Politics as Usual: The "Historic" Impeachment of Donald Trump
What Trump's Impeachment Says About Modern Politics
Both of my kids were excited when they saw the news online that Donald Trump had been impeached. As both a history teacher and parent, I felt compelled to fulfill my obligation of being the bearer of bad news. Donald Trump has not been removed from office. Donald Trump is not going to be removed from office. The odds of Trump being voted out of office in a Senate trial are about as good as Saddam Hussein had in the trial that led to his execution. And I will go on record now and say that there is a pretty darn good chance that Trump will be reelected next year. His odds, in fact, are a hell of a lot better than when he first declared his candidacy about four and a half years ago.
Although the Trump impeachment is largely symbolic, it will still make the history books in some form. It's not every day, after all, that a president is impeached. This has only happened twice before in the 230 years since the Constitution went into effect. (Richard Nixon doesn't count since he quit before he was about to be thrown out.) Hell, there have only been 20 impeachments of federal officials of any kind, with only 8 being removed from office, and most of these guys were judges. Apparently, we Americans have been electing nothing but saints for more than two centuries. Or maybe elected officials have a knack for covering their asses and talking themselves out of trouble. Or maybe the ones who get caught doing naughty things have the self-respect to resign before getting chucked. Or maybe our Founding Fathers set up a system where it was too hard to throw people out. What would you expect from the guys who gave us the Electoral College and a system in which slaves would be counted as three-fifths of people when taking the census.
While the Trump impeachment will undoubtedly be remembered, I suspect that it will be a footnote in a larger story, a story tracing back to our last presidential impeachment. Bill Clinton, of course, endangered our national security by having oral sex with an intern in the oval office. Fortunately for previous presidents, extramarital sex is not an impeachable offense. If it was impeachable, then John F. Kennedy would have been removed from office about 20 minutes after getting the job. But after years of investigating "slick Willie," they were able to set Clinton up by asking him under oath about his special "relationship." As with Trump, there was no chance of removing Clinton from office. This political theater, however, may have improved George W. Bush's prospects in 2000. But more importantly, it helped to trigger the intense partisan hostility that has existed in Washington and throughout the country ever since.
Yes, partisan hostility has been there since the days of Jefferson and Hamilton. Anyone who has been around for a while knows, however, that things have steadily deteriorated over the last twenty years. Many Americans do not simply believe that those on the other side are wrong. They believe the other side consists of bad people. The bad news for Democrats is that Republicans are better at partisan politics, with Donald Trump being something of a political genius. Sure, he may be the biggest ignoramus to ever sit in the White House. But he understands that politics is about fear and anger, feelings he exploits and spews daily from his twitter feed. And while many Republicans in Congress don’t like some his policies – see “trade war” – and recognize that he is basically an idiot, they know that unity and a focus on policy are the keys success. They are willing to put up with Trump so long as they can get tax cuts, deregulation of business, and conservative justices appointed to federal courts. They also know that too much open opposition to Trump is a political death sentence. House Republicans in particular are far more worried about a fellow Republican challenging them in the primaries than losing to a Democrat.
It’s actually pretty funny that Democrats ended up impeaching Trump because of this Ukraine thing. It’s even more remarkable that Trump was able to come within 100 miles of the White House. Here is a “great businessman” who declared bankruptcy multiple times, refused to release his tax returns, has a habit of paying off women (whose “pussies” he likes to sometimes grab), has stuck his name on a fake charity and university, and has made countless statements that are demonstrably and blatantly false. Of course, some would say that he is no worse than your typical politician. While I would dispute that statement, the fact that people even make statements like that tells me that maybe we humans get what we deserve. We are, after all, just a bunch of large brained primates with a long history of being ruled by alpha male assholes. So maybe the best we can hope for is to pick the asshole who endorses the policies that we believe are the least flawed.
Possibly the biggest mystery to me is why Trump even wants to keep the job. He doesn’t strike me as the happiest president in history. He would probably be better off just playing golf, watching “Fox and Friends,” rebooting “the Apprentice,” and sticking his name on things. Of course, alpha males want to win, and I suspect that winning is one of the few things that Donald Trump has ever cared about. Fortunately for him, he picked the political party that tends to win these days.