Impeachment is not the answer
By Jim Coogan
As we get closer to the 2018 mid-term elections, many Democrats are hoping to make congressional gains that could stymie president Trump’s agenda. While that may be an understandable goal on their part, the thought that control of Congress could be an avenue to impeach and remove Trump is a bad idea.
Article I of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that civil officers of the United States, including the president, may be removed from office for “high crimes and/or misdemeanors.” It’s a two-stage judicial process where the House of Representatives by simple majority proposes formal charges and then things move to the Senate where a two thirds majority determines guilt or non-guilt. It’s been used sparingly. Only two presidents have been indicted for crimes that allegedly fit these categories. Andrew Johnson and William Clinton were impeached and found not guilty of the charges. Richard Nixon would have been impeached but he resigned from the presidency before the House could bring formal charges against him.
Impeachment is a bad idea because it will, as it clearly has in the past, end up as a purely partisan exercise. In Andrew Johnson’s case it was the still raw political edges still remaining from the recently ended Civil War that saw the effort to remove the 17th president. Johnson, a Democrat, was seen by the Radical Republicans as being too soft on the defeated states of the Confederacy. In Clinton’s case, it was because he lied about the Monica Lewinsky affair and the insurgent Republicans under Newt Gingrich saw an opening to dump a president from the opposing party.
In today’s bitterly divided American political landscape, any call for impeachment by the Democrats would be viewed by Trump loyalists as an end-around move by the party out of power to overturn the legitimate election of a president. It is a fact that a large number of American voters who are already suspicious about anything that comes out of Washington, would feel that they were cheated by a corrupt system. It would lead to chaos and further the social and political instability that we are already experiencing.
Even if the Democrats flipped the House of Representatives in November and regained power in that chamber, it would be a grave mistake to use their majority to introduce articles of impeachment. Even if that could be accomplished, getting two thirds of the Senate to find the president guilty would be impossible. Meanwhile we would have many Americans believing that all of the hysteria about a so-called “Deep State” is true.
Another factor that Democrats should consider is that just floating the idea of impeachment will become a rallying point for the Republican base. And they will work all the harder in mobilizing their supporters to prevent the anti-Trump forces from making congressional gains. In the end, talk of impeachment will just be a distraction from the real issues Democrats should be campaigning about. If it keeps up, our embattled chief executive will become a sympathetic figure. And that’s the last thing Democrats should want to happen.