Thank You, Nancy! Why Congress Is Right to Push for Impeachment
Despite the risks they entail for the Democratic Party, impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump are the right step. They're also overdue.
Is better evidence of the president's corrupting behavior even possible? This week, Donald Trump freely admitted that he asked the Ukrainian president on the phone to procure political dirt on Joe Biden, his greatest Democratic Party rival. Trump told the Ukrainian president: "I would like you to do us a favor." Trump didn't even think it necessary to conceal his mafia-esque move. In the president's mind, it's apparently perfectly normal to ask a foreign government for ammunition during an election campaign, even if doing so violates the constitution. As such, the two-pronged scandal in the Ukrainian affair lies in a possible breach of the law and in Trump's cynical indifference. With his gesture, Trump is saying: I know I'm not allowed to do this, and I don't care.
It is now proper and correct that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats backing her are seeking to initiate impeachment proceedings. Trump, after all, has been shifting the standards of what is permissible in a democracy for years now. He has broken with ethical, political and moral norms, he cozies up to autocrats, he allows children to be locked up at the Mexican border and he considers racists to be "very fine people." He appoints members of his family or minions to important government positions, demands the imprisonment of his political opponents, lies to his people about relations with Russia, obstructs justice and even had hush money paid to a porn star to conceal the affair he had with her. Several women have accused him of sexual harassment. And when he withholds almost $400 million in military aid and, in doing so, puts pressure on Ukraine to harm a potential political challenger, he is gambling away his country's security interests in what may border on treason. This will all be the subject of investigation now, and it's high time, too! If impeachment proceedings aren't initiated against President Trump, who then?
A Necessary Shift in Tactics
Until now, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats had been very reserved about the prospects for impeachment proceedings -- and correctly so. They didn't want to be constantly focused on the man in the White House so that they could instead direct their attention to more important issues like health care, the environment and dilapidated roads and bridges. It's a strategy that helped them to win a majority in the House of Representatives during congressional elections last year. But that approach is no longer sufficient.
Trump's crude attempt to use Ukraine to damage a domestic opponent adds a new dimension to the already long list of his transgressions. The fact that he has called on a foreign power to intervene in the election campaign -- in the democratic process! -- is unprecedented. The affair shows that Trump is willing to undermine the very foundation of the United States to secure his power. The president actually needs to be forestalled from these kinds of assaults: The U.S.' founding fathers feared foreign influence so much that they built several clauses aimed at preventing it into the constitution. That makes it all the more urgent that Trump be sanctioned with all the means Congress has at its disposal, even if doing so presents a risk for the Democrats.
Of course, Trump will portray himself as the victim in an impeachment trial. It's possible the Democrats will also lose votes in the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden, currently the party's most promising candidate, could also take a hit. But can the Democrats afford to ignore such brutal attacks on the constitution for the sake of election tactics?
Trump Must Be Held Accountable
Inaction also has a price. Trump needs to be held accountable for all of his scandals -- not just the telephone call with Kiev. The decision to take action against the president has united the left-wing and moderates within the Democratic Party in one fell swoop. He may be acting at the moment as if he is looking forward to the investigations, but Trump has actually done a service for the Democrats.
It may be true that the U.S. Senate, which has to vote in the end on the impeachment procedures, is very unlikely to drive the president out of office given that the Republicans hold a majority in the upper chamber of Congress. But Trump would be only the fourth president in U.S. history to face an impeachment trial. It's a blemish that wouldn't go away. The Republicans, for their part, would also be put in a position where they are forced to vote in a favor of a man who has, for quite a while now, shown contempt for and fought against the very things that define a democracy. That alone would be good reason to start with impeachment proceedings as soon as possible.