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Peterson’s Impeachment Vote Fits His District, But...

By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News
Our 7th Congressional District made the national news frequently this past week. As our readers are well aware, that attention was brought from the halls of the U.S. House in Washington, D.C., to the small towns and rural reaches of our district due to a couple votes of Rep. Collin Peterson. 

He was one of only two Democrats in the House to vote against impeaching President Donald Trump on the charge of abuse of power and one of only three to vote no on the charge of obstruction of justice. With the Democrats’ majority in the House, both motions passed, the president was impeached, and now we wait for the U.S. Senate to act.

Because of the historic nature of the House vote and Peterson’s role, we would be remiss not to comment on it. But first, let’s hear from Peterson in his own words.

“Throughout my career, I have worked from the guiding belief that only through bipartisan action can we address the country’s most pressing challenges,” Peterson said. “At the beginning of the impeachment debate we were told that it would only move ahead with bipartisan support in the Congress and significant support from the American people.

“After the Russia investigation, Mueller Report and official impeachment investigation by the House Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committees we became more polarized and had less consensus. How can it be that after all the testimony, every Democrat thinks the president has committed an impeachable offense and every Republican thinks he has not?

“I’m not a lawyer and am not sure what ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ are, but I do know that this process has not convinced the people in my district we have impeachable offenses and that the president needs to be removed….

“The inquiry and hearing have been partisan and have failed in convincing the country while further placating some people who have wanted the president impeached since he was elected.

“This process has been a mistake and I will not be whipped in line by my party. I may stand alone but I stand in good conscience. History will show this to be a mistake and the Senate will make short work of an acquittal,” he said.

Peterson has prided himself on being able to work with members of both parties, a necessity that comes with his leadership as chair of the House Agriculture Committee. Policy and law are shaped through compromise, and the chair of a committee is the focal point of the process of turning differences into acceptable legislation.

He has won 15 terms in the U.S. House in a congressional district that is decidedly conservative with consistent stands that fall well to conservative side of moderate. His ability to win re-election has been dependent on the bridges he has built through diligent service to the small towns and farming community that are the economic heart of the district.

We know Peterson is uncomfortable with how far to the right the House has moved in recent years, with the character of our current president, and with how unyielding the Republican demand for purity has become.

Peterson is still weighing the decision to run for reelection to a 16th term in the House, but if he does it will be in a district where President Trump won by a wide margin of more than 30 points. Peterson won with 52.5 percent of the district’s vote in 2016 despite the Democrats having a singularly bad candidate on the ballot in Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Peterson won with 52.1 percent of the vote with no presidential candidate on the ballot. Both of the last two elections were tighter than he is used to and could signal trouble.

Going into the impeachment vote in the House Peterson knew there were enough Democratic votes to impeach Trump without his. He knew that when the impeachment case went to the Senate, Republicans who control that body with 53 members would reject it. Sixty-seven votes are needed convict the president requiring 14 Republicans to side with Democrats – that just isn’t going to happen.

So, does Peterson in loyalty to the Democratic Party, and for argument’s sake say his true feelings that Trump did in fact commit impeachable offenses, vote to impeach knowing it is an ineffective act? Or, does he criticize the process and partisan rancor in the House, satisfy the vast majority of voters in his district, and have a chance to return to the House in 2021 to again chair the House ag committee?

First-term Michigan Democrat Rep. Elissa Slotkin took a difficult and principled stand. Slotkin, a former CIA analyst, said prior to casting her vote: “The vote I’ll be casting this week will mark the end of my short political career. There are some decisions in life that have to be made based on what you know in your bones is right. And this is one of those times.”

While Peterson could find no wrong on the president’s part, the evangelical and conservative publication Christianity Today could.

“…the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

“The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused,” its editorial states.

Peterson’s votes on impeachment fit the majority of the voters of the 7th District though we question his complete rejection of the grounds on which the impeachment case was built.

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