Why Trump’s opponents should consider not impeaching him.
Stating my case
I don’t often inject my political opinions onto this site, but this week I find myself holding a thought that I don’t seem to find reflected anywhere else. The US is abuzz now that the House has announced an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. I am an independent (or, as we say in California, “decline to state”) voter because I simply can’t reconcile scientific thought with partisan evidence filtering. But I do believe the evidence showing that President Trump has been playing fast and loose accepting or soliciting foreign emoluments and election meddling. That to me is an unacceptable precedent, and it really bothers me to see someone treating the Oval Office like a throne. If you disagree, then so be it and you are excused from the rest of this article (because I’m not here to argue those points). I am writing today for those who are similarly bothered, and I’d like to present the case against impeachment.
There are two ways to remove a president from office. The common one is to elect someone else. The “emergency measure” is the impeachment process, which itself has three stages:
- House inquiry
- House articles of impeachment
- Senate trial
If we go down this road, I only believe in going so far as, maybe, step 1. The possible benefit of an inquiry is to get important information out in the open. We voters have a right to know if Trump is trying to make fishy deals with foreign leaders for his own political gain. Very recent surveys suggest that swing voters are angry about the latest revelations. 1 Getting more information out into the open could be very effective at eroding Trump’s support among his most equivocal apologists.
The House arguably has broad investigative powers in the inquiry process. In the last nine months, this Democratic-led Congress has had limited success in its hearings. Remember that empty chair when William Barr simply refused to show up? Perhaps under the aegis of an impeachment hearing, subpoenas and depositions would be more strongly respected and enforced and less tied up by defenses like executive privilege.
Maybe, but maybe not. 2 The administration will throw up legal defenses to every demand. These challenges will have to be resolved in courts all the way to the Supreme Court, and frankly I think that the most sensitive information would still be withheld eternally. The most likely outcome of an inquiry is “more of the same”. I see it dragging on past Election Day. But perhaps, being optimistic, we’ll have learned some valuable facts by then and we can cast a more informed vote.
Impeachment is a no-win situation
If the House goes further and actually files articles of impeachment, then it’s only going to blow up in their face. By far the most likely outcome for stage 3 is that the majority-Republican senate will acquit Trump in a heartbeat. Then the democrats will have had their day in court and lost. Trump will come out looking invincible and arguably in a stronger position for the election. If he wins, the House had better be prepared to bite its tongue for four more years. According to the last surveys I saw, Democrats were in a good position for the presidential election. Democrats, quit while you’re ahead!
For the final fantasy, let’s just suppose that somehow the senate actually does defy all partisan predictability and removes Trump from office. What’s the prize here? What would Democrats finally get for all their hard work and conflict? The answer: President Pence! Is the prize worth the effort?
In the next year, Democrats have a rare chance to select both presidential candidates. Here are their three choices for their Republican opponent:
- A President Trump weakened by decreasingly enthusiastic support among swing voters
- A redeemed President Trump impeached and acquitted by the Senate
- A fresh, clean-slate President Pence — arguably a more electable Trump 2.0 candidate.
Let the Voters Decide
Finally, there’s a more noble underlying principle here. We are a republic. We voters are supposed to be the ones choosing our leaders. If impeachment occurs before election, the people of the losing party will always feel like Congress robbed them of their candidate. This palace intrigue could easily turn into a new norm, an endless cycle of revenge impeachments.
Democrats, the ball is in your court right now. Come on, the election is only a year away. Are you trying to impeach because you are that insecure about the next election? You were doing great in the polls. My advice to you is: Investigate if you will. But then quit while you’re ahead and let us voters make the final decision. It could even be good for the country. This is one issue where some ardent Republicans and Democrats have both agreed with me.
If this makes any sense to you, please spread the message at #InquireDontImpeach !
- Li Zhou, “Early polls show voter support for impeachment is growing”, Vox (9/27/2019), https://www.vox.com/2019/9/27/20886877/impeachment-polls-voter-support-growing-nancy-pelosi-donald-trump (accessed 9/28/19). ↩
- Molly E. Reynolds and Margaret Taylor, “What Powers Does a Formal Impeachment Inquiry Give the House?” Lawfare (5/21/2019), https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-powers-does-formal-impeachment-inquiry-give-house (accessed and saved 9/28/19). ↩