Thursday, February 16, 2017

Stop Pretending Impeachment Is Easy Or A Foregone Conclusion

Nixon drunk-dialing his former chief of staff Bob Haldeman on the day of the latter's resignation is one of my favorite things. It took over another year for Watergate to run its course.

In the wake of the Flynn scandal, a lot of liberals and progressives have been joyously discussing the possibility of impeachment, or even the fatuous notion that we will have an election "do over." Sorry folks, I'm here throw a bucket of cold water on you. As a historian, that's kinda my job.

As to the "do over," there's absolutely no constitutional precedent for that, so just stop talking about it like it's a thing. As to impeachment, it should never be discussed as if it were something easy to do. No president has been removed from office via impeachment. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached but survived the process, and Nixon resigned before impeachment proceedings could be voted on. I am pretty sure Nixon would have been impeached and removed from office, so I guess I'll let you have one example of a successful impeachment.

My point is that it is almost impossible to pull off. It is beyond impossible if the president's party is in control of Congress, which means you should just stop thinking Trump will be impeached before the next midterm election. It won't happen. It's much more likely that a 25th Amendment scenario happens, but I doubt that'll happen, either. Paul Ryan is creaming his shorts about the prospect of eliminating the social safety net, and if Trump is a vessel for that, so be it. I've said it before, I'll say it again: there's no such thing as "Trump voters" anymore, only Republicans, and Trump is putting forth an aggressively Republican agenda.

So let's say the Democrats manage to win back Congress in 2018. (I'm not holding my breath.) The process behind impeachment is extremely time-consuming. The early Watergate allegations against Nixon started getting serious in January of 1973. He would not resign until a year and half later, in August of 1974. That was even with a Democratic congress. Nixon did everything he could to slow down the process. Later presidents learned from this scandal to make it even more difficult to unseat them. For example, in the Iran-Contra Scandal of the 1980s, Oliver North merely shredded the relevant documents, destroying the evidence. I imagine Trump has minions willing to take the fall, too.

I don't like this impeachment talk because it is yet another wish for the salvation to come miraculously come from on high and end Trump's rule. That simply is not going to happen. Instead of waiting for a miracle, we need to be out there opposing Trump tooth and nail. We need to fight like hell in 2018. We need to keep up the pressure. We need to put our bodies on the line, if need be. The legal processes of this country installed Trump in power, start trusting yourself instead of trusting them for a change.

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