Impeachment is an act of proactive prevention, not punishment.
Only that way will the office, and the Republican, be kept.
There was no quid pro quo Republicans say. Ukraine received the life-saving military aid and there was no investigation into the Bidens. According to Rep. Elise Stefanik, they are the two ‘clear facts’.
The simplicity of that argument will underpin the response from all Republicans; ranging from the insanity of Lindsey Graham, to the more considered Will Hurd and Susan Collins. The reason why this is so attractive to Republicans of all flavours, is that it is simply true. Regardless of intention, they say, there was no quid pro quo. We cannot remove an elected President from office on intention alone.
Democrats hit back and say this scheme would have go ahead had it not been for the whistle blower, and that aid would have been suspended in return for an investigation by Ukraine into the Bidens had we, the people, not been made aware. As Chairman Adam Schiff says, Republican objection has shifted; it is now based on the fact Trump got caught, not that he committed acts of corruption in the first place.
Democrats can point to corroborate testimony by their witnesses. They can point to the acting White House Chief of Staff going on national television and telling American people to simply ‘get over it’. They can point to the phone call between Trump and Zelensky where Trump asked for a ‘favour’. They can even point to 70% of the American people agreeing that such actions are wrong.
Those two points however don’t seem to matter one iota to the opposing parties. For them, one simply overrides the other. Republicans say there was no specific action worthy of removal, and that this should be decided by the people in an election — if they want to remove Trump from office, they can.
But, the Democrats say, that is too dangerous and too late. That won’t be a free and fair process. If Trump has shown intent to actively seek out election interference again, then how can we trust a process to be free and fair anymore than we can trust a Constitutionally defined impeachment process? We have to prevent further wrong-doing now.
Why then, despite being codified in the Constitution — the document that guides American life — is there so much disagreement?
As per the Madison Debates of July 1787, Gouverneur Morris warned that “He [the President] may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust, and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate in foreign pay, without being able to guard against it by displacing him”. Yet the infamous ‘high crimes and misdemeanours clause has plagued the modern day process as it has set a ambiguous bar for guilt.
It also has to be understood that impeachment is inherently a political process. One in which the Courts actively ruled they are not a part of. Trump’s impeachment has demonstrated that Gouverneur Morris’ unequivocal quote cannot be fairly reconciled in a modern day political environment.
But besides that, impeachment wasn’t meant to be a common occurrence. There was a time when is wasn’t, but in the last fifty years, impeachment inquiries have been brought forward three times. That is remarkable frequency. Simply put, impeachment, as it was intended, is no longer fit for purpose.
During Nixon’s impeachment, the first in modern times, it was described as a cancer on the presidency.
A cancer on the presidency. For a cancer to appear three times in fifty years is more than just bad luck. It is time we radically re-evaluate the purpose of impeachment.
If corruption is the illness, impeachment has so far meant to be the cure. Instead, we need to view impeachment as a act of proactive prevention, not just the cure and certainty not strictly as a punitive measure that itself becomes corrupted by partisanship.
This approach occurs throughout all other walks of life including the criminal justice and political systems.
For example, if an elected official has acted in an unfavourable way during their first term in office, the voters’ rational assumption is that the official will behave in exactly the same way should they be re-elected. Voters do not give the benefit of the doubt and wait for further action to confirm what they have already seen. They hold their officials to account based on prior knowledge and use the appropriate systems as defined in the Constitution. In other ways, they intervene and prevent.
Similarly, a jury has to make a decision based on the actions and intent of a perpetrator. Should a perpetrator be found guilty, the judge has to decide a suitable punishment that will prevent further law-breaking and prevent further harm to the public. Once a perpetrator is jailed, parole officers make a judgement on their suitability for release. If release is deemed unsuitable, the officer is preventing further crimes.
Prevention it is a pro-active, progressive, and inherently human response to dealing with wrong-doing. It is a crucial tenant of justice that modern impeachment proceedings have been entirely bereft of.
Once more, not only does this approach set an appropriate deterrent to future Presidents from both parties, it also provides Democrats with more short term political benefits.
Currently, it is incredibly unlikely Senate Republicans will vote to convict Donald Trump. Part of that reasoning stems from the idea this is some how a Democrat ‘witch hunt’, designed to damage Republicans electorally. If Democrats shift the language to that of reconciliation and use Trump’s impeachment as a tool to prevent future abuse of office then it is them offering out an olive branch that hitherto has not existed.
It is no coincidence that Trump called Zelensky two days after Robert Mueller first testified. After the testimony Trump felt there was nothing to prevent him behaving how we wished, so that’s exact what he did. He sought to bribe a foreign actor in return for a investigation into his likely political opponent and undermined American national security in the process.
If a civilian had sought to break the law and threatened the safety and security of themselves, their family, community, or fellow Americans, we wouldn’t sit around and wait for it to happen again. We would intervene and prevent.
We cannot sit and wait for Donald Trump to commit further acts of corruption, only to retrospectively punish him. The President has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt his willingness to abuse his office for personal gain and to the detriment of American security. We have to intervene and prevent.
Only that way will the office, and the Republican, be kept.
Some Republicans have said they are against impeachment because it is the death penalty. It isn’t. It’s preventing a heinous cancer seeping further into the internal mechanisms of the greatest office in the world. Impeachment is the only thing that can keep that office alive. Doing nothing becomes its death penalty.