What really went down in today’s House impeachment vote against Donald Trump

The House of Representatives held a vote today on whether to begin impeachment hearings against Donald Trump, a remarkable development which managed to largely get lost in the day’s plethora of scandalous Trump headlines. The vote failed, which was no surprise, as the Democrats don’t have the majority, and not a single Republican is willing to vote for it. But the result did tell us some things about where the impeachment effort against Trump truly stands.

Only around one-fourth of the Democrats in the House ended up voting to begin impeachment hearings, which left some observers surprised. Let’s be clear here: even if every single House Democrat had voted “yes” while stomping their feet and wielding pitchforks, nothing would have happened. They aren’t the majority, and they can’t produce a majority vote simply by being righteously indignant.

In fact, if the Democrats had all voted in favor of impeachment today, they would have ended up looking partisan and foolish in the eyes of mainstream observers. Partisan, because the average American doesn’t closely follow political news and doesn’t yet fully understand that Trump committed treason by conspiring with Russia to rig the election. Foolish, because even if the entire Democratic Party in the House had gotten behind it, the effort still would have failed. The very worst thing the Democratic Party can do right now is to collectively demand impeachment, only for it not to happen. That would have made them look impotent.

So instead, only a fraction of the Democrats in the House voted “yes” on impeachment hearings against Donald Trump. The Democrats who voted “no” are simply keeping their powder dry so they can credibly demand impeachment once Robert Mueller’s investigation is complete and he’s proven Trump guilty. This kind of strategizing may not be what the angriest of foot stompers on the left want to hear, but it is the only way things ever get accomplished in politics.

If the Democrats had unanimously voted “yes” on impeachment today, it would have sharply decreased the odds of Trump ultimately being impeached. Instead, they’re wisely waiting until the final evidence against Donald Trump is so damning, they can credibly demand that the House Republicans go along with impeachment hearings as well. If one-tenth of the House Republicans vote “yes” then impeachment hearings will begin. If the GOP uniformly keeps impeachment off the table, then they’ll lose their majority in the midterms, and the Democrats can immediately begin impeachment hearings on their terms. There is literally nothing the Democrats can do to impeach Trump right now, so they played it smart today by forcing the conversation but not staking themselves to something that they can’t yet deliver.

Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report