Trump and his allies have tweeted, retweeted, rallied or campaigned various times with regards to the recent impeachment process as being partisan. But is it? Are his claims of a partisan impeachment process legitimate? Is it the most partisan impeachment in history? How partisan is this impeachment compared to other impeachments?
To explore the partisanship of impeachment we need to define what it is we are attempting to measure and compare. Partisanship is described as “prejudice in favor of a particular cause; bias” by dictionary.com. An individual in the impeachment process could be considered partisan if they voted the way their party was expected to vote. This, however, does not account for those individuals that vote in the same direction for nonpartisan reasons. Absent the ability to understand those voting for their party we can, with some level of confidence, state that those voting against their party are not voting in a partisan manner. This being the case we should measure those voting against their party as an indication of being less partisan.
Impeachments with the most party crossover would be considered the least partisan. But should we count all cross-party votes, in both directions, for impeachment, and against impeachment? Impeachment is a result of a certain amount of ‘yes’ votes, not necessarily a certain amount (or lack of a certain amount of) ‘no’ votes. Because of this, we should only consider cross-party ‘yes’ vote, though we will explore both.
Historically only three presidents (Johnson, Clinton, Trump) have been impeached. Nixon’s impeachment did not pass beyond the Judiciary committee. This committee was compromised of roughly 40 House members and their votes were recorded for review. This should allow us some degree of measurement for impeachment even though the final vote did not pass to the entire House.
Johnson’s impeachment vote, unfortunately, does not have the same level of documentation. Here we needed to make some conservative assumptions in that any party member that could vote in a partisan manner did. This assumption is more likely to disprove Trump’s claim than it is to support it as it assumes a more partisan impeachment.
Finally, each president had a varying number of articles approved against them during the impeachment process. Here we took the most extreme number of cross votes from each article.
When we take into account the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes the Clinton impeachment was the least partisan impeachment followed by Nixon. This does not take into account that only 1/10th of the member (the Judiciary committee) votes and not the entire House. If the votes for the Nixon impeachment are scaled it becomes the least partisan impeachment. This is in line with the ‘yes’ votes, even before we scale them up. After scaling we find that Nixon was the least partisan, followed by Clinton. Trump’s impeachment is the next least due to 3 cross-party ‘no’ votes. This leaves the Johnson impeachment, with incomplete data, as the most partisan impeachment.
If we only consider yes votes we find that the least partisan impeachment was Nixon, followed by Clinton. This leaves the Trump impeachment tied with the Johnson impeachment, where neither impeachment had any cross-party ‘yes’ votes. Johnson’s impeachment was unique in that there were five active parties at the time of his impeachment and not only two (or three).
The results show that Trump’s impeachment is either tied as the most partisan or is the most partisan.