Let’s stop talking about impeaching President Trump. It’s not going to happen with a Republican Congress and we shouldn’t want it to happen in the first place, or else we risk dismantling the democratic foundations this country was built upon.
The Constitution isn’t always clear; debate about how exactly we interpret “unreasonable” or “due process of the law” continues to this day. Luckily, the section on presidential impeachment is relatively straightforward: the president may be removed from office for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” There’s room for interpretation, but it’s a high standard.
Donald Trump is a very, very bad president. His policies appeal to the worst aspects of America, twisting the American dream into something dark and selfish. His attempts to repeal Obamacare and enact his bigoted travel ban are just two examples of his toxic domestic agenda. In foreign policy, the president is even more inept; other world leaders don’t bother to disguise their contempt for his heedless and belligerent policies on everything from climate change to North Korea. Trump governs in the same way that he campaigned: loudly, brashly and with ignorance.
Still, while I and many others strongly disagree with his policies, there is no hard evidence that Trump has committed any crimes to warrant impeachment. At least not yet.
Clearly, Russia interfered in the 2016 election and certain members of his campaign — including his own son — were grateful for the help. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating the questions raised by the interference, and by all accounts, he is doing it with dignity and efficiency. The moment that someone does find proof of active collusion, he should and will be impeached. But despite his efforts and those of others, so far nothing has implicated the president. Without proof of any criminal behavior, the constitutional basis for impeachment simply hasn’t been met.
There is a real problem in advocating for groundless impeachment. Allowing impeachment to become a partisan rallying cry is a dangerous precedent. Presidents require the freedom to be unpopular, and the freedom to do things that a majority of Congress disagrees with. If we allow impeachment to become another tool of in-fighting on Washington, it will add to the stifling dysfunction of our government. For better or worse, someone needs to have the authority to run the country, and President Trump was elected to be that authority.
Some argue that President Trump is so bad for this country that bending the rules to impeach him would be worth it. After all, if we end up in a nuclear war with North Korea it won’t matter how strictly we followed the Constitution — people will be dead. The steady repeal of environmental regulations by his administration will have a lasting effect on our ability to fight climate change. He wants to build a wall on the Mexican border, after all. Perhaps we simply can’t afford to let him finish out his term.
However, that’s a short-sighted view. America has survived bad presidents before. The way the courts have stymied Trump’s executive orders and Congress’s refusal to repeal Obamacare show that the cumbersome checks and balances baked into our government work. Jeff Sessions’ refusal to interfere in the selection of Mueller or his investigation is a testament to the limits of presidential authority.
And if Trump does truly prove himself physically or mentally unfit for office, his cabinet and Vice President Pence can remove him from office by submitting a written declaration to the Speaker of the House and President pro tempore of the Senate — as written in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. Impeachment just isn’t the right tool for the job.
Trump is also limited by the realities of the patchwork political system. Domestically, any Republican president would be repealing the same regulations and issuing similar mandates. He has been ineffective at implementing most of the radical policies on which he campaigned, much like his predecessors. Bush’s promise of social security reforms and Obama’s commitment to close Guantanamo are a few of the more recent failures. The risk of Donald J. Trump ruining America is low.
If we were to depose, or even seriously consider deposing, a democratically elected leader just because we disagreed with them, it would be tacit confirmation to many Americans that our system is just as corrupt as politicians like Trump says it is. Democracy only works if people believe in it; once someone bends the rules, everyone feels entitled to do the same. Of course, that applies to more than just Trump. President Clinton deserved to be impeached. He committed a felony — perjury — by lying under oath. There were extenuating circumstances, but that doesn’t change the law and the president must be held accountable to the law.
Clearly, no matter what you or I do, impeachment will remain a very political process. But we can prevent our representatives in Congress from justifying wholly partisan acts made under the pretense that the people demanded it. The historical comparison between America and Rome is overused, but in this case, it is particularly apt. The seeds of the Roman Republic’s demise were planted when senators dared to violate the tradition of government that had lasted for hundreds of years. Let’s not make the same mistake. The Constitution is clear. However much we might dislike President Trump, we’re stuck with him.
Milo Goodell is a sophomore Politics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.