There is a lot of talk about 2018 possibly being an electoral wave, which might sweep the Republicans out of office in one or both houses of Congress. If that happens, impeachment actually might be a possibility, and it would certainly be tempting and perhaps justifiable to pursue it, given the nearly daily outrages of the Trump Administration. But, as things stand right now, it would be the wrong thing to do.
Those who have read any of my work know that I am about as far from a Trump fan as it is possible to be. I oppose him and pretty much everything he stands for with every fiber of my being. But, I do not currently support a move to impeach him.
You may have noted the gigantic looming caveat that comes with that word “currently”. My opinion could be changed, based on further developments, and particularly what Special Prosecutor Mueller eventually reports from his investigation.
I have a many reasons why I oppose impeachment at the moment.
First, I do not believe that the admittedly undefined standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” has been clearly reached. In the 1990s we were treated to the horrifying spectacle of a Republican Congress seeking to impeach President Clinton because he lied about having a tawdry affair with a much younger woman. Clinton’s actions were dishonorable, immoral and downright sleazy, but they weren’t “high crimes and misdemeanors”, in my opinion. Similarly, to this point Trump’s actions can be categorized as racist, authoritarian, divisive, hateful and any number of other horrific things, but nothing criminal has yet been proven. That may change, but for now that is where things stand. Proceeding with impeachment proceedings based on what we know now would reinforce the terrible precedent for politicization of the impeachment process set by the Republicans in the 90s. I want the party I support to behave better than its opponent, or what is the point? To me, this holds true even if he lies to the FBI about underlying facts that are not in and of themselves criminal. It does not hold if he seeks to dismiss the special prosecutor, which would be clear and indisputable obstruction of justice.
Second, at this point very, very few Republicans would support impeachment, which means it will be viewed as politically motivated, no matter what the underlying facts. To proceed with impeachment without significant Republican support would be folly, in my opinion. It would just serve to further divide this country and inflame the already ridiculously inflated sense of persecution felt by his core supporters. It would turn him into a political martyr for those people and magnify his ability to do harm to us as a nation, even if he were out of office. And, without significant Republican support, it likely would not succeed, meaning he would still be in office, and strengthened by surviving the attempt.
Third, focusing so much on Trump strikes me as focusing on the symptoms rather than the disease. Curing those symptoms might allow the underlying disease to flourish. the election of Trump revealed ugly truths about America, and even more about the Republican Party. Those truths will not disappear with the removal of Trump. The truth that racism and sexism are still deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society. The truth that a large portion of our country hates its government with a fervor. The truth that they also hate scientists and experts of all stripes. The truth that political tribalism has overruled common sense. The truth that a long-running right-wing propaganda campaign has systematically eaten away at the very concept of truth. We need to acknowledge and confront these ugly truths, and impeaching Trump would make it too easy to sweep them under the rug again.
Finally, and most importantly, we need to avoid the temptation to impeach Trump because we need to remove him from office the right way, through an election that he loses convincingly, and that also reveals rejection of those who enabled and supported him for cynical reasons of their own. On November 8, 2016, America lost a part of its soul when we elected Donald Trump as president. The only way we can get that part of our soul back is to atone for our sin by tossing him out of office in the same way we brought him in. By demonstrating that we are better than our worst moment. That we can confront and conquer the fear and hatred. That we can again be the beacon of hope for the world that we have always claimed to be.
So let’s not impeach Trump in a way doomed to be viewed by many as partisan or unjustified. Let’s defeat him and every hateful thing he stands for the right way, at the polls.
Let’s get our national soul back.