by Mike Meyer
The process of impeaching Donald Trump is very important. The expectation of actually removing him from office by that process is neither likely nor particularly important. So what’s the point?
If you assume that the current Constitutional structure of the United States is valid and maintainable, the goal of impeachment of the chief executive would be prompt removal of a dangerously incompetent and criminal office holder. The focus of the process, then, is to identify specific acts by that person that are in defiance of the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
In that world reasonable proof of impeachable acts is all that is required. That having been determined the Senate would vote to remove. Accomplices in official positions would then, or concurrently, be indicted and tried in criminal court. This was, effectively, the case with Richard Nixon although he resigned rather than be impeached.
In the current situation there is already a large number of publicly available Trump acts on record that meet the impeachment criteria. This presents its own problem as Nancy Pelosi, up to now, had not considered these as a clear national and strong enough threat to the security of the United States to begin the process. Primarily because Trump is grossly incompetent and surrounds himself with incompetent people.
The underlying problem is the criminal nature of the Republican Party. That groups abandonment of any policies except gaining and maintaining power seriously damaged the impeachment process by using it as political assassination tool against Bill Clinton in the 1990s. This marked the final stage of decline into corruption of the conservatism that had been defined by Thatcher and Reagan in the 1980s but lost its social and economic justifications to changing social and economic conditions.
Ironically the same collapse had resulted in the Democratic Party taking over the conservative liberal economic and free trade policies of the earlier Republican Party. The destruction of the US impeachment process was done in an attack on an economically conservative president. This was a clear indication of the loss of rational direction that was to accelerate in Iraq war period.
Two decades of steady degradation and increasingly open attacks on the electoral system led to the acceptance of a candidate, Trump, who was known to have criminal involvement, serious mental issues, a compulsive tendency to lie, and very problematic foreign financial history.
Trump was not a conservative by any Western standard, being purely an opportunist and huckster. He entered the office of president already with impeachable offenses. This was quickly followed by thumbing his nose at the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
His actions in seeking favors for personal political gain with Russia as a candidate, then with Ukraine in July, resulting in the impeachment process being started the Speaker of the House, now followed by public demands to China in exchange for trade improvements, makes this as close to an open and shut case as we have had in US impeachment history.
Unfortunately the Republican Party refuses to recognize any criminality. This is not surprising as power and wealth to themselves and their funders has replaced any policy. The assumption is that the process of impeachment would be completed by the House of Representatives with all evidence sent to the Senate that would quickly dismiss all evidence as inadequate in a perfunctory ‘trial’.
If this were a functioning nation, under the current Constitution, this would not happen. Since it has, and the strong assumption is that no more than two or three of the Republican senators will act on anything other than their orders to ignore impeachable offenses, we must conclude that the system no longer exists except as a facade for whomever is in power.
This leaves no option. Trump, who can easily be proven guilty of a wide range of impeachable offenses, will be completely above the law and nothing within the US Constitutional system can be done. While Pelosi’s approach is logical in avoiding confusion by focusing on one very clearly serious act against the security of the nation, and ignoring all of the others, this makes the erroneous assumption that the system is, somehow, working.
This assumes that the existing evidence in the hands of the House committees is conclusive. At the current rate of disclosure and self destructive actions by Trump there will be too much evidence with such obvious links to other crimes and self dealing actions that it will be impossible to prevent massive widening of the case.
With the failure of the system and current levels of corruption in the Justice Department and Executive Branch, the expected dismissal by the Republican controlled Senate will throw the decision into the hands of the public.
That may well be Pelosi’s intent, knowing that the system is broken and badly corrupted. She is a seasoned politician committed to the system as it exists and had, from the beginning, wanted to avoid impeachment in order to make this the election issue for 2020. This was a recognition that the entire system is broken so effective self correction could not be expected.
But that also assumes that the electoral system still works. It would seem there are two bets in this. The first is that the impeachment system will, somehow, force a corrupt criminal organization to assume its Constitutional responsibility and remove a criminal from the White House. That is a long shot and no one expects that to happen.
The second bet is that the electoral system will not be corrupted by internal (nominally Republican) and/or external (Russian) forces to the extent that the popular vote can be simply ignored. Both of these would have to be considered long shots by anyone with any knowledge of US history in the last forty years.
The backup for the, already expected, failure of the Constitutional impeachment system is an electoral system that has already been manipulated twice to ignore the mass, popular vote in this century. The first was close enough to allow doubt but the second was not and was covered up well enough to get by.
The only exception to this pattern in the 21st century was Obama’s initial landslide victory. That was too massive to manipulate although I think the intent on the part of the Republicans and their owners was there. Obama’s reelection was also too one sided to pull off an electoral college maneuver but that was dealt with by massive gerrymandering in every possible state.
What’s the backup for the backup in removing Trump and his cohort? Nancy Pelosi, through no real fault of her own, is not equipped to take action outside of the Constitution. Yet that is what we will need.
In the end, if Trump and Pence are not forced to resign somehow, and the 2020 election is rigged, the only option is mass uprising to block those elections results. That is not a good option in the post industrial, climate crisis world. The old nation state political governments ae far enough removed from urban populations that they can be ignored until massive problems impinge on daily lives. This has been and will be the situation of the frog in a pot being slowly brought to a boil.
Anyone with knowledge of revolutionary change over the last hundred years is aware of the organizational requirements of taking coordinated action against an entrenched, technologically sophisticated government. The problems have been seen in the Arab world, Egypt, Turkey, and, currently, in Hong Kong.
The option of mass, social media based action is powerful but is under brutal attack and rapidly being reduced by the authoritarian rulers who are ruthlessly ensuring their continued rule. Can this be overcome? Probably not without serious violence. But that is no longer sure to result in anything other than a change of authoritarian rulers.
While elements of democratic government remain in place these must become the power base for removal of authoritarian forces attempting to usurp control for corrupt and personal ends. The difficulty is that these will need to merge the new social media of potential direct democracy with the remaining traditional power and legitimacy of surviving representational government branches and agencies.
The reality is that the 18th century representative government systems are broken because of the very different forces steadily emerging in the 21st century. Where these changes have created stress the existence of extensive internal corruption, reaction to growing diversity, resulting from the failure of traditional western conservatism has opened the door to opportunists and authoritarians. A vacuum will always be filled but if that vacuum is ignored the detritus of society will shape the future for their own benefit.
That must be prevented and if it cannot be prevented they must be removed completely from positions of authority. And new social and political systems, not the old failing ones, must be created and implemented quickly.
These are the full range of problems that is being faced in the US and, in slightly different form in Great Britain but also in China via Hong Kong. Our future and, even, survival, rests on taking effective action now and building new systems to control criminality if government.