A few commentators have argued that congressmen concerned about President Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine should have pursued a censure resolution rather than his removal from office. Such a resolution would have had a higher chance of building consensus.
Advocates of that course overestimate how much more consensus there would have been. President Trump and his defenders would be making many of the same arguments against censure that they are making against impeachment: The president did nothing wrong; he did nothing substantially different from other presidents; the resolution is just an attempt to soften him up so a socialist Democrat can win the next election; this debate is taking away time we could be spending passing an infrastructure bill; it’s an abuse of the Constitution.
A censure resolution might not have had any more support from Republicans in Congress than impeachment and removal has. (See this report from December on that point.) President Trump would surely have condemned any Republican who broke ranks, and a lot of Republican voters would have sided with him as they usually do against those who are opposed to him or undermining him.
The debate over a censure resolution would have played out differently in one respect, though. A lot of Republicans would be saying that the Democrats lacked the courage of their convictions: If they really thought Trump were corrupt and unfit for office, they would take up impeachment instead of a toothless censure resolution. A lot of Democrats would be scorning their leaders’ cowardice.
All in all, then, I don’t see how political comity, presidential accountability, or even the Democrats’ partisan interests would have been better served by their taking that course.