reasons for doing so. Peterson represents a rural district that went heavily for Trump in 2016. That being said his decision to vote against impeachment may be more politically motivated and aimed at career longevity. Peterson was one of 37 vulnerable House Democrats who were targeted in an $8.5 million ad campaign funded by groups supporting Trump. Peterson has said he doesn’t condone Trump’s actions in the Ukraine matter that led to his impeachment. But Peterson bemoaned the lack of bipartisan support for the push. He said the Senate debate on whether to remove Trump from office would be a “show trial” further dividing the country.
When asked why he split his impeachment vote Jared Golden (ME) stated, “he voted his heart.” As reported on by the Maine Press Herald, U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, the sole congressman who cast a split vote on the decision to impeach President Trump, said he knew the decision might not make him popular in a politically divided time, but he felt it was the right thing to do. “Here’s the thing. I voted my heart without fear about politics at all,” said Maine’s 2nd District Democratic freshman representative on Thursday. “My conclusion was that this wasn’t about me. It was about the president and his actions; about our republic and about our Constitution.”
Though he was away on a pre-planned trip to Africa and was unable to cast his vote, Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL) released a statement on his official website. Here is a portion of his response that includes his reasons for not voting in favor of impeachment outside of being physically unavailable.
“Constant tension exists between our legislative and executive branches of government. Every president I’ve served with has said at one time or another he is empowered to do this or to withhold that. When Congress disagrees, we have at times taken those questions of executive authority or privilege to our third branch of government: the courts. But the Democrats haven’t even given President Trump an opportunity to defend his executive privilege through the courts, and they’re demanding that he just give up his constitutional powers under Article II. …I’m disappointed to miss these votes but not embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that they are even happening.”
Finally, we have Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). On December 19, 2019, she released a statement on her official website Tulsi2020.com regarding her decision to vote present for both articles of impeachment. While her position of none of the above had #TulsiCoward trending on Twitter by many who vilify her, I am of the opposite opinion and view her vote of present as an exercise in courage. It takes courage to stand in the middle of a storm and not vote along party lines. It takes courage to look at the serious issue of impeachment with unbiased lenses and concede that there is merit to both sides of the debate. It takes courage to vote with your conscience first and political future second. It takes courage to uphold one’s oath to the Constitution knowing that many will look at you as a traitor to the country and party for doing so. Here is a portion of her response. I think it summarizes this debate over impeachment and the courage represented by those who voted their conscience knowing that it was unpopular amongst the masses.
“On the one side — The president’s defenders insist that he has done nothing wrong. They agree with the absurd proclamation that his conduct was “perfect.” They have abdicated their responsibility to exercise legitimate oversight, and instead blindly do the bidding of their party’s leader.
On the other side — The president’s opponents insist that if we do not impeach, our country will collapse into dictatorship. All but explicitly, they accuse him of treason. Such extreme rhetoric was never conducive to an impartial fact-finding process.
The Founders of our country made clear their concerns about impeachment being a purely partisan exercise. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton warned against any impeachment that would merely “connect itself with the pre-existing factions,” and “enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other.” In such cases, he said, “there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”