Last week, as almost everybody now knows, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impeach President Trump.
First, the House voted, 230 to 197, to impeach the President for “abuse of power,” and then, shortly thereafter, a slightly narrower margin of 229 to 198 voted to impeach Trump for having “obstructed Congress.”
What explains the one vote difference?
Maine’s Jared Golden, the representative from our state’s second, more northern district.
Out of 431 politicians currently serving in the House, Golden was the only member of the body to split his votes – voting in support of impeaching the President for “abuse of power,” but not for “obstructing Congress.”
On one level, this is a massively important decision. Donald Trump is easily the most powerful person in American government, possibly one of the most powerful people on the planet. What could be a more significant question than whether or not the guy should get to keep his job?
Given how high the potential stakes are, it’s easy to see why some people might get so worked up about Golden’s vote. Stephen King even tweeted, “If my congressman, Jared Golden, votes for only one article of impeachment, I will work with all my might to see him defeated next year.” The tweet went viral, earning over six thousand Retweets and almost 55 thousand Likes. Clearly, lots of people agree with King and strongly disagree with how lackluster Golden’s stance is on the issue.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, how precarious Golden’s seat is. Without Ranked Choice Voting, Golden likely wouldn’t even be in DC right now, and by a lot of polls, the number of people who oppose impeachment in places like CD2 is almost neck and neck with the number who support it there. It’s easy to see why, for somebody in Golden’s precarious position, political expediency alone might require him to tread so lightly here.
But, if you listen to Golden himself, he didn’t cast his vote out of some sort of realpolitik calculus. Speaking to the Press Herald, he said, “I voted my heart without fear about politics at all. My conclusion was that this wasn’t about me. It was about the president and his actions.”
Personally, I don’t see any reason to doubt that when it came to how to vote, Golden is being sincere about his reasoning. His logic, which he spelled out in depth in a BDN column as well as his formal statement to Congress, is more than I want to go into here, but it all made sense to me. Golden’s smart. I’m positive he didn’t make his decision recklessly or haphazardly.
I really don’t have a problem with Golden’s votes. His logic is sound. His political vulnerability is real. Most importantly, his votes didn’t make the slightest difference to the outcomes of the two decisions. Enough already. Move on.
But what I do have a problem with, what I’m having a really hard time moving on from, is the geyser of vitriol that people like King are now spouting against Golden. That really doesn’t sit well with me.
For one thing, what is King even talking about? Are we to understand that, as I write this, there are people scouring Maine’s second congressional district for somebody to primary Golden in 2020?
That primary is in seven months, and if somebody is going to challenge Golden, they haven’t declared yet. Golden is a Marine Corps veteran. A farm boy from Leeds who graduated toward the top of his class at Bates. A fresh-faced and dedicated public servant. And CD2 is a tiny pool to pick from. Even if Golden’s critics could find somebody to run against him, it’d be an uphill battle, and they wouldn’t have much time to fight it.
So, if it’s not actually about knocking Golden out in a primary, what is this hubbub about?
As far as I can tell, it’s just Democratic Party fundamentalism. People like King are trying to ostracize and excommunicate Golden, and it’s really sad because the thing that they’re all so angry about, impeachment, simply isn’t real.
Impeachment won’t happen. It can’t. The votes just aren’t there in the Senate. The whole thing is futile. Frankly, the Democrats who are so amped up about impeachment come across as being kind of gaslit. When the most important thing in the world to you is something impossible, you look crazy. It’s like religious fundamentalists who insist that either you believe that the earth is 6,000 years old and evolution is a lie, or you’re going to hell. Where can you even begin with people like that?
As I see it, it’s impossible to make the impeachment the most important thing in the world to you and simultaneously place things like food insecurity, poverty and the overall wellbeing of the people of CD2 as your number one priority. One’s imaginary. The other’s worth fighting for.
There’s so many struggles that could potentially impact people’s lives right now, from expanding public healthcare and higher education, to passing meaningful protections for low income workers, to making concrete strides toward mitigating climate change. But, if we splinter now, what hope do we have for unity when there’s actually something meaningful on the line?