On Wednesday, Donald Trump was acquitted of both articles of impeachment, which brought to an end the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. But the end of the trial likely isn’t the end to the partisan divide that pervades Congress and American political life.
Brandon Rottinghaus is political science professor at the University of Houston, and he says yesterday’s decision in the Senate shows that political polarization is “alive and well.”
“[Polarization] is a heck of a drug! It’s hard to get people to change their minds,” Rottinghaus says.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney was the only senator to break ranks with his party. He voted to convict the president one one of the two articles of impeachment. Both of Texas’ senators voted to acquit Trump on both articles.
Rottinghaus says the impeachment has had some effect on public opinion, which could then affect elections in November. He says independent voters are most important in this case because their perception of the impeachment trial could be the deciding factor in toss-up districts where only 500-1,000 votes could decide an election.
In the wake of the Senate vote, Rottinghaus says Republican candidates appear to be standing behind Trump. He says Texas Sen. John Cornyn even
views it as a political advantage in his Senate reelection bid.
For Democrats, the impeachment has sowed division, in some cases. MJ Hegar and Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, who are both running to unseat Cornyn, disagreed on how much evidence was needed before they felt comfortable declaring Trump’s guilt or innocence.
“It’s a sort signal of how committed Democrats are to doing anything they can to remove Trump,” Rottinghaus says. “That’s gonna be possibly a difference-maker for a Senate race that’s pretty well undefined at this point.”
Written by Caroline Covington.