Views on the News: Impeachment
In a March 11 interview with the Washington Post, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — currently the most powerful Democrat in office — stated that she would not support the impeachment of President Trump because it would be “too divisive” for the country,” while adding that she believes Trump is not “fit to be President of the United States.” Do you agree or disagree with Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment, and why? What effect do you think impeaching Trump would have on the country?
Prof. Sabine von Mering (GER)
President Trump is digging himself into an ever-deeper hole of self-incrimination. No help from Democrats needed. With over thirty people, including six of Trump's close associates, under indictment and several of them going to prison, I don't think the Democrats will have to do much more to hurt his presidency. You would need the Senate’s cooperation for impeachment, and the Republican party is clearly not willing to drop this president, no matter how stunning his level of incompetence. Democrats should focus on building broad support for a Green New Deal, which is the only chance we have of addressing global climate change and turning things around once the mess and chaos of the Trump administration are behind us. People get it. They are already discovering that the tax break they were promised actually raised their taxes and did what everyone worried it would do, i.e. make the richest even richer.
Sabine von Mering is a professor of German and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies and serves as the director of the Center for German and European Studies.
Prof Kerry Chase (POL)
Speaker Pelosi is wise to try to tamp down impeachment talk. The House is in an investigative phase—and it has much work to do after two years of House Republicans running interference for the White House. If Democrats rush too quickly into impeachment, the oversight the country sorely needs can be more effectively attacked as a partisan exercise. And a premature, party-line vote on impeachment would only feed the “witch hunt” narrative. During Watergate, it was almost a full year from the start of Congressional hearings until the House initiated impeachment proceedings. In that year, as the public got to know the major players, heard the facts of the scandal and saw the White House’s resistance and obstruction in real time, Nixon’s approval ratings sank, leading many Republicans in Congress to jump ship. Likewise, more hearings like Michael Cohen’s will get the facts of the president’s conduct out to the world, turning up the heat on his defenders on Capitol Hill. Democrats should be patient and let oversight work.
Kerry Chase is an associate professor of Politics specializing in International Relations and U.S. Foreign Economic Policy.
Prof. Michael Strand (SOC)
Any other sitting president would have already faced impeachment by this point. Two factors prevent this in Trump’s case: first, Mitch McConnell; second, the populist mobilization that put Trump in the White House. McConnell reverse engineered Senate rules to stoke hyperpoliticization when he made it his mission to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he could. This now works to prevent impeachment from being entertained by the Senate, despite the mounting House resistance. I think Trump’s populist base is a more effective block on impeachment. A populist mobilization, to quote my sociology friend, “means a sustained, large-scale political project that mobilizes ordinarily marginalized social sectors into publicly visible and contentious political action, while articulating an anti-elite, nationalist rhetoric that valorizes ordinary people.” To me, this definition captures much of the novelty of the Trump presidency. With the exception of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, no other comparable figure in modern political history has been catapulted to power through populist mobilization aside from Trump. His celebrity undoubtedly helps. This extra-constitutional power gives Trump an extraordinary lever to pull, which he does and will, including against impeachment.
Michael Strand is an assistant professor of Sociology specializing in social theory, the philosophy of social science, and economic sociology.
Prof. Daniel Breen (LGLS)
At this point, opting not to pursue impeachment proceedings because they would be “too divisive” is akin to opting not to pour water into the Atlantic Ocean for fear that this would make the ocean “too wet.” It is the President’s demagoguery that plays to and widens our divisions. In 1787, the drafters of the Constitution provided a remedy for presidents who violate the public trust and bring disgrace to the office, and given the strength of the case that President Trump is guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” it is the plain duty of the House to deploy that remedy now, regardless of the present prospects of conviction in the Senate (a calculus that may change over the coming year). It is understandable that the Speaker would weigh the politics of impeachment with care. But this is the time, of all times, when expediency has to be put aside in favor of honor and the Constitution.
Daniel Breen is a lecturer in the Legal Studies department specializing in American Law and the History of the Early American Republic.