The forgotten lesson of impeachment

See Disclaimer.

The two articles of impeachment just approved by the House were narrowly written, and their supporting facts are hard to dispute. Democrats did, I believe, a valuable service to the country. Yet, despite remarkable restraint and discipline, they could not engender bipartisan support.

Given the evidence, a principled Senate trial would likely end with a conviction. That is not the expected outcome, though, for partisan reasons that should not (but do) come into play when the US Constitution is at stake.

Also not likely, is a “Nixon-type solution” with the president resigning rather than being removed. However much that solution might serve well a divided country, it would require principled action—in particular by Republican Senators, who so far show no appetite to place country above party.

With the Senate acquittal all but inevitable, today’s House impeachment debate was mostly posturing from both sides, directed first and foremost at us the voters—in an implicit recognition that the November 2020 elections will matter deeply.

But the elections will not be about partisan preference, and much less about partisan purity. Rather, they will be about a simple choice: Do we  want to be an Autocracy, or a Democratic Republic based on the US Constitution?

Republicans: If you vote to re-elect this president (or those who voted against his impeachment or conviction), you will not be upholding your conservative values. Rather, you will be voting against the Constitutional separation of powers.

Democrats: By bickering on ideological details, and setting stringent purity tests for your candidates, you will not be resolving differences between various shades of liberalism. You will be enabling conditions for Autocracy, where liberalism is not an option—in fact, choice is not an option.

Fellow independents: We have a unique opportunity to make a statement, and enact real change. Please join me in saying to Democrats: We will vote for you in 2020, in defense of the fundamental principles of our Democratic Republic. But we demand from you pro-active fundamental reform, towards a more open and diverse political system.

The goal would be a multi-party system where the nuances of our genuine differences, as Americans, will not get oversimplified into a binary Red-or-Blue choice. Where Presidents will not dare to think of themselves as above the law and Congress. Where no single party can control a chamber of Congress, unless voters deliberately want that to happen.

The need for such a multi-party system should be increasingly obvious—but that, so far,  remains the forgotten lesson of a historic impeachment process.

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