Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

The virtues of impeachment.


Among the items from his ABC interview last night that will launch a few op-ed columns is James Comey’s statement that Trump shouldn’t be impeached, but voted out. I think the fact that this is a debatable question is a symptom of how broken our politics and governance currently are.

On a basic level, Comey’s position (shared by many of the DC elite, including several politicians whose other positions I otherwise respect) is flat-out wrong. If the president has committed gross infractions against the law they should be impeached and, if found guilty, removed from office. Even the strategic question of whether or not the Vice President or any other person in the line of succession might be worse doesn’t change the reality of that.

But there is a practical, political consideration that I’m sure Comey is trying to intimate here — that “impeachment” has become less a penalty based on law and more a penalty based on partisanship. Part of that is because the process of impeachment IS partisan at its foundations. The Constitution establishes two specific crimes — treason and bribery — and one general category of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as a threshold under which the House should be compelled to impeach. But Congress is a creature made of lawyers, and lawyers are compelled to examine and argue about the rules before they agree to follow them. When a party holds both the executive office and the majority in the House, the threshold is not a question of whether the president may have acted illegally. The threshold is instead a question of whether the president and his supporters in Congress can keep their seats despite the president having acted illegally.

People were calling for Obama’s impeachment almost immediately after he took office because they’ve internalized that impeachment is some kind of quick and dirty option to get rid of the leadership you don’t want — a sound backup plan for when the vote doesn’t go your way. Regardless of what impeachment should be, this is what impeachment has become. I recognize that the hesitation to impeach comes from the idea that the higher calling of democracy is to use fair elections as a means of transferring power.

But higher callings can only be answered if the democracy itself is on solid footing, and right now American ideals of democracy have been shredded, purchased, and repackaged by power-hungry malcontents. If we were living in a functioning nation, then impeachment would feel drastic, a last-resort option to be undertaken when all other options had been exhausted. But our elections are neither fair nor equitable; its systems no longer reflective of the country that America became two-odd centuries later. Creating barriers against voting is a priority agenda item of the party in power, which marks them as bad-faith actors unworthy of participating in democracy at all.

As such, impeachment is drastic but it is also necessary.

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This entry was posted on April 16, 2018 by in Action Items, Essay, Politics, Society.
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