To impeach or not to impeach is the question of the 21 stcentury. The answer will have ramifications for America in the decades to come and could change American democracy as we know it today. The media, politicians and political commentators have all stated reasons for impeachment or reasons for no impeachment, but there is one reason that everyone agrees on that calls for no impeachment. Unfortunately, this popular reason for choosing no impeachment is number 1 on the list of things that should not be considered when deciding yes or no to impeachment.
Impeachment is the process by which the U.S. House of Congresspersons votes to level charges against federal officials as part of its oversight and investigatory responsibilities. It does not mean removal from office; so if the House were to vote for impeachment President Trump would not be removed from office. The process starts with a House Judiciary Committee vote on whether or not to impeach. If the committee votes to impeach Articles of Impeachment are presented to the full House for a vote. If the articles are adopted the House will appoint Congresspersons to act as prosecutors in the Senate. Formal charges of illegal or immoral behavior by President Trump are then transferred to the U.S. Senate to determine his innocence or a conclusion of guilt with immediate removal from office. The Senators act as the jury while President Trump is represented by his lawyers to defend against the charges and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the presiding Judge over the trial.
To impeach or not to impeach is a decision looming larger and larger for Democrats who are divided on how to move forward. Currently, the majority of House Democrats are not inclined to impeach President Trump because they feel that the Republican-controlled Senate would not vote to convict him. Those that support impeachment feel it would set a dangerous precedent to ignore the 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice by President Trump that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation discovered.
And after former White House counsel Don McGahn declined to testify to the House Judiciary committee, a growing number of Democrats favor launching an impeachment inquiry. An impeachment inquiry would stop short of a formal impeachment of President Trump but would help Congress gather more facts, by using the law around impeachment to force President Trump and other government officials to comply with Congress’s subpoena requests.
But there is a reason against impeachment sighted by both Democrats and Republicans, and it is the absolutely wrong reason not to impeach! The rationale is that impeachment is politically harmful because of what happened after the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton. One, to compare the impeachment of Bill Clinton to the potential impeachment of Donald Trump is a false comparison. Two, for Democrats not to impeach because of the political consequences, is no different than how the Republican-controlled Senate turns a blind eye to everything Democrats claim President Trump does to harm democracy out of fear for the political consequences to Republican Senators.
The difference between what lies at the core of the Clinton impeachment, and what lies at the core of a potential Trump impeachment is like the difference between night and day. Essentially at the core of the Clinton impeachment is a President who lied under oath about cheating on his wife. At the core of a potential Trump impeachment is whether a President used his powers of office to interfere in a federal criminal investigation, cover up his own illegal actions and lie to American citizens on issues of national security.
A common reference to the potential political harm impeachment can cause is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich losing the Speakership, and Republicans losing 5 seats to Democrats in the 1998 mid-term elections after the Republican-controlled House impeached Bill Clinton. This comparison is bogus because Americans were not upset at the act of impeachment but at the reason behind the act of impeachment.
An ABC News/Washington Post Poll taken December 12–13, 1998 of 1,004 adults nationwide asked: “In general, do you think that lying under oath about an extramarital affair is or is not a good enough reason to impeach a president and remove him from office?” 61% of the respondents said they did not think it was a good enough reason to remove a President from office. The same poll asked, “Given what you know, do you think Congress should or should not censure or officially reprimand Clinton for his actions in the (Monica) Lewinsky matter?” 59% of the respondents said they should censure Clinton for lying under oath about the affair. Americans were clear about their disgust at Clinton’s actions and wanted him to suffer some consequences, but genuinely felt it would be overkill to remove him from office for cheating on his wife.
The feeling of overkill was probably the influencing factor on the answer to a 3 rdquestion in the poll, “Do you think most members of Congress will vote on Clinton’s impeachment on the basis of the facts of the case, or on the basis of partisan politics?” 67% said partisan politics and only 29% thought it would be based on the facts of the case. A Pew Research Center poll taken in December 1998 of 1,201 adults nationwide, asked a question that reflected why the comparison between the Clinton impeachment and a potential Trump impeachment is truly bogus.
The question was, “In your opinion, how can we best avoid things like the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in the future: by electing a president with high moral character, or by making sure that a president’s private life remains private?” 60% said making sure a President’s private life stays private. It’s clear that the American public drew a distinction between impeaching a President over substance versus impeaching a President over politics. Republicans lost 5 seats and Gingrich the Speakership because they were playing politics with impeachment by impeaching Clinton for no legitimate reason. If Democrats aren’t careful they could place themselves in the position of playing politics with impeachment as Republicans did in the Clinton impeachment, by choosing not to impeach President Trump out of fear of political backlash even though they have legitimate reasons to do so.
Democrats, Independents and the media have all criticized Republicans, particularly those in the Senate, for placing politics above principle because they are afraid of electoral defeat. Democrats avoiding legitimate impeachment based on impeachment popularity and estimates on how election results will be impacted is just as SHAMEFUL!!!
Martin Luther King Jr said it best “On some positions, cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”
There are legitimate, logical, and patriotic reasons to be against impeachment. There are legitimate, logical, and patriotic reasons to be for impeachment. Whatever Democrats decide to do they must remember that too many Americans died in the Revolutionary War to gain America’s independence from England, too many Americans died in the Civil War to keep America geographically together, and too many Americans died in the Civil Rights Movement to bring America spiritually together for Democrats or anybody else to decide impeachment based on POLITICS!!!
If President Trump deserves impeachment and Democrats will lose seats by doing so, then so be it they should still impeach. If President Trump doesn’t deserve impeachment but due to his unpopularity Democrats will lose seats if they don’t impeach, then so be it they should not impeach. Bottom Line impeachment is sacred and vital to have a fully functioning democracy. It should NEVER be decided based on how it will affect any political party’s polling popularity or the impact it might have on any politician’s election-day results!!!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at https://isaacnewtonfarris.com on June 3, 2019.