Impeachment: The constitutionally-approved procedure
Leaders of the Democratic Party are contemplating the merits of impeaching President Donald Trump. The decision rests solely with the Democrats. According to the Constitution, the House of Representatives has “… the sole power of impeachment.” The Democrats have a substantial majority in the House, so their vote will undoubtedly prevail on the issue of launching an impeachment.
While the Democrats can set forth the charges in the House, the impeachment would actually be tried in the Senate with the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court presiding. In order for Trump to be found guilty, two-thirds of the members of the Senate present, sitting much like jurors in a criminal case, must decide against Trump. With 53 of the 100 senators members of the Republican Party, it is unlikely that the impeachment will prevail.
Politically astute Democrats are concerned that Trump would then be able to strengthen his stature by campaigning he was not guilty of collusion, obstruction or guilty of impeachment. Trump could possibly succeed with such a strategy because of his strong impact on television and because most citizens do not understand that “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the broad definition of impeachment offenses, require a high level of conduct that is not appropriate for the president but is not otherwise a crime. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a sexual encounter in his office.
However, Trump’s conduct has been so egregious that it threatens the stability of principles that are fundamental to the philosophy of the republic. The Constitution establishes a division of governmental power among the legislature, the executive and the judiciary branches. There is a belief, which is often ignored, that the justice system applies equally to everyone. No one is above the law.
Human history has shown that tyrants often emerge to dominate society and impose their views on others. America’s Founding Fathers established impeachment as a constitutional provision to retard that process. The objective is to remove from power those who defy the rules. The constitution states that “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States…”
The policy of the U.S. Justice Department is that a sitting president cannot constitutionally be convicted of a crime. Impeachment is considered to be the appropriate remedy for presidential misconduct. The charges against Trump that were established by the so-called Mueller investigation make Bill Clinton seem like a choir boy by comparison. The investigators found that Russians had interfered with the 2016 presidential election to enhance Trump’s chances for winning. Trump was aware of the interference and encouraged it. In addition he obstructed American efforts to terminate the interference. Equally reprehensible is Trump’s perpetual lying to the people and the press.
While informed Americans should want to vote against a candidate for president who is disloyal to the country, Congress has a duty beyond political opposition to remove an offending president by the impeachment process. The penalty for misconduct that verges on the treasonous must be more than the risk of losing re-election. For Democrats there is another risk — the possibility of losing an aroused black electorate.
From the perspective of many blacks the issue of impeachment is a referendum on whether the president and other powerful white men are actually above the law. This is a very significant issue for African Americans who continually encounter injustice in America’s criminal justice system. Blacks would not want to consider themselves as members of a political party that fails to support racial equality.
Analysts have determined that the decline in the black vote in the 2016 election cost about 765,000 votes which would have undoubtedly been for Democratic candidates. Such a loss in 2020 would be damaging. There is no Democratic candidate for president as yet who inspires a significant black turnout, and the decision not to impeach Trump will certainly have a negative effect.
On the other hand, a well-managed impeachment trial will inform the voters of Trump’s iniquities, provide broadcast material for the news media, and motivate the liberals and progressives to turn out on Election Day. America’s survival as a democratic republic is at stake.