This week, after months of heated rhetoric, closed-door testimony and televised hearings, House Democrats issued two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. The vote, when it comes, will be almost exclusively along party lines. This means it will likely succeed in the Democrat-controlled House and then fail in the GOP-controlled Senate. For many Americans, the process feels very familiar: Congress fighting with the White House. Republicans and Democrats squaring off rather than doing the people’s business. Different year, different players, different forum — same result.
The Constitution is specific with regards to the authority of the U.S. House to impeach — that is, indict — federal officials for "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Despite that these words actually exist on parchment, many Republican members of Congress have taken on the 21st century habit of deciding that facts matter less than the defense of a president they clearly fear (and privately loathe).
Matters of such national importance should be decided in a thoughtful, bipartisan way. That modus operandi no longer exists, though. Despite numerous examples of self-dealing behavior and unpresidential acts by Trump, Republicans will no more break with him than the sun will come up in the West.
It is unlikely that Trump will be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate and thus removed from office. Despite this, even if House Democrats had not pursued impeachment, there is overwhelming evidence that he should be a one-term president.
And that’s what we need to keep talking about, especially those of us not strongly associated with political extremes. The rhetoric of impeachment, like the process itself, has become mired in partisanship. But even if you do not agree with the way Democrats have handled the impeachment — even if you think the hearings were bungled or the timeline rushed — there is a coolly analytical and far more centrist argument for why Trump must not serve another term.
Whether this core message will resonate remains to be seen, but it deserves to be delivered as loudly and as often as possible.
The litany of Trump’s transgressions far outstrips the space available here, and they have been made even clearer by the weeks of congressional hearings. The president’s lifelong (and continuing) habit of self-dealing and the types of people with which he surrounds himself construct a clear pattern of mismanagement and abuse of power.
His childish antics — the name calling, the empty threats, the general malaise of one so disconnected from propriety — have been enough to keep his approval ratings the among lowest in modern American history.
Then there is the absence of judgment, starting with the White House’s handling of the brutal murder and dismemberment of the American-based reporter Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Our supposed allies in the kingdom downplayed that atrocity just like they have arguably downplayed the on-base shooting of American service members by a visiting Saudi lieutenant this month in Florida. Both incidents have proven that for Trump, all that glitters is truly gold; and if a little gold is good, a lot of gold is better.
For Trump, the Ukrainian fiasco was not a one-off act, but the latest in a lifetime of putting other people’s lives and livelihoods at stake to further his own interest. As a businessman, it was the contractor he stiffed on a bill. Today, it’s leaving the Ukrainian people to face the Russian bear alone. And unlike in Trump's previous career, his basest instincts as president have life and death implications.
The people who have aided and abetted Trump — congressional Republicans, Rudy Giuliani, millionaire ambassadors, Soviet-born criminals — have driven him further and further into the darkest recesses of American political thought and life. In their own way, each has helped enable our nation’s rush toward a place where nothing matters, history doesn’t exist, facts and norms are unimportant and the Constitution is reduced to an old piece of paper.
It probably won’t matter whether the president’s urging of a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political rival is impeachable. It probably won’t even matter that Trump held up military assistance until and unless he got what he wanted. What matters is this: We as Americans deserve better than leaders for whom shady dealings are both normal and acceptable.
Here’s the silver lining, and the reason why it’s so important to continue laying out Trump’s misdeeds as calmly as possible and with as little political rhetoric as possible. When voters go to the polls next November, hopefully they will be driven by issues far simpler than the machinations of impeachment: Trump fatigue. Hopefully, folks working hard to get by will think less about the Constitution and more about how they just want President Donald Trump, and all the noise, chaos and ugliness that comes with him, to go away. Next November, it’s time to turn the channel on Trump’s reality television and get back to what we were doing.