The Mueller Report has finally landed in the cess pit that is the Trump presidency with a big wet splash, and now this country and our representatives in Congress have a choice to make. Should the president be impeached?
This should be an easy choice. The Mueller Report paints a picture of a selfish, greedy, childish man who lies with utter abandon, constantly puts his own interest above the interest of the country, gleefully accepted the unasked-for aid of a foreign power without bothering to inform the authorities, and then did everything he could to thwart the investigation into that help.
If we were presented with offenses of this magnitude at any time before 2016, the president would rightly have faced impeachment and removal.
Democrats are hesitating, however, because of several seemingly valid worries.
The first is that impeachment and removal will fail, because cynical Trump enabler Mitch McConnell controls the Senate. The second is that impeachment will be so incredibly divisive that it will hurt Democrats’ chances in 2020. And the third major argument is that the election of 2020 is getting so close that it would be better to let the mechanisms of democracy work and allow the people to remove him instead.
None of these arguments hold up under actual scrutiny, however.
The first argument suggests that impeachment and removal is impossible. In our system the House of Representatives brings charges against the official being impeached, but it’s the Senate that must decide to convict and remove. In fact, a full two-thirds of the Senate has to approve the conviction for the official to actually be removed. In our current political environment, that seems absolutely impossible. The Senate is controlled by Republicans, who thus far have shown no signs of abandoning the president, therefore impeachment would result in absolutely nothing happening.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
We have spent the past three years stumbling from one moral and civic crisis to another. We have abandoned our government to some of the most cynical, corrupt, and anti-democratic people in American life, and they have made a mockery of the rule of law. Our domestic politics have taken a drastic turn for the worse, and the American-led international system of alliances and guarantees that have provided stability for so much of the world are fraying and falling apart. The fish, as they say, rots from the head.
But worst of all, we’ve become numb. We’re so overwhelmed by the changes to our sense of normality that just to survive we’ve had to swallow and rationalize at least some of it.
It has to stop. The Democratic House majority was elected to be a check on a rogue presidency, and so they should. It would send a strong message that obstructing justice and winking at a foreign power bent on undermining our democracy will not go unchallenged. Any Republicans who want to vote to save the president’s skin should absolutely put themselves on the record.
The second argument is that impeachment would be divisive. To that I’d just gesture wordlessly around at the wreckage of our institutions and civic life. We are already divided. The president is not the cause of that division, but he’s exploited it and widened it. Yes, removing the cancer at the heart of our government will be painful, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary.
It’s also very unlikely that impeachment would cause voters to be more sympathetic to the president. He is already unpopular, and anyone not already inclined to be sympathetic to him is not going to change their minds.
Democrats may find that instead of suffering electorally for impeachment, their base would be galvanized by a rare show of clear moral strength.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren understands this. She has led the 2020 candidates in calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. I expect more to follow. Remember: opposing the Iraq War was thought to be political suicide in 2003, until Howard Dean caught fire because of exactly that.
I believe the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States. There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution. I explained my position tonight. #WarrenTownHall pic.twitter.com/2XRbH7pj17
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 23, 2019
That brings us to 2020. Why not just wait and let the people vote the president out of office?
The response, unfortunately, is that he is in office at all. The 2016 election proved yet again that the people have no special collective wisdom, and that sometimes the electoral system can put someone in office who has no business being there. The founders included checks and balances, one of which is impeachment, for a reason; the will of the people can sometimes be destructive. Impeachment is a valid tool, it is in the Constitution for exactly this scenario, and Democrats should not hesitate to use it.
Besides, is it so far-fetched to believe that the president could be re-elected? What would happen then? Re-election without any further challenge would essentially legitimize all of the destruction and corruption that has already happened.
That must not happen. The only possible response to the Mueller report is impeachment. Democrats must put the good of the country first, and start impeachment proceedings as soon as possible.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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