Impeachment of a President has only happened twice in United States history; once with Andrew Johnson in 1868 and once with Bill Clinton in 1998. Impeachment is the legislature’s ability to check executive power. If the legislature deems that a President has committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the process of impeachment can begin. This is a vague statement that is interpreted in many different ways because it is unclear what exactly constitutes a high crime or misdemeanor. Once members of the House of Representatives come to the conclusion that the President has committed a high crime or misdemeanor a vote can be called. If a simple majority of its members are in favor of impeaching the President, the ruling goes to the Senate where a trial is conducted. After the conclusion of the hearings, members of the Senate vote. 67 votes are needed to proceed with the process of impeachment (Davis).
Bipartisan support is essential to impeachment proceedings. Since the 1950s, American politics has shifted to being more ideologically based rather than class based. Abramowitz and Teixeira discussed this phenomenon as it related specifically to the White Working Class in their article, “The Decline of the White Working Class”. This shift has realigned the political parties so that conservatives are concentrated in the Republican Party and liberals in the Democratic Party. The shifting of the White Working Class is coupled with a larger trend in America as more presidential candidate’s policies are shaped by big, wealthy corporations and powerful individuals. Because these donations originate from a small elite group, both Republican and Democrat economic policies tend to be somewhat similar to please these donors. Without a clear separation of economic policy, Americans have shifted to aligning with a party based on their social policies rather than class based policy. Regardless of how the trend originated, this realignment of American politics has increased polarization and decreased bipartisan collaboration.
It is with this knowledge and understanding of the current political climate in the United States that Nancy Pelosi announced that “it is just not worth it” to impeach Donald Trump (Baker and Cochrane). I believe that this assertion is valid. Knowing how divisive the current nature of politics in our nation is, proceeding with a partisan motion would deepen the cleavages already present. Baker and Cochrane further examine the implications of this in their news analysis, “If Not Trump, Then Who? Pelosi Fuels Impeachment Debate With Long Implications.” In many eyes, Trump’s actions fall under the category of high crimes and misdemeanors so the failure to proceed with the process of impeachment essentially condones his behaviors and sends a negative message to future people in office. If the Democrats go through with impeachment proceedings knowing that there is not enough bipartisan support to get 67 votes in the Senate, it will set a precedent for future politicians that will effectively lower the bar of what constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors. In response to Pelosi’s announcement, Trump took to twitter to thank Pelosi for her statement and reiterate that because of the successes he has had so far there is nothing wrong with him or the way he leads.
Since Pelosi’s announcement, many Democrats have come out in public disagreement to announce that they do support impeaching Donald Trump. Juan Vargas, a representative from California, stated that “the Constitution is clear: If there’s an impeachable offense, we should impeach the president … and that’s what we should do: follow the Constitution and not politics” (Baker and Cochrane). Other Democratic members of Congress agree with the realistic nature of Pelosi’s argument, but are quick to acknowledge that their stance on impeachment in no way forgives Trump’s behavior.
On March 24th, a summary of the investigations, found by Mueller, looked into the alleged collusion between Donald Trump and Russia to tilt the 2016 elections was made public. From the small statement that has been released, nothing was found indicating that Trump collaborated with Russia to manipulate the election results in his favor. Democrats are now calling for the full report to be released and until they have seen the findings for themselves, they are “hardly going to agree that the President has been cleared” (Baker). Congress and the public deserve to see the full investigative report. Transparency is crucial to democratic resiliency, as it encourages bipartisan support and strengthens democratic norms. Whatever these outcomes may be, Congress, regardless of party affiliation, needs to hold the President accountable for his behaviors, in relation to the Mueller report and beyond.
Abramowitz, Adam and Ruy Teixeira. The Decline of the White Working Class and the Rise of a Mass Upper Middle Class. Brookings Working Paper, April 2019.
Baker, Peter. A Cloud Over Trump’s Presidency Is Lifted. New York Times, 24 March 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/24/us/politics/trump-robert-mueller.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage. Accessed 23 March 2019.h
Baker, Peter and Emily Cochrane. If Not Trump, Then Who? Pelosi Fuels Impeachment Debate With Long Implications. New York Times, 12 March 2019, https://www.nytimes.com /2019/03/12/us/politics/pelosi-impeaching-trump.html. Accessed 23 March 2019.
Davis, Kenneth. The History of American Impeachment. Smithsonian.com, 12 June 2017, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-you-need-know-about-impeachment-180963645. Accessed 23 March 2019.
You seem to argue that, with such a polarized Congress, impeachment of the president seems difficult, if necessary. For all her faults — which Republicans would list as many — Nancy Pelosi is an erudite political tactician. She wields the speakership with a political prowess that I would argue only Gingrich could have ever matched. She concentrates much of the party power in her office by controlling procedural and institutional facets of the House. So, for her to be so reticent about impeachment talk means something. She certainly understands not only her power, but the limitations of it.
But, I think you make a very important point in that politics should be put aside if impeachment became necessary. I’m reading a great book about Edwin Stanton right now, and it digs pretty deeply into the impeachment proceedings of Johnson post-Civil War. Unfortunately, with Johnson and Clinton (and, to a lesser degree due to circumstance, Nixon), political maneuvering was a major consideration in carrying out impeachment in those cases. Speaker Pelosi seems to play with the next several moves on the chess board in consideration. With that in mind, her comments on impeachment are important.
I enjoyed reading your post and your perspective. And I thought your supporting articles were great, too. Thanks for sharing!
It is actually quite frightening that politicians are scared an impeachment attempt because it could negatively effect the standards of an impeachment. The qualifications of an impeachment should be made more clear. I know our state is still young and this has only happened twice, but something this serious should be set in stone. Once the full report is released and Trump is cleared, that’s when impeachment talks should stop. If it was the other way around, impeachment should be a guarantee. Using a foreign state to gain influence in an election should constitute a high crime.