Leaning left, thinking straight: Would we impeach a Democrat?
By Emily Havener
Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash.
Donald Trump has finally gone too far. Republican members of Congress are jumping off the crazy train right and, well, left: Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski, who refused to vote to call witnesses in the president’s 2020 impeachment trial, has threatened to switch parties if the GOP doesn’t hold Trump accountable now. S.C.’s own Lindsey Graham, who once said Trump would “destroy the party for decades to come,” says he’s had enough. Nancy Mace, who worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign, says the GOP will have to “start over from scratch” after the damage Trump has done.
But there remains a serious question as to whether articles of impeachment would be successful based on Republican support. So I’d like to take this moment to ask: Should Republicans agree to impeach Trump?
Let’s break down the issues. First of all, has Trump committed an impeachable offense? Impeachable offenses include treason, bribery and “other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The vagueness of this last phrase has been interpreted to mean offenses that were not necessarily criminal but were still an abuse or a dereliction of the responsibilities of office.
We’ve heard from Trump’s most avid supporters that his insistence on rigged voting has undermined the democratic process. This began even before the riots; Sen. Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor prior to the vote on Jan. 6, “The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken. If we overrule them all, it would damage our republic forever.” Of the riots, North Carolina senator Richard Burr said, “The president bears responsibility for today’s events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point.” Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska called the violence “the inevitable and ugly outcome” of the president’s rhetoric. Certainly it seems clear to them, and to other Republican members of Congress, that he is guilty of maladministration, and has been for some time. In many cases, what doesn’t seem clear to them is that he should be held accountable for it.
Nancy Mace has stepped up to address this very issue, as Fox News reported earlier today: “‘I believe we need to hold the president accountable,’ Mace said. ‘I hold him accountable for the events that transpired, for the attack on our Capitol last Wednesday. I also believe that we need to hold accountable every single person, even members of Congress if they contributed to the violence that transpired here.’”
Republican National Committee member Bill Palatucci puts it like this in an Associated Press article: “The vast majority of the committee is in full denial. They’re willing to condemn the violence, but without any reference to the president’s role in any of it."
So should he be held accountable? Let’s move on to the consequences of successful impeachment. If Trump is not impeached, he will be eligible to run for presidential office again in 2024. In both the 2016 election and the 2020 election, he attempted to undermine confidence in the system of voting that is the foundation of our democracy; for months he has stated he would not accept the result of an election that did not favor him and refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Just because he has finally conceded following the Capitol uprising and loss of support from almost his entire congressional base does not erase the repeated abuse of his power to shake the foundations of the very system that upholds our freedoms. Nor does it mean he won’t try to abuse that power again should he run.
We’ve also seen what his most ardent, though very few, followers are capable of: plots to kidnap governors, storming of the Capitol Building, chasing and threatening police, calling for the hanging of the vice president. This is the worst of what Trump has inspired, and it must not be given quarter by the hope of a reelection.
On these arguments, Trump has committed an impeachable offense and deserves to be impeached. Now we must ask, is impeaching him divisive? Would it hurt the country more than helping it?
Rather than calling for unity in letting the president off the hook, we ought to be unified in holding the leader of our country responsible for behavior that has demonstrably and repeatedly destabilized our democracy. We must do a better job of holding politicians accountable to their words and actions. Just because Donald Trump is a Republican does not mean Republicans cannot unite with Democrats in demanding that he face the consequences of dangerous and irresponsible behaviors that indicated he would not concede power peacefully. As it turns out, his concession has not been consistently peaceful. Violence has occurred. Any contrition is followed by denial of wrongdoing.
Impeachment, bringing the actions of our president to the floor of the Senate for judgment, is a reasonable proposal. As we now know, Sen. McConnell will not bring this up for a vote before the inauguration.
The future Majority Leader Schumer can press to see that our elected officials held Donald Trump responsible for his actions. The president is most certainly liable for wielding the power and privilege of the highest office in the land in a way that endangers the country.
Thus we are left with one final question: Would Republicans demand impeachment of Donald Trump if he were a Democratic president?
My guess is yes.