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I could have told you that was going to happen…

February 14, 2021, 4:48 PM

So the story of former president Donald Trump’s second impeachment has come to an end.  And it ended exactly as I predicted, with Trump’s being acquitted by a comfortable margin.  While a majority of senators did vote to convict, it did not reach the two-thirds majority (i.e. 67 votes) required to remove.  I am always a little bit amused to see people watch the whole process, including the chatter from the various senators involved telling the media how they are going to vote, and then act all surprised when a conviction does not happen.  Truth is that a conviction was never going to happen.  The Democrats didn’t have enough votes to convict without substantial Republican support, and they knew that going into this.

And to this I say, sometimes, I hate being right.  I admit that I was rooting for a conviction on this, even though I knew it didn’t have a snowball’s chance of ever happening (hey, one can hope).  But I also stand by what I said in my earlier post that an impeachment was unnecessary.  With Trump’s having fewer than two weeks left in his term when the triggering event occurred, it would have made enough sense to just wait it out and let the prosecutors have at him as soon as he left office.  As it happened, the entire impeachment charade was a moot point, because Trump was already out of office.  The whole thing also showed me that the Democrats under Pelosi seem to be extremely petty, and it has lent some credence to the idea that they were simply out to get Trump, throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick.  This was their second attempt at removing Trump from office within the span of a year, after all.  Practically speaking, you really only get one shot at impeachment, because after that, you start to sound like the proverbial boy who cried wolf, and shoot your own credibility with every subsequent attempt.

In addition, this whole impeachment charade has cost us much in terms of legislative time wasted in both chambers for political games.  There are people who are hurting pretty badly right now due to the economic effects of the pandemic, and the time spent impeaching and then trying Trump could have been spent working on economic stimulus packages and other measures to help people survive until things turn around.  After all, let’s be honest: politically, Trump is old news.  He’s no longer the president, and as such, he is no longer relevant as far as current politics goes, and as such, Congress has more important matters to attend to than to worry about getting revenge on him.

This impeachment also seems to run against the precedent set in 1974 during the Nixon administration.  At that time, then-president Richard Nixon was in the very early stages of the impeachment process relating to the Watergate scandal.  Nixon saw the writing on the wall, and knew that he was toast.  As such, he resigned the presidency, essentially doing an end run around the impeachment process, rendering it moot.  It was the political equivalent of, “You can’t fire me!  I quit!”  With Nixon out of office, the next step might have been a criminal prosecution, had Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, not issued a blanket pardon for Nixon, preventing the former president from standing trial for potential crimes related to Watergate.  One could argue both sides about whether that pardon was the right thing to do, but the pardon put a definitive end to Watergate, and allowed the country to move on.  In the case of Trump, the end of Trump’s term should have given the House of Representatives pause over whether to impeach, because it would have taken care of itself if it had simply been left alone.  They should have started working to gather all of the evidence and hand it over to prosecutors in order to charge Trump criminally for incitement, or anything else that might have been prudent to prosecute him over.

With Trump out of office, about the only thing that a removal would have accomplished would have been disqualification for future office.  All of the various post-presidency perks are secure, since he made it out of office without being removed.  And as far as disqualification is concerned, I am not that concerned about it.  Trump would be 78 by the time of the next presidential election, and he no longer has the support of his own party.  If he ran as a third-party candidate, he would split the Republican vote and guarantee a Democratic win, much like what happened in 1912.  In that case, former president Teddy Roosevelt ran for office on the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party ticket after losing the Republican nomination to his successor, incumbent president William Howard Taft.  While Roosevelt outperformed Taft, he split the vote enough to allow Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson to win the election.  All that said, I consider disqualification from future office to be a non-starter, because I consider the odds of that happening again to be very low.  I also feel like it shows a deep-seated mistrust of the electorate, that the voters can’t be trusted to do the right thing in the future, and thus the grown-ups have to make the decision for them.

Meanwhile, people still need to remember that impeachment is not a legal process.  Despite the similar terminology to criminal proceedings, like “trial” and “conviction”, it is an entirely political process.  You’re not seeking justice through the impeachment process.  That’s not its purpose.  All that impeachment and removal does is to stop the bleeding caused by an officeholder who has gone rogue by removing their access to the levers of power.  If their official misconduct rises to the level of criminality, you also try them in a real court.  The last time that I discussed this, I brought up former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich.  He is still the gold standard as far as prosecution of official misconduct goes, because the process was followed completely to its conclusion.  Officeholder commits crime in office.  Officeholder gets impeached and then removed by the legislature for their official misconduct.  Now-former officeholder then gets indicted, tried, convicted, and sentenced in criminal court for said offenses.  And finally, the former officeholder goes to jail.  Boom.  Done.  That is the entire process.  You get your justice further down the line, after the impeachment process is done.

Additionally, the two-thirds majority required to convict a sitting officeholder is a high standard on purpose.  That ensures bipartisan support for removal of a candidate, and ensures that the Congress is absolutely certain that they want the guy out before they do so.  Thus if an impeachment does not have bipartisan support, it is guaranteed to fail.  Anyone who thinks that an impeachment that does not have bipartisan support will succeed needs to take a second look at their history.  About the only presidential impeachment that had enough bipartisan support to actually lead to removal was Nixon’s, and he saw what was coming and resigned.  Any other president that thought that they would actually be removed would likely do the same, if for nothing else than to protect their post-presidency benefits.

All of that said, this whole exercise has the potential to extract a political toll on the Democrats come 2022.  Generally speaking, the party that has the White House tends to lose seats in the midterm elections.  With a Democratic president in the White House, that means that the Democratic Party is poised to lose seats in the next election cycle.  How many seats remains to be seen.  The Democrats should be reminded that they have a few things working against them when it comes to maintaining control of the chambers.  First, they have a relatively small majority in the House, and the Senate is split 50/50, with the Democrats’ only holding the majority because the vice president, who casts a tiebreaking vote when necessary, is a Democrat.  That Senate majority in particular is very tenuous.  It would behoove the Democrats to recall what happened the last time that there was a 50/50 split in the Senate, twenty years ago.  In that instance, in the spring of 2001, Republican Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont decided to leave his party and become an independent, and began to caucus with the Democrats.  That flipped the chamber in the middle of the term, and gave the Democrats the majority for the next year and a half.  It would only take one Democratic senator to decide to go rogue to immediately flip the chamber, and put Mitch McConnell back in charge.  That is how tenuous their grip on the Senate is.  Additionally, the Democrats don’t have reliable voter participation.  You have to give Democrats a reason to vote, or else they just won’t vote at all.  And that’s exactly how Republicans get elected.  They may not have the same numbers as the Democrats have, but unlike the Democrats, they vote regularly and reliably.  Therefore, the Democrats can’t afford to waste time with political charades.  They need to come out in spades with their own agenda rather than dwell on the past.  Similarly, the left in general needs to move on from Trump, and let go of the Trump derangement syndrome that has gripped them for the last four years.  It’s not healthy, and it will not win them any elections.  There are more pressing matters to worry about than a former president, even if he is a wacko, and I don’t want to see the Democrats squander their time in power by seeking revenge that they will never get.  They say that success is the best revenge, so they need to just do their best and enact the best agenda that they can possibly do, and relegate Trump to history for good.

Categories: National politics