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Peering through the partisan impeachment looking glass

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
House members vote on articles of impeachment as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., stands on the dais, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Dear reader:

On Wednesday, Donald Trump became the third U.S. president ever to be impeached by the House of Representatives. It was, as the cable networks and scores of lawmakers keep informing us, a day for the history books.

And yet, the whole thing has felt somehow inevitable.

In part, that’s because there’s no suspense: It’s been pretty clear from the moment Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an inquiry into the Ukraine matter that Democrats in the House would vote for impeachment – just as there’s no question that the GOP-controlled Senate will vote to acquit.

It also seems unlikely to change anything. Polls have shown very little movement throughout the process, with both sides dug in (though President Trump’s approval rating has ticked up slightly in the most recent Gallup survey).

Republicans charge that Democrats have been angling to impeach President Trump from the get-go – that they never could accept the outcome of the 2016 election and are trying to overturn the will of the people.

But while it’s true that some Democrats have long called for impeachment, party leaders certainly knew this process would not result in President Trump’s removal – would not overturn the election, in other words – and might even work against them politically. They say the president’s own egregious actions in this case forced their hand.

Still, many Democrats do believe President Trump is fundamentally unfit for office, in a way that puts him in an entirely different category than every other Republican president. If the Ukraine matter had never happened (or never come to light), it’s not hard to envision an impeachment process unfolding right now over something else.

What’s harder to envision is what will happen next. If an impeached-and-acquitted President Trump wins reelection next fall, how will Democrats respond? Or if he loses, will Republicans move to impeach the Democratic winner?

In a world in which the president can send out a six-page letter that one side views as a Unabomber-like tirade and the other compares to the Gettysburg Address, common ground seems increasingly hard to find.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

Liz Marlantes, Politics editor

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