Nearly every day, the news reveals another outrage on the part of President Trump that violates constitutional norms. The most recent is his apparent threat to withhold military aid from Ukraine unless that country produces damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden. At present Biden is Trump’s most likely opponent in 2020. Trump’s arrogance, corruption and destructiveness are unprecedented. I viscerally feel that he is ruining my country. When will we decide that we’ve had enough?
Trump respects no boundaries. He believes he can do anything he pleases as President, at least until someone stops him. We have never had a President like this and we have no systems capable of dealing with him. Under the Constitution, Congress has oversight authority of the executive branch. But, as we have seen, Trump refuses to cooperate with requests for information and even subpoenas. He directs his subordinates not to testify before Congressional committees. Congress seems dumbfounded and impotent.
The Constitution provides only one remedy for removing a President – impeachment. This will first require a finding in the House of Representatives that Trump is guilty of treason, bribery, or “high crimes or misdemeanors.” This type of “crime” is not a crime in the usual sense but rather an abuse of power by a person in high office. It is a serious offense against the state, against the way our balanced democracy is supposed to run. Can there be any doubt that Trump has crossed that boundary? His refusal to cooperate with Congress alone should be enough, but the list of other offenses is long.
What seems to be holding us up are blind tribalism on the part of Republicans and careful political calculation on the part of Democrats. The Republican “base” has the President they want. He sticks his thumb in the eye of the elites, protects gun ownership and places arch-conservatives on the Supreme Court. Maybe you can understand how these voters perceive the complaints about Trump as purely partisan. But there will be a special circle in hell reserved for Republican Congressmen and Senators who are smart enough know the damage Trump is actually inflicting on our system, yet who remain silent or worse. It is said that these people fear the political consequences from the “base” if they oppose Trump.
The Democrats in Congress aren’t much better. While a number of Democratic Representatives have called for impeachment, many are reluctant. Some from conservative districts are frozen for the same reason that the Republicans are – fear for their political future. Others like Nancy Pelosi argue the larger risks of attempting to impeach Trump. Unless the American people are lined up in favor of impeachment, Democrats are likely to experience the same blow-back from voters the Republicans got when they impeached Bill Clinton. Trump’s re-election prospects might even be improved by an impeachment effort. But this calculation seems different from the Republicans only in degree, not in kind.
We have been awash in so many affronts to the normal order that we are numb. We have lost our sense of outrage. Or maybe because we have never seen anything like this President, we are confused and don’t know what to do. But the problem with inaction is that each affront to constitutional norms makes the next one easier. If someone had told us on the eve of Trump’s inauguration how bad things would be in September 2019 we would never have believed it.
All this circles back to what kind of country we want. The “we” I’m talking about is you and I, at the granular level. Are we just going to wring our hands over how bad Trump is, or are we willing to risk something to stop Trump from creating further damage? It’s a certainty that Congress isn’t going to do anything without the safety of public opinion behind them.
Each one of has to take responsibility for the preservation of our democracy. The situation cannot go on like this. Talk to your neighbor. Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. Post on Facebook. Call or write your Representative in Congress, even the Trump sycophant Alex Mooney. It is not someone else’s job. It is our job.