A Letter from the Editors: The Impeachment of Donald Trump

With this announcement, and the release of a memorandum recording the June 25 telephone conversation between Donald Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky, a virtual die is cast. Now, the blazing question regarding whether the art of the jig is up, will be decided by Congress and the American people.

“The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections….Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, September 24, 2019

For the second time in the last four presidencies, the House is investigating a chief executive for the alleged commission of “other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Over time, it may find that Trump carried out the additional Constitutional offences of “treason” and “bribery.” Nevertheless, Section 3 of Article 1 raises the stakes because, “the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

Complaints concerning Trump include such illegalities as obstructing justice, receiving emoluments, conspiring with a foreign leader to interfere in a US election, and the compromising of national security. Given these potential articles of impeachment, a Constitutional sword hangs over Trump, his accomplices, his empire, and his racketeering influenced and notoriously corrupt family organization.

Although the growing list of potential offenses reads like Tony Soprano’s business plan, many American voters would like to leave sleeping congresses lie. They point to practical concerns. Pence would be worse. Trump’s bigoted religious supporters would rise to new and unprecedented levels of maniacal zealotry and violence. They fear that the Founding Fathers’ noble purpose in establishing the impeachment process would become corrupted. Politicized impeachments might devour all manner of disliked public officials and harm the long-term resilience and “domestic tranquility” of a republic dedicated to the fundamental democratic principle of majority rule.

Impeachment supporters appreciate these practical concerns. However, they favor prioritizing fundamental principles, such as the rule of law, the integrity of the presidency and electoral system, and the separation of powers within the public debate concerning alleged corruption and its potential remedies.

As expected, America’s gamble with the future of its imperfect republic and its moral character comes as the corporate media deals in partisan recrimination, legal obscurities and “interpretations,” and fear mongering. Routinely, Trump’s supporters put on their poker faces and follow a time-honored strategy fitting for a corrupt casino magnet. The long-time counselor to the unscrupulous and Trump supporter, Roger Stone, provides the method: “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.” In today’s information-rich world, it also helps to question every inconvenient fact, and to offer “alternatives” by co-opting the very language of the debate. Just as Republican English transforms austere social policy into “fiscal responsibility,” a dedicated and dutiful public servant becomes a “traitor” and “almost a spy” and a legal Constitutional process a “coup.”

Given the uncertainty surrounding the value of impeachment and the sea of confusion upon which the public debate will wallow, the American people will be reaching for life rafts. If they wish to hold the winning hand at the end of the game, they might reach for time-honored ones: The US Constitution and the insights of the Founding Fathers. To paraphrase George Washington, whose integrity, however tarnished, has cashed in on a role of the dice in 1776: “The due administration of an impeachment is a firm pillar of good government, we should consider this judicial process as essential to the happiness of the country, and to the stability of its political system.” 

While the impeachment will significantly center on procedure and punishment, those supporting it might focus their advocacy on justice and restoration. Since the justice meted out by Congress will involve these four concerns, talk of principles and the dangers of not respecting them are on the table. As Adam Gopnik, writing for The New Yorker, reminds us, “Pragmatism is not a way of negating principle but, rather, the realist’s way of pursuing principle. The arguments against impeachment today are primarily pragmatic, the arguments for it primarily principled, but the principled course could, before long, turn into the only practical course.”

So how can talk of principles serve the practical goal of establishing the happiness and good governance of the American people? One approach would be to turn the tables on Trump: admit that the American republic is flawed and that its people are not as exceptional as advertised. Deny the legitimacy of Republican English and its appeals to fear, confusion, hate, and irrationality. Launch a counternarrative based upon courage, clear thinking, solidarity, and reason.

One way to do this is to follow a “connect the dots” game plan. The Senate won’t vote for impeachment? Connect the dots to the corruption that has transformed it into a largely white supremacist and misogynist cabal of the wealthy, enabled by voter suppression and religious extremism.

We assess the suffering that his patriarchal sexism and chauvinism promotes, and how he has reversed the progress made for LBGT people. We connect the dots between his bigotry, his pathologically belligerent foreign policy, his give-aways to the wealthy, and his cutting of  services to the poor. All these are related to and complemented by his anti-science agenda that has allowed our environment to worsen under the threat of a global climate emergency. And all this is intended to line the pockets of the wealthy.

