This week, in a vote that saw only two Democratic defections, the House of Representatives approved a package of ground rules for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. According to The Associated Press, the vote will allow Congress to “transition from weeks of closed-door interviews with witnesses to public hearings and ultimately to possible votes on whether to recommend Trump’s removal from office.” (Republicans, for their part, voted unanimously against, with White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham deriding the opposition’s “unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding.”)

Even at this early stage, public opinion on impeachment would appear to favor the Democrats. As of this writing, 48% of Americans support an inquiry versus 43.9% who do not, per FiveThirtyEight, while a poll released Friday from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds a split of 47% to 38%, though only a third of respondents believe it should be a congressional priority. Yet buried in the poll’s findings is a statistic both the Democratic Party and its rank-and-file ignore at their peril: seven in 10 Republicans believe it was inappropriate for former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, and 6 in 10 Democrats agree.

They’re not wrong. As Ryan Grim writes for The Intercept, Biden’s family has been profiting off his office for years, and the Democratic Party would be foolish to pretend otherwise. While Grim is careful to debunk the Republican conspiracy theory that the then-vice president demanded Ukraine’s top prosecutor be fired as a protective measure—”it did more to hurt his son’s company than anything else”—he nonetheless acknowledges that Hunter had no business holding his position in the first place.

Following the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, organizations like Burisma Holdings, whose owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, had ties to the deposed administration, became targets for investigation. Enter Hunter Biden, who maintained a seat on the company board for $50,000 per month despite lacking any meaningful experience in the field and despite his documented struggles with substance abuse during that time. For Grim, the play was “obvious”: Biden’s mere affiliation with Burisma, and the weight of his surname in the West, would dissuade any prosecutor from looking too closely at the company’s operations. “It is the entire reason Hunter Biden was paid so handsomely to do nothing but sell his name to the company,” he concludes. “That’s corruption. Enough.”

This perfectly legal brand of corruption is ubiquitous in Washington. Indeed, it’s been one of the trademarks of Joe Biden’s long and frequently inglorious career in public office. Sarah Chayes, author of “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens National Security,” put things succinctly for The Atlantic in September:

Some of these gigs require more ethical compromises than others. When allegations of ethical lapses or wrongdoing surface against people on one side of the aisle, they can always claim that someone on the other side has done far worse. But taken together, all of these examples have contributed to a toxic norm. Joe Biden is the man who, as a senator, walked out of a dinner with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Biden was one of the most vocal champions of anticorruption efforts in the Obama administration. So when this same Biden takes his son with him to China aboard Air Force Two, and within days Hunter joins the board of an investment advisory firm with stakes in China, it does not matter what father and son discussed. Joe Biden has enabled this brand of practice, made it bipartisan orthodoxy. And the ethical standard in these cases—people’s basic understanding of right and wrong—becomes whatever federal law allows. Which is a lot.

As the machinery of impeachment whirs and the 2020 election creeps ever closer, Democrats have a choice: they can provide a genuine alternative to the kind of self-dealing that has defined the Trump administration or they can present themselves, again, as the lesser of two evils and risk countless voters staying home next November. Nominating Joe Biden may all but guarantee the latter.

Read more at The Intercept.

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