The campaign to impeach Trump is the losing party’s effort to nullify the election. Impeachment is nothing more than politics by other means
Rex Murphy January 21, 2020
“Tis all in pieces. All coherence gone.” — John Donne: An Anatomy of the World
The second act of the long-running and fretfully plotted Donald Trump impeachment melodrama is on. The networks are full of it. The clack of punditry is at full volume. It’s historic, says Nancy Pelosi, and then as suits an infallibly historic occasion, hands out souvenir pens, and to certify its solemnity, goes on Bill Maher’s talk show. I suppose if the same atmospherics were the rule nearly 80 years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt would have found a Stephen Colbert, and gone on his show to deliver the Pearl Harbor speech.
It’s better, I weakly suppose, to have this propped up drama to stare at for a while, than to continue to be pummelled with the endless, breathless bulletins on the Harry and Meghan show, with the updates on the Queen’s agony, the melancholy of Prince Charles, the rift with Prince William, and all the contortions of a kind of confected Downton Abbey being played out in the tabloids and the serious press.
Of the Trump impeachment I have no intention to delve into its serpentine and protracted career. My baseline on it is very plain. It’s the permanent campaign syndrome, with which in the late 20th century and the beginning of this new one, we have become so familiar. Time was elections decided things. The people spoke. The parties involved accepted the people’s word. Opposition to government came in the form of criticisms of the government’s conduct and policies, but the legitimacy of an electoral victory was never — or rarely — put in contest.
The vote decided who governed, as it decided who opposed, until the next election, and barring some serious upheaval or blatant corruption — the “high crimes and misdemeanours” cited in the constitution —an elected president was permitted to function.
However, since the days of Richard Nixon, that no longer applies. Campaigns never stop. And in more recent days the outlets and channels through which politics are conducted have become far more numerous, more immediate, and never ceasing. Twenty-four-hour television, the emergence of Twitter and its mobs, the vast swelling of hyper partisanship, and the deplorable trend of major media taking on activist roles, has utterly changed the nature of politics.
The most significant change however is the decline in the respect of the electoral process itself. The vote does not settle things.
Donald Trump is presumed to be a unique case. The losers, Hillary Clinton’s hard-core managers, have never accepted he won, or could have won by means other than some fantasy of theirs that Russia engineered his victory. This kind of thinking would never be applied in the opposite case.
I will state it as an inarguable proposition that if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, and despite the real animosity of hardline Republicans to the idea of her winning, there would not have been days after marches protesting the election; not an immediate call for her removal; not a collective massing to oppose and “resist” her victory from Day One.
The most significant change is the decline in the respect of the electoral process itself
Republicans would have been furious and they would have been depressed, but they would never — in the absence of inconvertible and demonstrable proof of genuine electoral fraud — sought her expulsion from the office she had won.
The fundamental dynamic of the effort to impeach Trump has been there from the day after the election — and that dynamic is best expressed by the simple formulations: the right people knew that the wrong person won. Not that he won wrongly. But that the people made a bad choice, and their betters, one way or the other, were going to fix it. From this was born the hilariously inflated idea of the “Resistance” — as if America was France under the Nazis. And the noxious Antifa and its street-rough brethren.
The Trump impeachment is so very like the response to Britain’s referendum vote on leaving the European Union. That too, to the losers, had the same dynamic: the right people thought the wrong side had won, and they were determined, by delay, obstruction, and sermonizing, to overthrow it. They almost did.
The current impeachment campaign, which has been going on now for more than three years, is no more or no less than the continuous campaign — the losing party’s effort to nullify the general vote; impeachment is a blanket thrown over politics as (desperately) usual.
It is a tactic called up to answer the question: what’s the best way to wound Trump and hamstring his presidency (and if we’re lucky actually get rid of him before the first term runs out)? It didn’t arise from a constitutional emergency. It misused the tool for a genuine constitutional emergency to play resistance politics. Impeachment is nothing more than, to vary the old phrase of a military philosopher, politics by other means.
There is a democratic way to determine if Trump ‘is the wrong person’ to have won. And it is available
There is a democratic way to determine if Trump “is the wrong person” to have won. And it is available. This is an election year in the U.S. The arguments and allegations against him have been heard ad nauseam. Why not leave the determination of his fitness for office for the November vote? Or is it now the progressive position, that the people shouldn’t be exposed to a second chance of making “the same mistake?”
Finally, there is a great irony brewing. I fully expect the obsessive efforts to delegitimize Trump will add greatly to his campaign appeal for a second term.