In recent times, a flood of ideas has been pouring into my mind – ideas that swirl around two main propositions:
- That the case for proceeding with impeachment is overwhelming; and
- That the way the Democrats have been handling the impeachment issue shows clearly the need for new Democratic leadership.
Neither of those propositions is exactly new in my thinking or writing, but those conclusions have lately been pressing on me with new force, and are fitting into a bigger picture with increased coherence.
If the readers of these times were interested in getting an argument laid out in 10,000-15,000 words, I’d embark on writing such a treatise, laying out that coherent case.
But given the nature of how ideas are to be shared nowadays, I’m going to try to find ways of both making the case more succinctly, and also — as best I can – flesh out aspects of the picture subsequently in a series of reasonably brief pieces.
Let me begin with this quickie delineation of some dimensions of why proceeding forthwith toward impeachment is required:
1) It would be hard to imagine a more impeachable President.
Given that “high crimes and misdemeanors” is understood both to include actual criminal acts (like obstruction of justice) but not to be limited to them – i.e. to include violations of the political order – the list of “Articles of Impeachment” for Donald Trump could be very long indeed. Well beyond what Richard Nixon was charged with.
(One piece that I will likely put into this series makes the case that a President’s continuous lying to the American people is in itself an important grounds for impeachment.)
(Another piece: How the arguments being made by some Democrats against proceeding with impeachment seem to me flimsy and flawed.)
A failure to impeach would have serious deleterious consequences for our constitutional order. But I plan also to argue the case that the Democrats will injure themselves politically if they fail to impeach (and indeed are already, I would wager, doing damage to their political standing, not only with their base but – contrary to the apparent beliefs of the Democratic leadership – also with the core of the American electorate).
2) Such is the destructiveness of Donald Trump’s presidency that if we did not have compelling grounds for impeachment we would devoutly wish we did, just so we’d have a way to protect the nation from further serious – and potentially catastrophic – harm.
I was certainly no fan of Richard Nixon, but – aside from his crimes (and aside from Vietnam) – he was able to perform the role of President of the United States within the generally accepted boundaries of competence, concern for the national interest, etc.
The same is clearly not true for Trump.
The list of ways Trump is damaging the United States could be quite a compendium, and maybe I’ll write a piece to lay out the major ways that is true. But just in the past week:
- a) knowledgeable people have expressed great concern that Trump is driving us toward a war with Iran that is contrary to American national interest;
- b) Fareed Zakaria has written a piece about how Trump’s alienation of our major allies and trading partners has driven them to seek to undermine the central role of the dollar in the world economy—a role that has greatly benefitted the United States. And
- c) then there’s climate change, on which Trump seems to be acting as the accomplice of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Trump’s impeachable offenses are hardly the only reason to want to end Trump’s presidency.
(And for reasons I have argued before, and may argue further, the likelihood that the Republicans in the Senate would vote to acquit seems to me not at all a reason not to prosecute the case against Trump with all-out energy. Which leads to the third big reason why proceeding toward impeachment makes all kinds of sense.)
3) The battle against Trump is but the most immediate battle in a much wider war—against a destructive and morally bankrupt Republican Party. And it provides a battlefield for winning that larger war that is as advantageous for the anti-Trump and anti-Republican forces as any we could reasonably hope for.
For a quarter of a century, this battle has been unfolding—a battle between a destructive force that’s taken over the Republican Party, and a force (represented in the American power system by the Democratic Party) that seeks to protect what’s best about America but has been ineffectual in doing so. (That ineffectuality is clearly demonstrated by how the great majority of the values the Democratic Party has championed have been losing ground.)
We can trace the destructiveness of the Republican Party back through McConnell’s across-the-board obstruction, through W’s wrecking ball of a presidency, through the continuous assault on Clinton’s presidency.
And we can see in the elevation of an unthinkable human atrocity like Donald Trump, and the Republican capitulation into the Trump Party, a dramatic escalation of this destructiveness to the point that as House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler says, we are now testing whether the American order will degrade into tyranny.
The Democrats have been weak in their efforts to get the American people to perceive this battle, not least because the Democrats have been slow themselves to understand the nature of it. (See my previous essay on the Democrats’ “characteristic error.”)
The confrontation between Trump and the Democrats now over congressional investigation and impeachment of the President is but the latest episode in this disheartening saga.
- Trump, as a culmination of the destructive force that’s taken over the right, has shown he will do anything whatsoever to protect and extend his power.
- And the Democrats’ hesitancy to match his all-out effort – refraining from impeachment, not even turning to “inherent contempt” – is an extension of the Democratic shrinking from battle after battle that has enabled that dark force to grow in power.
So the case for impeachment is bolstered by the way that Trump – the old Republican wolf but altogether disrobed of the sheep’s clothing – provides as clear and blatant a manifestation of the Republican moral bankruptcy as we could ever hope for and thus an exceptionally good opportunity to expose that darkness on the right to the American people.
(And of course it is from public opinion that political power is gained in this country– at least it still is now.)
The blatant darkness of Trump, coupled as it is with the Republicans having chosen to tie themselves completely to this lawless, lying, unpatriotic President, gives the Democrats the opportunity to go after Trump and the Trump Party in one constitutionally-mandated move: with the impeachment of Donald Trump, and compelling the Republicans to either change their ways or go down with this grotesque President.
It is most unlikely there will ever be a better battlefield on which to wage this fight. And it’s a fight on which the future of our nation depends.