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Issues & Insights

Democrats Have Ruined Impeachment – But Not How You Think

I&I Editorial

Much has been made of Democrats cheapening the Constitution’s impeachment powers, how their crusade against President Donald Trump will ultimately render impeachment the American equivalent of a no-confidence vote in a parliamentary democracy.

In fact, the unwatchable spectacle of the last week on the floor of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body has inflicted something akin to the opposite. It may indeed now become easier to impeach a president for frivolous, purely politicized reasons in the future. But getting senators of the opposite party, and the public at large, to listen seriously and open-mindedly to the House’s case against a president who really is violating the Constitution or committing criminal acts is now likely to be much more difficult.

After this excruciating ordeal, the reflex will be to view an impeachment initiative as nothing more than an attempt at a political death blow – motivated by the effectiveness of the sitting president as ideological foe, and the unlikelihood of defeating him or her at the ballot box.

It’s believed that more than 80% of Americans watched at least some of the 1973 Watergate hearings, which led to President Richard Nixon resigning the next year rather than face all-but-certain removal in a Senate impeachment trial. The Trump Senate trial is apparently being viewed more like the Bill Clinton impeachment and trial in 1998-99, which boomeranged in Republicans’ faces.

“Fewer than one-third of Americans are paying very close attention to the Senate proceedings and just 15% say they have watched all or a lot of the live coverage of the trial,” a Pew poll found 20 years ago. “An overwhelming 76% say the Senate is mostly bickering.”

By comparison, of the more than 200 million adult Americans, 11 million watched coverage of the Trump trial over six channels on its first day last week – maybe 5% – with viewership downhill thereafter. Leading the pack in ratings was Fox News, suggesting that many of the 11 million who are interested in Trump’s impeachment oppose it.

The stats strongly indicate that the vast majority of Americans consider impeachment to be an ugly spectacle prone to misuse by Congress, not the solemn proceeding Democrats imagine they can use to rivet the public’s imagination with their supposed high-flying rhetoric.

Last month, a Quinnipiac poll of registered voters suggested that the more people hear the Democrats make their case for impeachment, the less they support it, with 51% opposing removing Trump from office, the first time since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the impeachment inquiry in late September that a majority opposed the Democrats’ primary objective.

Insulting The Jury

House managers even made the incomprehensible miscalculation of insulting the senators collectively.

“The question is if the Senate will be complicit in the president’s crimes by covering them up,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat, said from the well of the Senate. “Any senator who votes against any relevant testimony shows that he and she are part of the cover-up.”

Senators, whatever their party, are notoriously proud of their exalted status – the closest thing to royalty the American republic possesses. For a troupe of congressmen to parade over to the other side of the Capitol into the senators’ hallowed surroundings is bad enough under the best circumstances; but for them then to accuse senators of being accomplices to impeachable offenses because they’re not fulfilling their responsibilities as impeachment jurors can’t help but infuriate members of the upper house. The very same shaky GOP senators the Democrats seek to win over – such as Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski – were incensed with House Democrats over the accusations.

It was a gaffe of the first order that exposed one of the true purposes of this impeachment: to taint senators who vote to acquit in hopes of regaining a Democratic majority in the Senate this November.

Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over the trial as the Constitution requires, was compelled by Nadler’s language, which included the throwing around of the word “lie,” to remind one and all to “remember where they are.”

Trump defense lawyer Patrick Philbin on Monday warned that the Senate cannot allow it to become the “new normal” for the House of Representatives to deprive a president of his due process rights in its inquiry proceedings, then demand that a Senate trial do the House’s investigating for it.

Philbin also cited Alexander Hamilton’s expectation in Federalist No. 65 of frivolous impeachments in America’s future, “the persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives,” as that Framer put it. “That is exactly what this case presents,” Philbin argued.

Because of what House Democrats are doing in the Senate now, future presidents will be less afraid to misuse federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI to hound their political enemies. They will be less afraid to commit perjury in hiding embarrassing information about themselves from the voters. Or to engage in other acts that truly are high crimes and misdemeanors.

Deterring a future Tricky Dicky or Slick Willie will be much more difficult as occupants of the highest office in the land realize that the public knows impeachment has become another partisan armament in the political arsenal, not an extraordinary remedy for behavior recognized as destructive to the nation by politicians across ideological and party lines – not the last resort safeguard the Framers designed it to be.

— Written by Thomas McArdle


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21 comments

  • Despite all that points to the Democrats losing ground & people turning against them, they just keep burrowing their heads in the sand. They think that if they keep plugging away, repeating what they know are lies, that they can turn us into believers. Personally I find highly insulting that these Democrats think I, & so many others, are stupid. If anyone of us, when called to Jury Duty, stated right off the bad, that the accused was guilty, before hearing anything about the case, would be dismissed immediately. Why do we even entertain anything that “lawmakers” who have said the same about impeachment of President Trump?

    • Great comparison! How many senators would make it through the interview to sitting on a jury?! I never thought of that.

    • The Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. They could have spent the last three years learning from their mistakes, developing a bold plan to sell to the American people, and cultivating exciting candidates. Instead, they invested everything into the resistance, the Mueller probe, and impeachment. It’s waaaaay too late to back out now.

