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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Three Major Misgivings About Impeaching Trump

Am I, a person who finds Donald Trump appalling, gleeful that it now appears he will be impeached by Congress? Am I saying, “Gotcha,” over the whistleblower allegations and the apparent attempt by the White House to suppress them? Am I thinking, “Now, finally, he’s gone so far over the line, this will be it.”

The answer to all of the above would be “no.”

I am not thrilled by the way the latest installment of the Trump reality show is playing. I am disgusted, and I am worried. Why? Three reasons.

Anything that makes Trump even more the center of attention than he already is, is playing his game. 

He is a human black hole, sucking all the energy out of the system, out of the political process, out of the election, out of us. Or, to change the metaphor, he is a malignant tumor on the body politic. He is dependent, like any cancer, on invading other normal parts of the body and drawing blood from them, destroying them in the process. The only way to cut off his blood supply is to reduce the constant attention, rumor and fixation.

Impeachment will do the opposite. All Trump all the time.

While this might be, emphasis on might be, in some way good for the Biden campaign, depending on how Biden handles it, you can already feel it sucking energy and relevance out of the Democratic electoral field and process.

This drama is completely spellbinding to those inside the D. C. Beltway, but not so for most Americans. 

I’ve seen the same thing happen, on a smaller scale in churches. There will be some sort of controversy, conflict, or bad acting that will consume a church’s insiders — clergy, staff, officers. They will believe themselves engaged in the most important moral struggle in history, while most of the congregation aren’t there to be warriors in whatever the conflict may be.

Yes, there may be real issues, as there are here. But when you are on the inside you lose perspective. The conflict becomes all consuming. “He said, she said” takes over. But the body of a church, like the body of the country, have lives to live. The insiders, caught in maelstrom, are consumed by it and don’t get that others are not.

This is not the early 1970’s, the era of Watergate, which led Nixon to resign rather than be impeached.

In that era we had a couple things going for us that are, most regrettably, no longer true. We had some norms that were widely shared in the body politic and in the two parties. Like a President who blatantly lies and engages in criminal activity to cover it up is not okay. That is wrong. We don’t have that shared norm any more.

Nor do we have members of the President’s own party — think then-Senator Howard Baker, Congressman Lawrence Hogan, and Justice Department official, Elliott Richardson — who have the courage and gravity to confront the President. Just no one there.

What we do have is a system that is so completely polarized that Trump and his minions will call Biden, or anyone else who appears they might beat him, “corrupt” and cover that person in so much mud that many ordinary Americans simply give up on it all.

In other words, impeachment won’t move anyone out of their tribal camps. It will cause those already encamped to dig in more deeply, while those not in one camp or another pay even less attention.

All this said, I acknowledge I may be wrong. I live, or try to, by the words of theologian H. Richard Niebuhr, “Take your stand, and pray for forgiveness.”

Image: Blue Diamond Gallery

Anthony B. Robinson
Anthony B. Robinsonhttps://www.anthonybrobinson.com/
Tony is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ. He is the author of thirteen books, including the best-selling Transforming Congregational Culture and the award-winning What’s Theology Got To Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. He is a frequent contributor to The Christian Century as well as other publications. He writes for the “The Daily Devotional” of the United Church of Christ. He has served four congregations, most recently Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church, UCC.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah, but…..not pursuing an impeachment inquiry (whether articles are issued or not) denigrate our democracy, perhaps irreparably. If the inquiry (which I hope will be speedy and confined to the Ukraine and obstruction of justice issues, for which available evidence seems easiest to gather and assess) produces facts that do or do not warrant article(s), Congress would have honored its Constitutional role, a healthy result for our democracy.

  2. I am thinking that the conclusion that impeachment will move no one from their tribal camps is premature. Four or five million voters changed their mind between 2016 and 2018. The CBS poll today showed 55% of voters ready for an impeachment inquiry. Another poll shows 62% of Americans believe Trump did something wrong.

    The idea that all Trump voters are still with him is not the case. Let’s use this more robust procedure to have the public hear and learn some things that thus far have not been disclosed.

  3. The optimist in me expects to see an expansion of the Romney/Sasse/guy who tells Trump this is”not OK” contingent. Not sure how much longer I can sustain this delusion.

    • It makes it extra hard for a Republican Senator because it’s only a year until the election. If 15 or so of them vote for conviction they will do even worse in November of 2020 then they otherwise would l and they know it. Those voting to convict would be punished by Trump voters and not rewarded by independent voters. If it were three years til election we would do much better on this front.

  4. One other factor in support of Tony’s misgivings. If Trump is removed, so also is removed an albatross around the necks of Republicans running in 2020, thus jeopardizing Democratic chances of capturing the Senate and retaining the House. To me, the best outcome is a protracted unearthing of Trump’s misdeeds and Republican enabling, and then have a not-impeached Trump/Pence run in 2020.

    • It is so close to the election that I think it is the reverse of your argument, unfortunately.

      If Republicans were to vote for conviction this winter, a meaningful percentage of Trump supporters would walk away from the November, 2020 election. Their turnout would plummet and they would run the risk of election carnage, and would certainly lose the Senate, If you impeach someone earlier in their four year term, you have a better change of recovery.

      The only scenario close to what you are saying is Republicans brokering a deal with Trump not to run again. After all, the candidate who would poll best against any Democrat is Nikki Haley, no?

  5. All three are persuasive arguments and cause for concern about how voters will respond in the tumultuous 13 months ahead. I was against impeachment until learning of Trump’s withholding of the military aid, which demonstrates this president’s lack of commitment to democratic values, the Constitution or American citizens other than his base. To let those fears deter us from acting against such blatant perversion of the office of the presidency would be surrender to despotism.

  6. Thanks for all the insightful comments my friends. I have noticed that the % of people supporting an impeachment inquiry is growing. If it gets, and stays, above 60% that would seem to me to be a positive sign for proceeding.

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