President Donald Trump (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
The 24th entrant into the Democratic primary — billionaire Tom Steyer — has been pushing impeachment of President Trump for the past two years. He has spent a lot of money on TV and print ads and for all his effort he has a few million people that have signed his petition. Now he can contact them to donate to his campaign. Some may feel blindsided.
Impeachment is spelled out in our Constitution. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 5 gives the House of Representatives the sole Power of Impeachment. Under Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 6 and 7, the Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the president of the United States is tried, the chief justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.
Truth be told many of my friends are also calling for impeachment now. They claim it’s a matter of our Democracy and that it is the duty of the House of Representatives to impeach the lying, racist, sexist, homophobic disgusting pig in the White House without further delay. But the Constitution doesn’t say it is a duty but rather lays it out as an option for the House of Representatives.
Now is not the time to do it. Will it be the time in two weeks or four? Maybe, but with the information the Congress has now, however disgusting it seems, it will only lead to more political theater and potentially a chance for Trump to once again stand in the Rose Garden and say he has been exonerated. In this case it will ring true if the Senate doesn’t convict him and the chance of their convicting him with today’s make-up of the Senate is zero. Remember conviction requires two-thirds of the Senate.
Clearly there are two debates on this topic going on. One is political and the other is ethical. My view is that Congress is a political body. Yes we want each individual member to act ethically but the body as a whole bends to political will, that is the way it was set up. We are a representative Democracy and today more people still say no to impeachment than yes.
In our history we have only seen the House of Representatives vote articles of impeachment on two presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton and neither president was removed from office. So the question must be what does voting articles of impeachment accomplish? In the Clinton case we saw his approval numbers go up by 10 percent. Impeachment tends to harden opinions or make someone feel sorry for the person being impeached as in Clinton’s case, not really change them. In today’s world where we are so divided as a nation I cannot see one person’s opinion of the president change if Congress votes articles of impeachment.
So the question being presented to Democrats in the Congress is whether it will get those who want impeachment more supportive and active in the presidential and other 2020 campaigns. Will those who say “a pox on both your houses” when asked why they don’t vote or get active be motivated to action if the House impeaches? From what I am hearing and seeing the answer is a resounding no. They will find something else they don’t like about the system or their member of Congress and still not get involved.
If Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and decent Republicans are not motivated to get out and vote just by seeing what Trump is doing every day, what will impeachment do to activate them?
Each day Trump is doing and saying things leading to the understanding he is an embarrassment to the nation. He attacks black and brown members of Congress on a regular basis. He has initiated policies that set back what was the forward motion for LGBTQ equality. By his policies and personal actions he has made it clear he has no respect for women. He is caging immigrants and separating children from their parents. So if all this hasn’t motivated those who are calling for impeachment to man the barricades and get out and vote one must question why the simple act of an unsuccessful impeachment process would do it.
At this time my choice would be to defeat him at the polls and then try him after he leaves office. Robert Mueller made that an option in his report.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.