Impeachment does more good than harm for democracy
Chances are that you have heard talk of impeaching President Trump. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted in favor of an impeachment inquiry, the fourth time that our nation has voted in favor of an impeachment inquiry for a sitting president. This impeachment case is primarily based on the accusation that Trump demanded information from the president of Ukraine about his political opponent Joe Biden in exchange for military aid. Whether or not Trump did in fact make these demands, I am most concerned with what will happen after he is out of office, whether that be through impeachment or the end of his term. I think that what would be most beneficial to the country as a whole would be to remove the President from office.
Is the above even an impeachable action? The Constitution is pretty broad in its definition of an impeachable offense, stating that “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” This means that there are many forms of wrongdoings that are grounds for impeachment. Given what the public is aware of so far in this investigation, I would say that the President has abused his power for private gain. This is no small misdemeanor; the aid withheld was 400 million dollars. That is 400 million dollars of taxpayer money that he used as a bargaining chip solely for his own political gain.
I have said that I believe that Trump has abused his power for private gain. The difficulty in proving this as part of the impeachment inquiry is that there has to be evidence that what he did was for his own personal interest and not for the good of the country. President Trump has claimed that Joe Biden used his position as Vice President in the Obama administration in order to help his son Hunter in his business dealings in the Ukraine. Right now the claim by President Trump appears to be a baseless accusation, and no hard evidence has yet been presented to the public.
What did President Trump have to gain from this quid pro quo exchange? Joe Biden is currently the frontrunner of the Democratic party and, as of now, is likely to be his opponent in the 2020 general election. The dealings that Biden had with the Ukraine occurred in 2016. Trump demanded that the President of Ukraine investigate him, without any legitimate purpose on behalf of the United States, in exchange for military aid. The only motive that makes sense given what information has been made public, along with the whistleblowers willing to commit political suicide if discovered, leads me to believe that this call was made by President Trump to help his reelection campaign in 2020.
A common misconception surrounding impeachment is that the president has to have committed a crime that is punishable in criminal courts. This is actually not the case; a President can be impeached, as well as other government officials, for actions that are not statutory crimes. For example, Judges Mark Delahay and John Pickering were impeached for drunkenness during the time of our founding fathers. The reason that impeachment can be grounded on “high crimes and misdemeanors” is because the founders knew that they would be unable to predict the future actions of presidents and therefore wanted to leave flexibility for the generations of Americans to come. The founders wanted to ensure that our democracy was protected outside of the formalities of the law. The law can change over time, but the threat that our highest political office could be used for the advancement of personal interests has been with us since the formation of this country. Impeachment was designed to protect us from exactly the type of behavior that the president has displayed on the Ukraine call. Even if in the end it is found that no statutory crime has been committed, the president should still be impeached because he has used his political office for political gain and that, according to our founders, is an impeachable offense.
I’ve spent a long time considering whether pursuing impeachment would be in the best interest of the American people. The country is already so divided, and I expect as the impeachment inquiry moves further along, we will see more rhetoric bashing the other side. While this may be detrimental to the country in the short run, setting a precedent that the president of the United States can use the power of their office for their own personal gain is downright catastrophic for the future of this nation. As of right now the president is not supposed to be above the law. If we allow President Trump to get away with this blatant abuse of power, we are opening Pandora’s Box. Once we allow one president to use the office for their own personal agenda, more will follow.
As of November 2019, 48% of Americans support impeaching President Trump. When you break this number down across the parties you find that those in favor of impeachment are 83.4% of Democrats, 45% of Independents and 11.4% of Republicans. This issue is already being divided down among party lines before the case for impeachment has been presented to the public. The damage this inquiry poses to bipartisanship is not to be taken lightly. There is a chance that politicians will take a stance on the impeachment inquiry solely on the basis of their party affiliations. If this hyperpartisanship stands in the way of justice for the American people, I fear that this divide will only widen and make bipartisanship next to impossible.
This is not just another political fight. Trump’s actions are an attack on the American people as a whole. We need to band together no matter our political affiliations in order to protect this country. President Trump has abused his political office, and if we do not hold him accountable we leave the possibility for any president to do the same. The Constitution has checks and balances for a reason: to protect our freedom. Our freedom is infringed upon when the president can go outside the bounds of their power. We, the people, need to hold our highest office accountable to the same standard that we hold our fellow citizens.