During the impeachment debate on Wednesday, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) asked for a moment of silence to commemorate the 63 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, saying the Democrats intended to “disenfranchise” them via this “partisan impeachment sham.”
“This partisan impeachment sham seeks to disenfranchise 63 million American voters,” Johnson declared. “So I want to use my time to call on this chamber for members to rise and observe a moment of silent reflection, to give every member here the chance to pause for a moment and remember the voices of the 63 million American voters the Democrats today are wanting to silence.”
As he spoke many Republican congressmen stood up behind him.
Ohio Representative Bill Johnson just called for a moment of silence on the House Floor to remember the voices of the people who voted for President Trump pic.twitter.com/3sXZkQLjXY
— MTV NEWS (@MTVNEWS) December 18, 2019
Many liberals mocked Johnson for this.
“Rep. Bill Johnson asks for a moment of silence because Democrats are ‘disenfranchising’ 63 million voters,” HuffPost’s Matt Fuller tweeted. “One, that’s not what the word ‘disenfranchise’ means. Two, HILLARY CLINTON LITERALLY GOT 2.8 MILLION MORE VOTES THAN TRUMP.”
Rep. Bill Johnson asks for a moment of silence because Democrats are "disenfranchising" 63 million voters.
One, that's not what the word "disenfranchise" means.
Two, HILLARY CLINTON LITERALLY GOT 2.8 MILLION MORE VOTES THAN TRUMP.
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) December 18, 2019
Fuller is correct about the word choice. “Disenfranchise” means “to deprive someone of the right to vote,” rather than to revoke someone’s vote after it has already been cast. Johnson’s word choice was off, but he made an important point: the effect of nullifying the election is similar to disenfranchisement.
As for Fuller’s second point, under America’s Constitution, the Electoral College determines the presidency, not the popular vote. Trump won by the rules of the game, which are fair because they represent the smaller states as well as the larger and more populous states. Furthermore, even if America had a popular vote system, it would likely require a majority to win the presidency, and Hillary Clinton did not win a majority of votes, only a plurality.
Politico‘s Sarah Ferris mocked the moment of silence, suggesting Johnson was lamenting Trump’s victory.
“Republicans just held a moment of silence on the floor for the results of the 2016 election,” she tweeted. How clever!
Republicans just held a moment of silence on the floor for the results of the 2016 election.
— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) December 18, 2019
While Johnson’s moment of silence is arguably a stunt, it highlights an important point — ironically a similar point to the one Democrats made during the 1996 impeachment of Bill Clinton. Impeachment is not by its nature the reversal of an election, but it does involve attempting to remove a duly-elected president.
In the case of Bill Clinton, the impeachment had some weight to it: actual crimes were committed, even if many Democrats said they did not amount to high crimes. In the case of Donald Trump, many Republicans dispute the idea that the underlying activity constitutes a crime at all. Worse, many Democrats have been demanding Trump’s impeachment since before his inauguration.
Democrats are arguably weaponizing impeachment as another excuse to attack the president they despise, rather than to hold him accountable for any truly egregious behavior. In this situation, Bill Johnson’s moment of silence is quite defensible.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.