Impeachment is the process of removing a sitting president by vote of Congress. Throughout the history of the United States, only three Presidents have been impeached: Andrew Johnson (for violating the Tenure of Office Act where he attempted to remove a civil officer without Senate approval); Bill Clinton (for perjury and obstruction of justice after lying about having an affair); and Donald Trump (for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for withholding aid in an attempt to blackmail Ukraine). The rarity of such occurrences exemplifies the seriousness to bring charges against a president with the intention to remove him from office. However, the impeachment of Donald Trump is a particular example that displays how political party identification can separate and divide Americans through sentiment and actions of elected representatives.
After previous attempts failed to remove Donald Trump on impeachable offenses, Democrats believe that withholding aid for personal benefit is grounds for dismissal. Beginning on December 5th, 2019, the impeachment of Donald Trump began. It was decided to levy two articles of impeachment; I. Abuse of Power, and II. Obstruction of Congress.
The impeachment process always starts in the House of Representatives, which is currently Democrat controlled. Democrats faced intense backlash from Republicans who argued Trump’s impeachment was a political stunt with no legitimacy. Democrats responded to the accusations by hardening their stance, arguing that President Trump has exemplified unhinged and abuse behavior. Almost without any testimony, just the positions of public officials, the country was already decided and divided, regardless of the legality of Trump’s actions with Ukraine.
On December 18, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee voted to advance the articles of impeachment to the floor of the House of Representatives. Twenty-three committee members voted “Yes” (all Democrats), and seventeen voted “No” (all Republicans, with the exception of 1 Democrat). Once arrived in the House, debates ensued, broadcasted on all platforms. The arguments remained consistent, Democrats asserted the president overstepped, while Republicans called the allegations a sham. On December 18, the House voted on article I and II; 230 voted “Yes” (all Democrat and 1 Independent), while 197 voted “No” (all Republican and three Democrats) *. These votes solidified the fate that Donald Trump would be impeached.
Now the vote moves to the Republican controlled Senate where controversy has continued to unfold. The Senate majority leader McConnel pushed back against what he claims is a partisan attempt to overthrow the president with inconclusive evidence. Speaker Pelosi, has been reluctant to transfer the articles of impeachment because she doubts the ability for an unbiased trail to be conducted in the Republican controlled Senate. The delay resulted in McConnell’s threat to dismiss the impeachment charges against Donald Trump through a Senate proposal. Yesterday, after having signed the articles of impeachment with golden pens inscribed with the Speaker’s signature, the articles were carried to the Senate two-by-two by Democrat House members chosen to oversee the Senate trail. Now we await further escalation until a vote can be made and Trump’s fate can be decided.
Regardless of the legality of Donald Trump’s actions, such political games that have surrounded the impeachment process are dangerous to the welfare of American society. Obviously, it cannot be expected that 300 million Americans can develop an unbiased legal interpretation of the laws governing presidential powers (Article II of the Constitution), allowing them the ability to arrive at an independent, unbiased understanding of whether or not Donald Trump violated the terms of office. This is precisely why political behavior by elected representatives is so incredibly powerful on the public. The arguments being used on both sides of the debate have been adopted by their respected constituents, widening polarization among fellow Americans from a strictly biased perspective. A national poll suggests that 44% support impeachment, 41% do not and 14% are undecided. A different poll directed toward residents of Iowa (a swing-state where one of the initial primary elections occur) suggests that 45% disapprove impeachment, while 41% approve; going even further by stating 9/10 Democrats approve while 9/10 Republicans disapprove.
This impeachment process exemplifies the polarization in the United States and the growing separation among Americans. Impeachment should not be a fight for political power, but a transparent, unbiased bipartisan analysis of the Constitution. Are the party arguments an overreaction? Is it really this impossible to find a middle-ground on such a major accusation? Can any unbiased truth ever be discovered? What will happen if Trump wins reelection? What happens if he doesn’t? Regardless of the 2020 outcome, an incredibly large proportion of the country will be disappointed, even angered with the results, probably to the degree of protest. All will unfold while the rest of the world watches the dumpster fire that is American politics.
*Results reflect the vote for just Article I. Article II had almost identical results.