Donald Trump becomes the third president in United States history to have what some historians and political analysts are calling an asterisk: impeached by the House of Representatives and acquitted by the Senate.
To say that I’m surprised these events unfolded as they did would be a lie; Democrats knew from the moment House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into the President of the United States on Sept. 24, 2019, that any attempt at removal from office would be unsuccessful.
This article will not be an argument for or against a Senate conviction against Trump; such an argument would result in no productive discourse. Rather, I am arguing that the so-called Senate “trial” should be regarded as the real “political sham,” the term Republicans use when referring to impeachment, the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections and basically every controversy that has occurred during the Trump presidency.
Article I Section 2 of the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the power to bring impeachment charges against the president and Section 3 gives the Senate the authority to hold a trial. A fair trial, in my opinion, is one of the most critical features of our democracy.
Rather than allowing for an apolitical, evidence-based trial, Senate Republicans excluded witnesses and held all of their faith in the president. Some Senators like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) said that Trump may have done wrong asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, but asked to weigh that against the economic prosperity under the current administration.
In what democracy is a potential crime excusable by a healthy economy? In America’s democracy, apparently.
I think this entire impeachment debacle — from House Democrats scrambling to bring charges at the last moments of 2019 to Senate Republicans forcing a quick, politicized acquittal of the president — will leave an irreparable hole in American democracy.
The legislature is supposed to serve as a check on executive power. When a president abuses the powers of the office, it is the responsibility of the House and Senate to hold the president accountable.
The implications of Trump’s acquittal are quite frightening: Will Republicans attempt to impeach the next Democrat in the White House? Will Trump see his acquittal as an excuse to further expand the power of the executive branch or abuse it? I think it’s likely, and it’s a shame because the institution of the Senate, arguably the most influential American institution, demands more integrity on part of its members.
Is democracy in danger?
The Iowa Caucuses last week proved chaotic when the Iowa Democratic Party did not release results until nearly 24 hours after the caucuses closed. It was all due to an app malfunction; when workers tried to use the backup phone hotlines, they didn’t work. How are we to ensure the sanctity of our democracy if our election systems don’t work? People will further distrust our voting instruments and will become apathetic to our most fundamental right, the right to choose our elected officials.
Not to mention the fact that caucuses aren’t democratic. Rather than voting in a direct primary election on a ballot, caucus-goers vote by publicly breaking into groups to demonstrate support for a candidate. This process does not allow for individual preference as people can be swayed to support an alternate candidate.
I think all states ought to have open, direct primaries so voters can choose whichever party and whichever candidate they want to support. Voting systems should be tested well in advance of every election and ensured to be private, secure and flawless. Democracy begs nothing less of Election Day running perfectly.
Between the Iowa Caucuses and impeachment, I think Democrats have quite the hurdles to jump through to have a fighting chance at the White House in 2020.
In particular, Joe Biden, who came in fourth in the Iowa Caucuses, needs a new strategy to compete with younger contenders. The former vice president’s campaign strategy is to ride Obama’s coattails, which is not an effective strategy because the electorate is not the same as it was in 2008 and 2012.
I think that Iowa has taught us that moderate Democrats in rural America are excited about Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who rose to victory in Iowa and is surging in the New Hampshire polls, while young progressives are throwing their support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt).
Regardless of who the nominee is, I think Democrats must unite around that nominee to have any shot against the incumbent who boasts a strong economy and low unemployment rate. Ultimately, the voters will be able to decide if the president’s actions were worthy of removal from office.