As the House votes, remember that impeachment is not everything

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in September, announcing the formal impeachment inquiry. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s a historic day, yes, but there has to be a feeling that today is a mildly historic day, in the way that Diet Coke is sort of like Coke.

Which is to say that, technically speaking, after today Donald Trump will be the third U.S. president ever impeached (not counting Richard Nixon, who resigned before impeachment), a fitting fate for our cheddar-colored mini-monarch, one he’s earned many, many times over.

But he will also arguably be the first acquitted by the U.S. Senate without even a passing flirtation with conviction.

“I think we’re going to get an almost entirely partisan impeachment,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters this week. “I would anticipate an almost entirely partisan outcome in the Senate as well.”

Justice is not blind. It never has been in this country. Matter of fact, stop saying that. It makes you sound like a buffoon.

Considering that a D.C. creature like McConnell believes in nothing, perhaps it’s best to stop trying to convince him of something. Convince that bewildering transient portion of the country in the middle instead. I don’t have good figures on that portion of the populace, but if they are still undecided, I believe they may also be struggling to decide whether they’d rather dump cream or rat poison in their coffee.

Also, convince that barely fluid 49 percent of Americans who, according to a new Gallup poll, are not yet convinced Trump deserves impeachment.

But as the parties — and of course the American people — settle into their trenches anyway, here is a plea for a broader perspective, broader than McConnell, broader than Ukraine, broader even than Trump, who is more like an anthropomorphic solar eclipse than a person after all.

It is hard to conceive of, but there will be a day in which Donald Trump is no longer president. The person will be gone, but his policies might endure. It is more salacious, more compact, to talk about impeachment than it is to comprehend the nuts-and-bolts enmity of his administration’s assaults on progressive policy and, in many cases, just good government. Which is really the tragedy of it all.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Trump’s cruelly methodical cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, have the potential to cut off benefits for hundreds of thousands of people. He rolls back environmental protections at a prodigious rate. His K-12 department undermines public education at every turn, and is in the midst of a furious, legally unsanctioned drawback of protections for students defrauded by bogus, for-profit schools. This list is not even beginning to approach comprehensive.

Impeachment matters. It is the right thing to do. It is, arguably, the only thing to do if you believe in an American government with beliefs. But it is not the only thing.

In his 1979 dismantling of the forces amassing behind Ronald Reagan’s coming conservative revolution, Gore Vidal wrote that getting Americans to vote against their own best interests “requires manipulation of the highest order.”

Manipulation and, I would add, distraction.

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