I am somehow on the mailing list of Colorado Common Cause (CCC). This organization is no fan of President Trump, and with each perceived Trump transgression CCC’s fundraising emails have gotten more alarmist. “Resist Fascism”, the headers read. “Take Back Our Nation“ And my personal favorite: “Save Our Democracy”. According to CCC and almost every other progressive group the President represents an imminent and mortal danger to the nation that can only be held at bay by united and unceasing resistance (and generous donations) from Fair-Minded Progressives (many of whom prefer to “resist” by setting fire to buildings, smashing up police cars and assaulting middle-aged Trump voters). Donald Trump has certainly united and galvanized the Democrat Party, just as Barack Obama did the Republicans. We may not know what we’re for, but we damn sure know what we’re against.
I can sympathize with the Left’s angst. So far the Trump Administration is getting a solid thumbs down in nearly all quarters. But Americans should be troubled by the remedy being floated, and how shaky the legal ground is under it. Almost every Democrat is at least hinting, if not screaming, that the President should be removed from office. The only means to that end, short of proving that Mr. Trump was actually born in Kenya (or Moscow), would be for Congress to impeach him.
Here’s the problem: Impeachment is a very high bar to clear, even if the President’s party is not in control of Congress. It requires the House of Representatives to formulate and pass articles of impeachment, the charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors”- bribery, treason and such. Senators then act as the jury (Chief Justice Roberts would preside), and 67 of them must vote for impeachment before the President will be shown the door. In the history of the Republic no Presidential impeachment has ever gone the distance, and it has been attempted only three times.
The closest call came in 1868 when facile, politically-motivated impeachment articles were brought against President Andrew Johnson, ostensibly because he fired his Secretary of War. Johnson avoided being tossed by two votes in the Senate, where anger at his refusal to punish the Confederacy more severely ran hot.
The next instance laid bare the demonstrably illegal machinations of good old Dick Nixon, who spared himself the ignominy of being frog-marched out of the White House by resigning the office before his proceedings got under way. One president a near victim of political infighting, the other a textbook example of a high crime.
The sordid case of President Bill Clinton falls somewhere in between. A puerile Republican House brought charges which the Democrat Senate dismissed with a collective yawn, that body apparently not overly concerned that the President lied to Congress about getting to third base (the cigar evidently scored) with the lusty Ms. Lewinsky. High crime? Maybe. Politically motivated? Definitely. On that sliding scale the shadowy charges swirling around the Trump Administration have a distinctly Andrew Johnson/Bill Clinton caste to them.
What charges might we find in articles of impeachment against President Trump? So far, the favorite is “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia. What would this “collusion” look like? Is it another Watergate, where Trump or his inner circle actually instigated or covered up a criminal action in order to get or keep Trump in the Oval Office? Or is it Jared Kushner’s driver’s brother making a phone call to someone in the Russian embassy to try to get them to improve the quality of the borscht in the embassy coffee shop? (To me, a perfect example of collusion would be the Democrat National Committee working hand-in-glove with the Clinton campaign to derail Bernie Sanders. Just sayin’). And suppose the Special Council does find evidence that somebody connected to Trump did do something criminal, Russian connection or no. If it was done without Trump’s direct knowledge or instruction and, most critically, before he took office, even a Democrat-controlled Congress should be loath to move against him.
So far neither the FBI nor a motivated news media has managed to dig up any evidence that either Trump or his minions are guilty of anything other than profound ignorance of – and/or extreme indifference to – the “way things are done” in the Swamp. But the Impeachment drumbeat continues – in the press, in the public square, and loudest of all inside the Capital, where Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who should know better, are enthusiastically banging their bongos. They might be advised to look southward, where Brazil just “successfully” impeached its president and now may have to try to throw out her successor. The branches of government are at each others’ throats and the country is descending into chaos.
The biggest threat to our democracy is not three more years of Trump. It is the apparent willingness of the Left to disregard the protections afforded the Chief Executive by the Constitution because said Executive is a childish, churlish bully whose deepest thoughts never seem to exceed 140 characters. If Liberals bank on impeachment to rid themselves of Trump, they may be repeating the mistake of putting all their chips on Hillary Clinton and the politics of bathrooms. “A vote for us is a vote for impeachment” is not a very inspirational bumper sticker, and if Republicans hold either the House or the Senate next year impeachment will become a pipe dream. But the beat, as Sonny Bono noted, goes on.
Do Democrats really want us to follow Brazil down that chaotic road? Are they just hyping impeachment to rally the base for the midterms? Or are they actually willing to stretch the Constitutional standard for impeachment to the breaking point just because Hillary lost and they can’t wait until 2020? If they do retake Congress in 2018 and decide to go after Trump based on what will surely be an evidentiary house of cards, the consequences for the nation could be much worse than the continuation of a bumbling, ineffective Trump presidency.
Organizations like CCC are probably raising a lot of money tooting the Dump Trump trumpet, but Progressives had best be careful not to trample the Constitution in their rush to “save our democracy”. It will not need saving as long as we, and our elected representatives, continue to believe in and adhere to the Rule of Law. If we stray from that belief, whatever the excuse, our claim on democracy will be as empty as Brazil’s.