So he’s gone. 59-0. No tears here. 

But the senate went too far. Rod Blagojevich’s defense of himself boiled down to this: Most of the counts against him, and certainly the most sensational ones, were based on the federal criminal complaint. There’s been no indictment yet, let alone a trial and conviction, and he was as entitled to a presumption of innocence as any other accused man.

As for the other counts… Most of them — like the flu vaccine fiasco, for example — dated back to his first term, and Blagojevich argued that if his conduct was impeachable he should have been impeached then. But his intentions were moral and public-spirited, he said, and the public knew what he’d done when it reelected him.

“Now, I’m asking you to ask yourself,” Blagojevich said in conclusion, “is it the right precedent to set to throw a governor twice elected by the people out of office without proving any wrongdoing?” 

Prosecutor David Ellis responded, “He has a constitutional right not to be thrown in jail….He does not have a constitutional right to be governor. That’s what the governor does not understand. Being governor is not a right, it’s a privilege. And he has forfeited that privilege.”

True that. As the public was frequently reminded, impeachment is a political process, not a judicial process, and if the senate merely concluded that Blagojevich was too discredited to be tolerated as governor any longer, it had the right to throw him out. But after removing him, the senate then drove a stake through his heart. The second question called for by the senate’s impeachment rules was this: “Shall Rod R. Blagojevich be disqualified from holding any future public office of this State?” The vote: again 59-0. There was no debate. The senate acted without thinking.

It’s not a privilege to be able to run for office — it’s a right basic to democracy. Any “political process” that removes that right inflicts a criminal punishment, whether we want to call it one or not.

Rod Blagojevich should be free to run for any state office he has the effrontery to seek. The senate insulted the voters.