And speaking of the wealthy, Hunter Biden, a Yale-educated lawyer, served on the board of Burisma Holdings. This Ukrainian energy company is a major global player in the “exploration, production, processing, transportation, and final sale of hydrocarbons.” So, if questions are raised regarding Biden’s business dealings in the Ukraine, connect the dots to America’s allegiance to an inhumane and destructive global capitalism that resists efforts to reduce global warming. Connect the dots to educational privilege. Point to the cozy business relationships and the intergenerational transfer of wealth and power that it creates and preserves. Speak of the legacy of racism and misogyny at Yale, and the rapacity of Brett Kavanaugh, Steve Mnuchin, and Bill Clinton. Suppose the spotlight lands upon Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and his chummy relationship with Trump. Then connect the dots to the economic players and historical factors behind his election to the Ukrainian presidency. Point out the efforts of the European Union and NATO to advance Western capitalism right up to the Russian borders. Talk about the safety and well-being of millions of people placed in danger in an attempt to not only to isolate Russia, but also to expand a predatory economic system into underdeveloped markets. Impeachment supporters can up the ante by connecting the dots from the EU to the imposition of austerity and anti-union measures in Greece and the Ukraine, and the privatization of their economy.

While doing so one can start to see this isn’t just about Trump, or defending Biden. As socialists, we don’t cheer for Biden either. Connecting the dots between objective facts can help us decide if our political actions are convenient to the Democratic Party or not. 

Then, there are the lies. We see how Trump lies about everything and doubles down on his lies. It seems that he is a teflon president, getting away with every scandal, and pushing the boundaries of what we consider acceptable behavior. Furthermore, Trump’s new normalcy can be seen in how corporate America remains silent and complicit, and how the Democrats only call for impeachment when Trump attacks their candidates. We connect the dots from everyday people’s suffering to corporate greed. Trump may be a terrible president, but if he keeps making rich people richer, he will be protected. We may not be able to control that, but we can connect the dots and see through the process of impeachment to a more transformative vision for America. 

There are as many reasons to support impeachment as there are not to. However, part of the calculus when thinking about impeachment concerns Trump’s policies and how they impact women, Muslims, the LGBT community, the poor, people of color, and so many others. We think about Charlottesville and the connections between American white supremacy, slavery, Jim Crow, and the historical fascism of Hitler, Mussolini, and Richard Nixon. We consider his xenophobic and violent rants against immigrants, and putting children into cages. 

As socialists, we understand that capitalism is especially destructive because everything it does is systematically linked to everything else it does, and every destructive outcome is a symptom of a broader program guided by greed and privilege. Connecting the dots can help is mow the lawn of confusion routinely watered by the corporate media. As Bernie Sanders explains, “At precisely the moment when we need more reporters covering the healthcare crisis, the climate emergency, and economic inequality, we have television pundits paid tens of millions of dollars to pontificate about frivolous political gossip, as local news outlets are eviscerated.” 

And even if the Republican dominated Senate doesn’t convict Trump, this impeachment process is worth undertaking. Many fear that if the Senate does not convict, Trump will be emboldened and appear stronger going into the general election. Under such circumstances, his reelection may become more likely. Nevertheless, at the very least, the impeachment process and a dot-connecting national discussion can expose these connections and show the American people who Trump and the Democrats really are. 

When politicians are dissected and put under the microscope, their reactions are revealing. We should watch these carefully, looking for differences as well as similarities. We already see Trump attempting legal actions to delay or dismiss the inquiry itself. His behavior is becoming erratic, as he tries to defend himself, looking more guilty by the day. Yes, this will dominate the media circus, but it also creates a distraction to Trump, who, without it, would have another year to inflict further damage without a hitch. At the same time, we will see if Biden can withstand scrutiny. Even if what Biden and his son did was wrong, it does not mean what Trump did was right. After all, both men are cut from the same corporate cloth.

The American people should grapple with how capitalism is a central player in all of this. Connecting the dots is how we read through the corporate narratives to the truth underneath and how we chart a path forward, no matter the outcome of the impeachment process. All this demands hard work and discipline. It requires staying informed and developing a sincere love and compassion for humanity. If some Americans haven’t done anything like this before, they certainly are capable of appreciating that they have never been dealt a hand like this before.

If an impeachment investigation illuminates the tsunami of Trump’s and Biden’s corruption and its threat to America’s democratic experiment, connecting dots can re-calibrate and secure the moral compass of a storied and marvelously diverse people. Connecting such dots can serve both as practical support of an impeachment process that might remove and merit consequences to a tyrant, and a principled vision that can restore the Constitution and the “dream” of a people that seeks equal justice under the law. Even if Trump stays in office for the remainder of his term, impeachment could lead to transformative change in the long run.

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