It’s been more than 100 years since Congress offered a formal rebuke of a sitting President and so the vote, in and of itself, is newsworthy and noteworthy. But don’t fool yourself: There’s no next step, no further action that Congress can or will take against Trump. And even the House vote, while historic, has no real-world implications for the President.
See, the resolution of rebuke is non-binding, which means that there will be no actual penalties paid by Trump for the House’s determination that he used racist language in attacking Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York), Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts), Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) over the weekend. And the Senate remains in the hands of Republicans, who have shown zero willingness to cross Trump in any meaningful way — much less bring up and vote on a measure that condemns him.
Which means, almost certainly, that the issue dies here. That Trump’s tweets, like so many abnormal things he has done since 2015, will simply be fed into the partisan meat grinder — producing predictable results. Democratic elected officials (and their bases) will paint Trump’s comments as part of a broader view — repeatedly expressed by the President — that quite clearly is animated by racist sentiment. Republicans will insist this is all partisan politics fueled by ill-intentioned Democrats who simply hate the President and are willing to say and do whatever it takes to remove him from office.
Now, simply because the House vote to rebuke Trump is purely symbolic doesn’t mean it is meaningless. Symbols matter — and there’s no question that this was a moment in history, one that will merit a line (or a few) when the books about Trump are written. Pelosi knew full well that this vote would go nowhere once it passed and she did it anyway — because she believed that it was the right thing for the country (and knew it would appeal to the Democratic base that she wants to ensure are properly revved up to beat Trump in 2020.)
The truth here, however, is that the actual, real-world effects of the House vote on Tuesday are minimal — particularly as it relates to any sort of punitive effect for the President. Trump will go right on Trumping — and his base will eat it up.
That about sums it up.