It’s disturbing but also fascinating to watch the political goings-on south of the border from up here in Canada. This is democracy at work, but is this what democracy is supposed to be doing?
From what I understand, the American constitution has a process (i.e. impeachment) whereby the House of Representatives can essentially put forward an indictment of a sitting president for violating his/her constitutional duties. Articles of impeachment that are approved by the House then go to the Senate for a trial. The last time this happened was when Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury (for lying in a sworn statement to a grand jury about the Monica Lewinsky affair) and obstruction of justice. The Senate voted not to remove him from office.
There seems to be all kinds of outcry from President Trump and assorted others that the impeachment proceedings are invalid and unconstitutional, which is concerning. Whatever verdict the Senate may render about the president’s guilt or lack thereof, impeachment is a constitutional power afforded to the House of Representatives. To attack the validity of that process is to challenge the validity of the constitution itself. More fuss is made of the idea that the impeachment goes against what people voted for in the last election, but again, impeachment is a power given to the House by the constitution to deal with issues that arise during the President’s term in office.
There’s also a great deal of hullaballoo (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever used that word in a sentence) along the lines of “person X did action Y and so they should be investigated!” If you robbed a bank and I later used some of that money to pay a hitman to take care of some business, whether or not you get investigated for the bank robbery has no bearing on me being held responsible for paying the hitman. There’s all this talk about Joe and Hunter Biden, yet it’s really all a bunch of hand-waving and distraction techniques, because none of it changes what Trump did or did not do. I have no great love for Joe Biden; he strikes me as a well-intentioned doofus, but even if he was nibbling on the Ukrainian prosecutor’s fingertips and giving him dive-bomb shoulder massages back then, that does not change the problematic nature of Trump’s actions now.
The two articles of impeachment approved by the House were abuse of power (for soliciting Ukraine’s interference in the U.S. electoral process) and obstruction of Congress (by interfering with House subpoenas). It doesn’t seem that complicated.
In the transcript that the White House released at Trump’s behest, Trump asked the Ukrainian President to investigate the Bidens. Even if both Joe and Hunter Biden teamed up and robbed banks and then hired hitmen in Kiev, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not okay for a sitting president to ask the leader of another country to investigate a political rival. Trump repeatedly described the call and the transcript produced as “perfect” and later stated on camera in front of the news media that China should investigate the Bidens; clearly, he doesn’t view it as a problem to solicit foreign interference in the American electoral process.
As for the second article, I don’t think it’s any secret to anyone that Trump tried to stonewall the House’s investigation; if anyone had any doubts, they need only listen to what he was publicly saying and his verbal diarrhea on Twitter.
These two articles approved by the House will end up going to the Senate for a trial. And there could be a legitimate exploration around whether these two articles meet the standard required to remove a sitting president from office — but I suspect that’s not going to happen. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is likely going to do his very best to shut that whole business down and got to a vote as fast as possible. Guilty and not guilty votes will undoubtedly go along partisan lines, and Trump will stay right where he is.
What bothers me the most about this whole thing is how little rationality there is. Politics is always partisan, but how far will people go to support their side in spite of the evidence that’s available? Yet for the Republic party, Trump is very good for business. A substantial chunk of evangelical voters seem to think he’s ordained by God, and his childish name-calling of anyone he doesn’t like (anyone remember Little Rocket Man?) only makes his base more fervently devoted to him. There seems little to no chance of rationality coming into play in those segments of the population.
The whole point of founding a democratic republic was to get rid of tyranny. Processes were put in place to maintain that democratic republic. Ultra-partisanship, as we see not only in the U.S., threatens to undermine the fundamental principles of democracy. The wheels are falling off and somehow we need to fix this thing.
I wonder what the Founding Fathers, sitting around sipping tea that their slaves brought for them, would think of the current state of affairs. I suspect they would shake their heads in disgust, and tell the slaves that some alcohol was very much called for. Hmm, maybe the f*cked-upness in the American political world isn’t so new after all.
Originally published at https://mentalhealthathome.org on December 19, 2019.