Donald Trump has become the third president in American history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. In the Articles of Impeachment released earlier this month, and the preceding, often contentious hearings, House Democrats laid out the case for removing the President of the United States from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. It is the gravest of powers our Constitution affords the legislative branch.
On Tuesday night, from Ann Arbor to Sarasota to Spokane, Americans took to the streets to express their support for impeachment. Some, regrettably, adapted the “lock her up” chant Trump supporters used against Hillary Clinton in 2016. They were expressing their collective desire to see Donald Trump not only removed from office, but put behind bars, as though they forget that we do not lock up our political opponents in this country. They were gleeful. They were excited.
I do not share the jubilation of many on the left. Instead, I am filled with an unspeakable grief — that Donald Trump may have compromised national security to try to influence the 2020 election, that (based on his petulant letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi) he, unlike Richard Nixon who resigned and Bill Clinton who capitulated, is unable to see the error of his ways. I’m forlorn that his most ardent supporters, both on Capitol Hill and throughout the country, cannot or will not admit when the president does wrong.
I am likewise dejected by the way some on the left have reacted to this. A schoolyard “told you so” attitude does no one any favors. This is not something to celebrate, though being grateful that the checks and balances enshrined in our Constitution are at least halfway working.
Today is a solemn day, a sad day, for American democracy. A president who did not win the popular vote yet still legitimately won the election, who has subsequently shown time and again his disdain for the solemn office of the presidency, is being impeached along party lines — the exact thing the Framers never wanted. He will not be removed from office, because — as Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham have said — Senate Republicans have already made up their minds. There has to be an impeachment process — if allegations of trying to bribe a foreign government to investigate a political opponent don’t rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanours, I’m not sure what can — but it’s heartbreaking to see the way it’s unfolding.
The country will be dragged through this, knowing the outcome is that nothing will happen — not really, not of consequence, at least not to this president who is brandishing impeachment as a badge of honor as he uses it to fundraise and campaign, even as the vote is happening — and it’s harrowing. We are already so divided, so angry at one another. This will only exacerbate it.
Not to impeach wasn’t an option. Impeaching under these circumstances was a bad option. I’d say House Democrats were caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, but if current polling on the popularity of impeachment is any indication, that sea might well be red.
There is no silver lining to this cloud, no rainbow after the rain. Democrats will continue to view Donald Trump as the worst thing to happen to the White House since the British burned it down. Republicans will continue to defend the indefensible. Americans will continue hating one another.
No one wins here, except Trump, who relishes this kind of political theater and, let’s face it, attention. He will live to see another day. Bully for him, I guess.
As for the American people, well, I throw my hands up in lamentation. The country is already more divided than at any time since the Civil War. Impeachment has been and will continue to be contentious. The 2020 election will be even more contentious. The latter coming so quickly before the former will exasperate things.
One thing is clear: We are not waking up from this long, national nightmare any time soon.
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