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I hereby add my small voice to the rising chorus of those with their minds changed by Yoni Appelbaum’s “Impeach Donald Trump”, published in The Atlantic this month.
This article presents an unexpected treasure born of difficult times, building its appeal for immediate action on a fascinating and foundational American history lesson. Trump’s presidency, Appelbaum writes, contains numerous parallels to the short and calamitous administration of Andrew Johnson, who took office upon Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Popular history views the subsequent attempt to impeach him, which failed in the Senate, as a national embarrassment. Appelbaum argues, convincingly, that the procedure instead worked exactly as it meant to: the mere presence of official impeachment proceedings weakened the president, putting his many inadequacies at the center of the national conversation. He was subsequently swept from office by Ulysses S. Grant in the next election.
Appelbaum argues that the time has come to apply the same tonic, no less potent for the century-and-a-half that has since passed. That an actual pack-your-things-and-go impeachment result remains unlikely with so many Trump-loyal Republicans in the modern Senate is beside the point. Rather, an impeachment proceeding would properly channel the national outrage against our utter failure of a president into the mechanisms designed by the Founders for this very purpose, paralyzing his destructive administration and drastically slowing the rate it can daily damage our country’s principles. Oh, how they would struggle, but impeachment proceedings would exert a powerful hold on Trump and his vile coterie until the next election can sweep them all into the midden where they belong.
The article is rather long, and I recommend setting aside between 30 and 60 minutes to read it in its entirety.
I feel moved, too, by Jason Kottke’s reaction to Appelbaum’s article:
I was struck by a real sadness. What a massive waste of time the Trump presidency has been. America has urgent challenges to address on behalf of all of its citizens and they’re just not getting much consideration. Instead, we’ve given the attention of the country over to a clown and a charlatan who wants nothing more than for everyone to adore and enrich him. Meanwhile, the US government and a populace bewitched by breaking news is stuck in traffic, gawking at this continually unfolding accident. And we somehow can’t or won’t act to remove him from the most powerful job in the world, this person that not even his supporters would trust to borrow their cars or water their plants while on vacation. What a shame and what a waste.
This reflects my own attitude quite accurately. I support moving immediately to fix the Trump problem, because one should always prioritize extinguishing a fire in one’s own home, no matter the circumstances. But my heart breaks over the opportunities that this conflagration has already eaten up, and what costs still lie ahead in terms of national time and attention.
In mid-2016, I often said that I looked forward to Hillary Clinton becoming one of the least popular American presidents during their own time in office as she enshrined strict and necessary climate-change mitigation into law, over the kicking and screaming objection of her venal and short-sighted constituents. Not only did we not get this, but official national policy has instead steered us directly towards the cliff’s edge. I fear that nothing can stop it now. I still want the best America possible, but now less to help shepherd the world away from disaster, and instead to give us firm and wise leadership we can look to while we all brace for impact.
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