• To Impeach Or Not?

    To impeach or not to impeach? I understand why some of those who are justifiably aghast at Trump’s behaviour over recent days might still counsel against impeaching him for a second time.

    To impeach him, they argue, would run the risk of making him a martyr in the eyes of his supporters and would divide the country still further. As to the latter argument, the country is surely already divided between those who would countenance and support the Trumpian version of fascism and those who are appalled by it. If such a division exists, why try to hide or bury it? It should be brought out into the open so that everyone can understand what is at stake.

    Nor should we overlook the powerful arguments in favour of impeachment. In the case of someone who has made a lifelong art form of avoiding the consequences of his actions, it is surely essential that he is made, in the case of his egregious betrayals of his office and of the people he is meant to serve, to face up to them now.

    The charge sheet could hardly, after all, be more serious. To take only the two most recent and appalling, there is first his attempted bullying and threatening of a senior public official to compel him to falsify an election count and to “find” thousands of votes for Trump that were never cast – it is hard to imagine a clearer instance of corruption and of damage to the electoral process.

    And secondly, there is his clear incitement of insurrection when he assembled his supporters and urged them, knowing that many had come armed for the purpose, to “march on the Capitol” and to “be strong” and “not weak”.

    It is surely incumbent on any self-respecting democracy to make clear its rejection of such criminal acts; to allow Trump to go uncensored and unpunished after such heinous behaviour would be to signal that American citizens cared little for their democracy. Impeachment would be seen as a formal and definitive condemnation by the people of Trump’s actions.

    There are other reasons, as well, for believing that impeachment would provide some chance of repairing the damage that has been caused. The process that impeachment requires would give Republican Senators, in particular, the chance to make their positions clear. Those who would rightly condemn him would be able to demonstrate that they had the courage to follow through on that conviction; this who were reluctant to break ranks would have to stand up and be counted.

    And for the Republican Party as a whole, it would provide the chance to break the stranglehold that Trump has had on them and allow for a return to a more normal two-party and democratic contest for popular support.

    But perhaps the clinching argument is that impeachment would mean that we had seen the last of Trump as a viable political actor. He would lose the various advantages and immunities normally enjoyed by a former President and he would be disqualified from again seeking public office.

    We could all then awake, as from a bad dream, and say goodbye to a disgraced President, quite literally, for “good”.

    Bryan Gould
    10 January 2021