Impeachment: A Tale of Division and Mediocrity

As of December 18th, 2019 President Donald Trump has gone down in history as the third president in United States history to be impeached after accusations of “obstruction of Congress” and “abuse of power.” After looking at the voting results on Article I (Abuse of Power) and Article II (Obstruction of Congress), it is clear that these accusations were made under partisan pretenses with only two Democrats voting ‘nay’ on Article I, three voting ‘nay’ on Article II, and not a single Republican voting in favor of either Article.

Despite Trump’s failings as a President, chiefly his inability to uphold many of his campaign promises near the end of his first term, the accusations recently voted on in the House of Representatives are hollow and exemplify the degeneration of the American political system into factionalism and mediocrity. As can be seen in the Articles of Impeachment and pointed out by Patrick Buchanan, “Beneath Article I, there is not a single crime listed, no treason, no bribery no extortion, no high crimes.” As revealed by Mr. Buchanan, not once are any of the cited crimes as impeachable offenses in the Constitution, with the Articles instead claiming that he “abused the powers of the Presidency” through soliciting “the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential Election.”

In spite of both Articles being passed by the House there is almost no chance of either Article passing in the Senate due to a Republican majority, especially when considering the voting pattern of Republicans in the Senate and that either Article requires a two thirds majority. Because of this, House Speaker Pelosi has delayed on passing the documents over to the Senate for trial under the pretense of negotiating a fair trial with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This delay could take weeks considering that both the House and the Senate will not be in session for the rest of December, essentially halting the trial until January or later.

Due to the impeachment’s unprecedented nature, many have come to the conclusion that what took place in the House last week was not an impeachment at all. According to Harvard Professor Noah Feldman:

"But an indefinite delay would pose a serious problem. Impeachment as contemplated by the Constitution does not consist merely of the vote by the House, but of the process of sending the articles to the Senate for trial. Both parts are necessary to make an impeachment under the Constitution: The House must actually send the articles and send managers to the Senate to prosecute the impeachment. And the Senate must actually hold a trial."

Professor Feldman then continues:

"If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all."

According to CBS News,The White House itself is considering whether or not to make a similar argument to Professor Feldman, disputing the impeachment even being constitutional due to its unprecedented nature. Although this argument may be true on a strictly legal basis, it seems to ignore the fact that the impeachment is in an ongoing process and if it currently isn’t an impeachment, it will inevitably become one based on its trajectory. Regardless, this does not seem to be a worthwhile road rhetorically, because it seems to be relying on legalistic word games rather than the reality at hand of a hostile House and pending investigation of the White House.

Matt Purple of The American Conservative, points to one of the most enlightening aspects of this entire debacle: how American governance has devolved into partisan factionalism as exemplified by the impeachment itself as well as Mitch McConnell’s response as recapped by Mr. Purple:

"So now it’s on to the Senate where the result is already predetermined. Might Mitch McConnell set aside party fealty and instead conduct a fair trial, do a service to both Constitution and institution? Fat chance. 'I’m not an impartial juror,' McConnell said. 'This is a political process. There’s not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.'"

Purple goes on to express that although McConnell is right in that the entire situation was triggered in the first place by a partisan use of the power of impeachment, but McConell’s view of the “political process” is one in which the two political parties struggle for dominance without regard for the health of the nation or objective truth. The rest of Mr. Purple's article can be found here: 

This factionalism can be seen exemplified in the rhetoric used during the hearing with Democrats accusing Trump of being a “tyrant” and comparing the impeachment to historic events such as the Battle of the Bulge, Revolutionary War, and emancipation from slavery. Others such as Representative Joe Kennedy accused Trump in what can only be described as self-righteous pretension:

"This is a moment that you will read about in your history books. Today, I will vote to impeach the President of the United States… He abused the highest, most sacred office in our land… Let the record show that, today, justice won, that we did our job, that we kept our word, that we stood our sacred ground."

Democrats were not the only culprits of this rhetoric, however, with Republicans such as Representative Mike Kelly comparing the impeachment to Pearl Harbor and, perhaps most egregiously, Representative Barry Loudermilk comparing the trial of Donald Trump to the trial of Jesus Christ, claiming that “Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president and this process.” For more information regarding the hyperbolic rhetoric wielded by both sides, check out Barbara Boland’s article here:

As for the claim of many including Ivanka Trump that this impeachment was “the first purely partisan impeachment”, as rhetorical useful as it may be, it is simply not true. For the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, in a Republican-majority vote with only nine Democrats, not a single Democrat voted in favor of any of the Articles of Impeachment with all nine Democrats and ten Republicans voting nay and thirty five Republicans voting yea on each article, narrowly avoiding the thirty six necessary for impeachment. In the second case of impeachment, President Bill Clinton, although five Democrats voted in favor of the first three articles in the House, none out of forty-five voted in favor of either of the remaining two articles in the Senate showing a clear partisan divide as well.

Hopefully this whole affair will be a wake-up call to the Trump Administration that attempts to appear moderate in order to appease its political opponents will not work and that an approach that fulfills its many campaign promises is necessary to retain its current demographic. Perhaps more importantly, however, the impeachment process will be a wake-up call to the American people that the status quo of the swamp is one of mediocrity, factionalism, and disintegration, that will require further action on their part in order to correct.

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