Those 63 million people, the people who backed Trump in the 2016 presidential contest, were presented as being at risk of having their presidential vote thrown out. For the Senate to vote to convict Trump on the charges presented by the House would be nothing short of an undoing of the election that brought Trump to power, his attorneys argued.
What that calculus ignores, of course, is that Trump is not the only person who serves with a mandate of voters. In 2018, voters handed Democrats a majority in the House, providing enough votes for the party to impeach Trump for his efforts to pressure Ukraine.
The members of the House who supported the first article of impeachment received about 38.5 million votes in 2018 — over 6 million more votes than were cast for members who opposed the article. In the Senate, the difference was even more stark. Nearly 69 million votes were cast for senators who supported removing Trump from office based on that first article of impeachment, about 12 million more votes than were received by senators who opposed his removal.
(Why so many more votes for the senators than the representatives? Because there are two senators for each state but one representative in each House district.)
Bear in mind that the final Senate vote on the first article of impeachment was 52 votes in opposition to removal and 48 votes in support. Those 48 votes came from senators who were the choice of 69 million Americans. Those votes came from senators who received 54.8 percent of all of the votes cast for sitting senators. That’s well shy of the two-thirds margin required in the Senate to remove Trump from office, but it does show the gap between how much of the country was represented by each side in the impeachment fight.
This is to some extent a proxy for population. On that metric, too, there was also a wide gap in the number of Americans represented by members of the House and Senate who supported impeachment and removal. Members of the House who backed impeachment on Article I represent about 24 million more Americans than those who opposed it. In the Senate, the gap was about 15 million Americans.
We are admittedly engaged in a bit of apples-oranges comparisons. While the 2018 election did hinge to some extent on views of Trump, there’s a difference between supporting representatives who oppose Trump and votes cast for Trump himself. A vote in 2016 or 2018 for a senator who supported removing Trump from office Wednesday was not a vote for that removal — nor, of course, was a vote cast for a senator in 2014, before Trump was even involved in electoral politics.
The best context for that 63 million figure continues to be the number 66 million — the votes cast for Trump’s opponent in 2016, Hillary Clinton.
Or, really, 74 million, the number of votes cast for people besides Trump that year.
That larger number, you’ll be interested to learn, also represents about 54 percent of the votes cast that year.