It has been about a year since President Donald J. Trump assumed office, but to many it has felt like much longer. Gallup reported that Mr. Trump had a 40 percent favorability and 55 percent unfavorable job approval rating, as of December 30th, 2017.
A few Democrats in Congress, notably Rep. Al Green of Texas, have openly supported impeaching Mr. Trump. Mr. Green brought forth articles of impeachment on December 6, which he based upon “high misdemeanors” and that the he is “unfit to be President.” One can assume that Mr. Green speaks on behalf of the people of this country who firmly dislike Mr. Trump, as is represented by his 55 percent unfavorable rating.
Representative Green’s Articles were met with a level of agreement by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, who agreed that there are “legitimate questions…about his fitness to lead this nation.” But, they concluded by saying that “The special counsel’s investigation is moving forward as well, and those inquiries should be allowed to continue. Now is not the time to consider articles of impeachment.” I am also of the opinion that the public has a variety of reasons to be infuriated with many of Mr. Trump’s actions and comments, however Democrats across the board must stop obsessing over the idea of impeachment for the time being.
Rep. Green bases his Articles upon the public’s strong disliking of Mr. Trump on moral and ethical grounds. While these concerns can certainly be legitimate causes for outrage, they are not concrete enough to validate impeachment. A president cannot be impeached simply because they are unlikeable or even hated.
What Does it Take to Almost Impeach a President?
David French of the National Review wrote a great article where he argues that a clear demonstration of corruption (this also includes violating the Constitution and obstruction of justice), opposition control of the government, and strong disapproval from the public are what is needed to impeach a president. Let us examine the presidency of Andrew Johnson and what kind of political climate, and articles of impeachment, almost got him impeached.
President Johnson, an ardent Democrat, faced a Radical Republican controlled House and Senate in Congress throughout most of his term. Relations at the beginning of the Johnson presidency were initially lukewarm, however they began to sour as Johnson’s views on Reconstruction, that of which grossly opposed the views of his Republican colleagues, began to become public. Tensions rose, friendships and alliances disappeared, and eventually Johnson said he had had enough of the Republicans that were overriding his vetoes and making him a virtually ineffective president. President Johnson decided it was time to take measures into his own hands.
Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act on March 2nd, 1867, to restrict President Johnson’s power. The Act prevented the President from removing certain high office officials, such as Secretaries of government departments, without the approval of the Senate. But Johnson then went and did just that: he removed the Department of War’s Secretary Edwin Stanton and replaced him with Lorenzo Thomas, a Democrat that much more closely aligned with his personal views. Three days later the House passed a vote to impeach the President where it moved along to the Senate. In a truly spectacular fashion, the Senate vote to impeach Johnson failed by literally one vote on three of the originally proposed eleven articles. Johnson managed to remain president by the skin of his teeth and serve out the remainder of his term. But, history has shown us what conditions are necessary in order to virtually impeach a president.
Comparing President Trump to President Johnson
The first of Mr. French’s conditions, a clear demonstration of corruption, had been blatantly made clear by Johnson’s brazen firing of Secretary Stanton. Speculation runs amok in our polarized, media driven world that feeds off of cliffhangers, breaking headlines, and the drama surrounding a sensational and unpopular president. Speculation is just speculation at the end of the day if it is without undeniable mountains of evidence. These grounds are too flimsy for impeachment articles. Irrefutable proof of corruption, obstruction of justice, or a breaking of the oath of office must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Democrats would be wise to wait for the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to fully conclude before starting up a storm about impeachment just as Republicans waited for Andrew Johnson to infringe the Constitution before moving to impeach him.
Democratic control of Congress is paramount if Democrats could even ever realistically dream of impeaching Mr. Trump. Most Republican representatives have openly backed Trump despite his comments or rhetoric. To then turn around and vote to impeach him would be seen by their constituents as treachery of one of the highest counts. Democrats can expect to get barely any, if any at all, cooperation from Republicans on the matter. Thus, they would need to gain sweeping numbers in both Houses if they ever wish to impeach him. The Radical Republicans had an above 2/3 majority in both Houses and they still failed to impeach President Johnson because six Republicans, in all three votes, sided with their Democratic counterparts.
Lastly, Mr. Trump could not be impeached if enough of the public backed him even if Democrats possessed the seats needed in both Houses. Again, representatives could expect to face a sizable backlash from voters in their districts if Mr. Trump enjoyed enough support amongst the people. Voters would also protest online and in person of what they could perhaps call a Democratic takeover of the government. And Trump, being the drama king that he is, would encourage his supporters to do just that.
Right Now, Impeachment Discussions Only Hurt Us More
Democrats are actually doing the country a disservice by moving to impeach Mr. Trump so early on. It does not take a political science professor to observe how politically divided and tense our nation is. The moves to impeach the President only further the stigma that Democrats are obstructionists who hate Mr. Trump and have no plan for our country’s future. Reinforcing this stigma drives Republicans and Democrats farther and farther apart. I should specify when I say Democrats that I do not solely mean Democratic representatives such as the honorable Al Green: I am speaking to Democratic media hosts, Twitter personalities, families, and individuals.
Our nation needs to become obsessed with trying to heal these wounds of political division. This means we must relearn how to respect one another even if we love Mr. Trump, hate him, are liberal, conservative, so on and so forth. Our country, and our democracy, work best when we stay united. I am not calling for people to forgive Mr. Trump of his shortcomings or pretend that a bombshell investigation may not drop soon. I am calling for an end to the impeachment discussions until sufficient evidence is brought forth and the proper conditions are met that makes impeachment possible in the first place. Otherwise, the conversation is a waste of breath that serves only to drive us farther and farther apart.