“Obituaries reflect what the present thinks of the past,” wrote journalism professor Kathleen McElroy.
What will the future think of President Donald Trump and two historic votes senators must take on his impeachment? The obituaries of the Republicans who voted in favor and against the articles of impeachment for President Richard Nixon could provide some insight. How these GOP members of Congress voted in 1974 featured prominently in all of their obituaries.
As House Manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) remarked on the floor of the Senate last week, “We can do a lifetime’s work, draft the most wonderful legislation, help our constituents and yet we may be remembered for none of that, but for a single decision, we may be remembered, affecting the course of our country.” He said these words after reflecting on the courage of the late Republican CongressmanThomas Railsback, who worked with a small bipartisan group in the House in 1974 to vote to impeach Nixon. Schiff highlighted Railsback as the congressman had passed away on Jan. 23, the eve of the Trump impeachment trial. The headline for his obituary in the Associated Press read, “Thomas Railsback, congressman who broke with GOP to back Nixon impeachment, dies.”
And so it has been for every obituary of every Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who voted in 1974 for or against the Nixon articles of impeachment. If the reference is not made in the obituary’s headline, it still appears as a central point in the narrative of their lives as that single decision affected the course of history.