  • The Dems knew on day one that they would never get the 67 votes necessary for removal. This has always been about hurting Trump and Republicans in the 2020 election. A true example of misuse of power for election purposes.

  • I am saddened that political gain and expediency is more important to the Democrats than the good of the country. I know some would argue that this is for the good of the country but I cannot see where that is. Especially since there will be an election in about 10 months. These past three years have done more to bring about a divided nation. While the Democrats complain about the buffoonish behavior of the President, they can’t seem to see that their own vitriolic acrimony is as debasing if not more than his. At least the man is doing what he said he would do, that is far more than the nation has gotten from those who came before him.

  • I think education in this nation’s schools should culminate with a study of the Federalist Papers and the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention. First, everyone needs to be brought up to that level of discourse, of course, which, sadly very few are these days.
    Second to that is the sad truth that a sitting administration promoted investigations into political rivals to advance a partisan cause/candidate and there is no public outrage as there should be. Those last words needed all caps, by the way.

    • Yes, and far too few individuals know that the Obama Administration actually spied on Trump’s campaign and transition. They ultimately will be exposed, despite the biased press. The Dems have made a fatal error with all of this.

      • And remember, there wasn’t a smidgen of corruption in last administration…We have Obama’s solemn promise on that.

    • If there really is corruption, running for president should not grant immunity from investigation. In the Bidens’ case, the video of Joe Biden at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting bragging about forcing Ukraine to fire their chief prosecutor by threatening to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee is pretty obviously fishy. An off hand comment, under the circumstances, followed the Founders’ intentions with regard to the president being the chief law enforcement officer of a unitary executive.

  • The House of representatives is renewed every two years for a reason. It most closely represents the current will of the people. If the people were happy with the direction of the country in Nov 2018, POTUS Trump would not be facing impeachment today. Some of the first decisions of this POTUS showed the direction (for example keeping control of his businesses – his sons are him) he was leading the country. So many norms were disrespected by the POTUS it is numbing. Some say that’s what we elected, someone to shake things up – well remember a majority of Americans did not want things shaken up. Leadership that does not recognize the job description is POTUS and not president of the republican party base is the reason this POTUS has been impeached. Remember the democrats control the House because the people put them there, in direct response to the reality of POTUS Trump leadership. The people are not done speaking.

    • Trump was falsely being accused of conspiracy with the Russians and was under investigation at the time. There was nothing normal about 2018.

      • Apparently you must not have actually read the Mueller report and are relying on AG Barr’s obstruction. The report actually says there was not enough evidence to prove conspiracy beyond a shadow of a doubt – Not that there was no evidence at all because there was evidence of conspiracy. Remember Mueller operated in an Article 3 space where the bar is higher than an impeachment space (A president can be impeached for simply refusing to do his job, which is not illegal but an abuse of his power). It also says it did not evaluate the trump tower spy mission with the Trump family and his campaign staff. You must think that revelations such as this one had nothing to do with Americans vote in 2018 – like Americans who fought the cold war are not alive and voting. No we have no problems with American banks – we do not need Russian funds or Saudi Arabian funds to run our businesses.

      • Apparently Mr Davis, you are the one that hasn’t read the Mueller report.

        It clearly stated that an accusation of obstruction of justice would unlikely be able to achieve a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt because there were several very reasonable alternative interpretation of what the facts present.

        Cry obstruction all you will, but if the evidence is insufficient to obtain a judgement, then the allegation remains unproven….

    • Except that the Democrats who got elected in the Blue Trickle all promised that they wanted to get the people’s work done, not impeach Trump.

      • As of today the House passed 628 bills and of that there 101 that passed both houses. There are only 10 being worked on by the Senate and the House. I’m a citizen interested in my business being handled. I’m not in some echo chamber of talking points, distortions or outright lies. It is a fact the House most closely represents the will of the people. The POTUS must recognize this instead of MAGA rallies.

  • Liberals screw up everything they touch. The Arts, Academia, public school, sports, the military, you name it. They are a vile, despicable crowd.

  • Schiff is flat deranged – Capt Obvious rode in long ago. It’s completely irrelevant what was discussed by anyone including Trump. What actually happened? Nothing!

    Have none of them ever been on an international call with a translator? No telling what Ukraine’s pres actually heard. Aid was delivered as promised, and it all blew over like breaking wind in a gale.

    Schiff and Nadler have become thought cops, and the entire left is severely damaging our nation for their own selfish reasons. The senate should boot that quickly. The fairness doctrine should be reimposed for the irresponsibility of the press.

  • Professor Alan Dershowitz focused the errors by the Democrat Managers so well.
    He reprimanded the 7 prosecutors for putting the Congress above the Constitution. He reeducated all of them that the Constitution is the Rule of Law. And the 7 were also reminded that their numerous falsehoods that had been presented as facts were inadequate for the impeachment process.

    It was a gratifying moment to hear those truths ring repeatedly thru his discourse. My faith in America was restored.
    The Dems have been brow-beating the citizens for 4 years. It’s time to remove them from Congress in Nov. 2020. The Dems have proven they are useless.

    Adam of CA.

  • Bi-Partisan vote to convict – folks that are safely out of the electoral clutches of the Trumpeters can freely, truly, and publicly speak their conscience.

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