Last Wednesday, California Democrat Rep. Rob Sherman filed the first article of impeachment against President Donald Trump on grounds of obstruction of justice by firing ex-FBI Director James Comey while investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election was ongoing.
Constant murmurs of impeachment have circulated ever since Trump was elected into office last November, and they grow louder after every stupidly bizarre action he, his administration, and his family takes―the most recent being his son seeking out damning info from Russian officials on election opponent Hillary Clinton, and subsequently publishing the e-mail thread on Twitter. But what are the actual chances of impeachment? According to the history, very slim.
History indicates that impeachment is a long, complicated process where intent is difficult to prove.
As of July 14, Trump has been in office for 173 days. That’s already longer than William Harrison, the ninth president of the U.S. who died of pneumonia 31 days into his term, and more than one-tenth into Trump’s full four-year term. Out of the 44 presidents of the United States since Washington in 1797, 33 who were elected into office served at least one full term; four were assassinated while in office; three died of other causes; one resigned; and none have ever been impeached.
Yes, Trump is on track to becoming the worst president in the history of the US. But history also reflects that presidents who implemented terrible policies, said terrible things, and were wholly terrible people still served full terms.
In recent years, George W. Bush made the case for invading Iraq on the unsubstantiated grounds that the Iraqi government possessed weapons of mass destruction, in the process racking up an additional $1 trillion in U.S. debt.
Bill Clinton was impeached on grounds of perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice stemming from the Paula Jones’ sexual harassment lawsuit before ultimately being acquitted by the Senate.
Additionally, the burden of proof for impeachment is extremely high and a lengthy process (although probably not as lengthy as the 2016 election campaign which lasted 597 days). The closest a President has been to being removed from office was Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 before certain impeachment when audiotapes provided clear evidence of obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress against him during the Watergate scandal.
In the case of Rep. Sherman’s article of impeachment, there is little backing from both sides. Democrats worry that the article will only further energize Trump’s supporters, and the article has a next-to-none chance of passing in the Republican-led House.
We need to stop fixating on impeachment.
Whether likely or not, headlines since November like “What a Trump impeachment could mean for 2020” and “Trump impeached? You can bet on it” reflect the rampant fixation on Trump’s removal as the solution. “They’ll get rid of Trump soon enough,” I overheard a New York commuter on the B train exclaim wistfully to her colleague. It is this reliance on impeachment which is dangerous and counterproductive to progress in this country.
Firstly, Americans have become so reliant on the idea of impeachment that they’ve removed themselves out of the equation for positive change. But change is the responsibility of every individual mobilizing locally as well: calling Senators and voicing concerns; volunteering at local sexual and reproductive health clinics; reducing carbon footprints by recycling, carpooling, and eating less red meats; exposing fake news; and sharing the stories of immigrants, refugees, women, blacks and everyone else who makes up America’s melting pot.
Secondly, even if Trump is impeached, the battle is won but not the war. Americans elected Trump into the White House which points to a scarier problem. At the grassroots level, Americans should engage with their governments, go to the polls in 2018 and vote, and start the important conversations to challenge and change ever-divisive mindsets. Additionally, Trump on many fronts only exasperated American issues that existed long before he entered the White House, like fighting climate change, addressing longstanding racial and religious discrimination, keeping borders open against protectionist values, and championing LGBTQ and women’s rights.
Lastly, if Trump is impeached, we’ll have Pence in office, the current vice president who once said “smoking doesn’t kill” and “science is very mixed on the subject of global warming”.
So let’s stop talking about impeachment and get to work to trump Trump.
To start, here is a list of things you can do and organizations that need your support.