Our country has become politically cannibalistic. In the halls of power, there is polarization to such an extent the two parties barely vote in concert on anything. The rhetoric has gotten so heated, Democrats are hedging their bets they can take back the House with threats to impeach President Trump. Mind you, not for any evidence of a misdemeanor or conviction — which the constitution arguably requires — but on account of pure disdain for a president who is single-handedly undoing everything their man, Obama, tried to accomplish. From canceling the Paris Climate Accords and the Clean Power Plan to repealing the individual mandate and thwarting Obama’s SCOTUS selection, President Trump’s first year has been a tour de force of epic proportions. No wonder the Democrats want him out, but using the ballot box for a legislative hit-job on a political rival is the stuff of banana republics, not the world’s model Democracy.
If we examine the articles of impeachment as advanced by Texas Representative Alan Green (D), we encounter ambiguous, politically charged language. The articles are lush with soaring rhetoric enumerating Trump’s “misdemeanors,” as being unfit to, “defend liberty and justice for all,” and “secure the blessings of liberty.” The articles go on to explain how Trump has sown discord through bigoted statements like what occurred in Charlottesville, and the bigoted policy of the “muslim ban,” as outlined in his campaign promises. Whatever one can say about these latter examples, they do not constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors,” as required by the founders for impeachment. Many argue, however, that they don’t need to.
This level of obstruction is equal to the fear Democrats have over a Trump Presidency but, short of evidence of collusion, this long string of whining at least evidences significant “sore loser,” syndrome.
Article II, section 4 of the Constitution, where the terms for impeachment sojourn are, like much of the constitution, is a matter of interpretation. Taken in our modern vernacular, the conditions for, “conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” seem to be a matter of criminal proceedings; absent a conviction for a crime, this terminology wouldn’t apply. Curiously, a textualist approach – that seeking to determine the meaning of constitutional text not as we understand it today, but as the founder’s understood it at the time of ratification – seems to offer Green some support. After all, during impeachments in England around that time, “misdemeanors,” meant simply “misdeeds,” rather than petty-crime. This, coupled with the SCOTUS ruling in Nixon v United States (1993), implies the powers of impeachment are nonjusticiable – not a matter federal courts can adjudicate. The interpretive power, then, rests in the House, but even if it were possible to levy impeachment under these nebulous terms it would not, I argue, be advisable.
The country is exhausted from living in the most prolonged election in history, by which I mean we are still litigating it’s legitimacy well beyond Election Night. First, the Green Party cried voter fraud, then the Democrats complained about the Electoral College system, protesting with the #notmypresident movement. Now, alongside continuing attempts to impeach him, Robert Mueller is waging a seemingly never-ending investigation into Russia collusion with the Trump campaign. This level of obstruction is equal to the fear Democrats have over a Trump Presidency but, short of evidence of collusion, this long string of whining at least evidences significant “sore loser,” syndrome. This would almost be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous: the inflamed gridlock and polarization have deeply divided our country. Rep. Green says this is Trump’s misdeed, but he’s wrong: Trump is merely a symptom, not the cause of this polarization.
Division was sown in a country where anger over hanging chads in 2000 was halted only by the destruction of the Twin Towers, before the resultant, fleeting national unity was undone by the 9/11 commission and film “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Confusion reigns when Supreme Court Justices eschew the original intent of the founders for a modern interpretation of the constitution bordering on redrafting the document without congressional consent. Discord thrives where politically motivated media platforms prioritize groupthink, and Youtube videos give you a chance to see so-and-so “ANIHILATE,” someone elses’ opinion. Disunity festers where family values are gradually displaced by secular identity-politics, encouraging people’s allegiance to their tribal groups over allegiance to each other. When liberty is used as a choice bludgeon against the unborn, while elsewhere it is the boogeyman for gun-violence, confusion over protected rights swells. When a sitting President says, “If you own a business…you didn’t build that,” and admonishes against the, “bitter [who] cling to guns and religion,” resentment grows.
Given broad distrust of the government and media, along with Trump’s steady support, it would be an overplaying of the Democrats’ hand. Should this happen, despite what transpires in 2018, the electorate won’t soon forget it.
Regardless of whether you think any of the above claims are valid, they nonetheless alienate a significant portion of the country. Is it any wonder when a powerful personality emerges on the scene promising a strong national identity, judicial fidelity to the constitution, a war on media bias, tough-talk on culture, family-centered policies and business-friendly practices manages to capture the Nation’s imagination? Indeed, one fourth of the country reliably supports this President, and distrusts the media, waging a daily battle to displace his duly-elected position on political grounds. Returning at last to the unadvisable idea of impeaching Trump, we should consider presidents who were impeached for worse offenses, and those who weren’t for obvious ones. For the former, we have Johnson disobeying a congressional law, Nixon concealing proof of the burglary of Democrat headquarters, and Clinton tampering with witnesses, lying under oath, and concealing evidence of sexual harassment. For more obvious misdeeds in which a President was not impeached, we have the Obama administration, which surveilled political opponents and violated Section 2339A of the Federal Penal code. For these misdeeds, President Obama skated off easy.
Considering the divisions sown by Democratic hijinks, the presidents impeached and those sparing impeachment for worse offenses, and the backdrop of national disunity behind which these proceedings would take place – never mind the unsettled issue of interpreting the meaning of “misdemeanor,” impeachment would be inadvisable. One could easily call this impeachment attempt itself as “the sowing of division,” and convict Congress of misdeeds – not that it would make any difference: Congress can’t be impeached. This raises concerning questions over who gets to decide what “misdeed,” means. The answer is: whoever has political power. This is why we must be wary of pointing the finger. Like a weathervane, the blame could point to either political side, but this would not establish the truth of the matter – only who gets impeached and who doesn’t. In the face of this mob rule, where a president can be convicted in the court of public opinion and impeached, we should be wary of the precedent being set. Impeaching the President would be more than an overreach. Given broad distrust of the government and media, along with Trump’s steady support, it would be an overplaying of the Democrats’ hand. Should this happen, despite what transpires in 2018, the electorate won’t soon forget it.