In the wake of the second Democratic debate, calls for the impeachment of President Donald Trump echo across America. Dissatisfied citizens cling to the Democratic candidates’ promises of removing Trump from office, promises that have evolved into a war cry in the early stages of the 2020 elections. However, given the history of impeachment and its daunting requirements, the impeachment of Donald Trump seems improbable. Additionally, if successful, the results of impeachment would have little effect on the state of the union. Therefore, rather than waste time and effort on impeachment proceedings, Democrats should shift their focus to improving other aspects of Americans’ lives.
The Call For Impeachment
Throughout the second Democratic debate, many candidates voiced their support for the impeachment of Donald Trump. Among these advocates was former Secretary of Housing and Development Julian Castro, who claimed that “If they don’t impeach him . . . he’s going to say, ‘You see? You see? The Democrats didn’t go after me on impeachment, and you know why? Because I didn’t do anything wrong.’” While Castro’s statement holds some truth, it should also be recognized that Trump will likely attempt to twist any circumstances to portray him in a positive light. Even if the Democrats followed through on impeachment proceedings, Trump would most likely employ a strategy similar to the one he used during the Mueller Investigation, dubbing it a “Witch Hunt.” Given the platform and support Trump has achieved on twitter, the use of this strategy could prove to be very detrimental to the support the Democrats receive. Of course, Democrats should not refrain from impeachment proceedings simply for fear of Trump’s retaliation, but it would also be irresponsible to encourage a course of action as major as impeachment on a potential response.
The main basis for impeachment that Democrats have established comes from the Mueller Report. Specifically, Mueller’s remark that Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice after he leaves office” has encouraged over twenty Democrats to call for an inquiry, hoping to move the process along towards impeachment. Additionally, Trump’s remarks against four Congresswoman of color, recently deemed racist by the House of Representatives, has added to the list of Trump’s misdemeanors. While it may appear that the Democrats have enough motive and evidence to move forward with impeachment proceedings, some Democratic candidates have cautioned against the move.
The History of Impeachment
Although pushing to impeach an allegedly unjust leader seems patriotic and righteous when viewed in the context of the history of impeachment, politicians’ hesitation is more understandable. Impeachment is the process of convicting and potentially removing federal officials from office. Intended for very severe cases of wrongdoing, including “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors,” only two presidents have ever been successfully impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The process is very demanding and time-consuming, as first, the House of Representatives must achieve a simple majority on whether or not to impeach the official. Then, the Senate votes on whether or not the official is guilty of the crimes they were impeached for, and two-thirds of the Senate must vote guilty. Only then can the senate propose and vote on removing the official from office, taking away their benefits, etc. In the case of Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, neither were ever removed from office and so the impact of the process was essentially negligible.
In addition to having little effect, historically, impeachment proceedings take an excessively long time. In the case of President Nixon, it took nine months from the beginning of the investigation to reach an impeachment resolution, and even then he resigned before he could be officially impeached. If impeachment proceedings moved at the same rate as they did for Nixon, by the time Trump was finally impeached, there would only be a few months left of his presidency.
A Failed Attempt
Of course, with the current state of our union, a resolution to impeach Trump would have little potential to even pass. In fact, a proposal to begin proceedings was recently brought to the House floor, where it was soon rejected. Bear in mind that the House of Representatives holds a Democratic majority. The fact that a movement to impeach Donald Trump could not even pass with a majority of Democrats further proves the fact that proceedings to impeach Donald Trump hold very little potential for success. The Senate, on the other hand, has a Republican majority, making it statistically even less probable for a movement to impeach Trump to pass. Despite the fact that many of Trump’s fiercest critics have arisen from his own party, Trump has received a Republican party approval rating of approximately 86% according to CNN, and 87% according to Gallup. The president still has an impressive amount of support from his own party, and as proved by the most recent failure of impeachment, not nearly enough opposition in the Democratic party.
With Little Reward
Even if Trump were to be impeached, the aftermath would likely be difficult to navigate, and potentially worse than the current situation. If Trump were impeached but not removed from office, he would still have the same amount of power, but a lot more ammunition to fire at the Democratic party. Similar to Castro’s prediction, if Trump remained in office he would most likely use the situation to gather support, finding fault in the Democratic party for not being able to fully remove him from office. If he were impeached, and subsequently removed from office, the law dictates that his vice president Mike Pence would immediately assume the presidency. Pence’s aggregate favorable approval rating, attained from the Huffington Post, sat at approximately 42.1% in June of 2017. To many Americans, Pence as president would be unsatisfactory. Chosen specifically by Donald Trump to be vice president, the chance that his presidency would be characteristically similar to Trump’s is much higher.
Additionally, one must consider the aforementioned time frame of impeachment. Although Clinton’s impeachment was processed in considerably less time than Nixon’s attempted impeachment, the variance should be interpreted as a sign of caution, rather than a reason to move forward. The time frame for impeachment is unpredictable. It seems irresponsible for our elected officials to pursue an improbable and unpredictable outcome for an extended period of time rather than use their time and influence to fix everyday issues that affect more citizens.
The merit in fighting for justice should, of course, not be understated. Yet it is important to remember that the Democratic party is also founded on the premise of grassroots empowerment, and helping the typical American improve their life. In the long term, impeaching Trump might improve the lives of Americans. However, in the short term, while Democratic officials fight a partisan war, citizens are still without water in Flint, MI. Issues like the Flint water crisis, which seems to have been essentially forgotten, will not be solved by impeaching Donald Trump. Furthermore, public trust in the government has drastically decreased since a spike in the early 2000s. One cannot blame a single party for this fall either, as Americans have elected both Democrats and Republicans to the presidency since 2000. Candidates can rant about the patriotism and justice that the fight for impeachment exhibits, but at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. Therefore, Democrats should focus on making smaller changes that help citizens feel heard, and improve their lives. Making changes that will have an impact is the best way to regain trust and support, and beat Trump in the 2020 election.
These solutions can come in many different forms. Firstly, alleviating the suffering of those in Flint, Michigan, and then improving infrastructure so that the event does not repeat itself in other areas. Another way to make a meaningful change is to improve public school systems or the common core curriculum.
The job of public officials is to serve their citizens by affecting meaningful change in their lives. For all the aforementioned reasons, Trump’s impeachment will not have a large impact on the lives of American citizens. Therefore, if the Democrats proceed with the movement to impeach Donald Trump, they will be failing the very citizens that they will rely on to elect them to the oval office in 2020, potentially preventing the Democrats from reclaiming the presidency.
Rather than working towards an unlikely, time-consuming, and unimpactful solution such as impeachment, the Democrats should follow their mantra of “rolling up [their] sleeves” and make truly meaningful changes in the lives of Americans.
This OpEd was written by U4SC Student Intern, Isabella.[Image Attribute: Matt Johnson]