Most Democrats overwhelmingly believe that the House of Representatives should impeach President Trump. Some have believed it from the beginning of his term and many more joined in that view as more information was unearthed about Russian involvement in the 2016 election and evidence of coordination with the Trump campaign; followed by stonewalling and coverups. The calls to impeach the president among Democrats have grown exponentially as two whistleblowers have detailed how the president asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, during the same conversation when the two were discussing American support for Ukraine from Russian aggression. President Trump admitted the existence of the conversations only after a summary (not a real transcript) of the conversation was released. Not surprisingly, Democratic members of Congress for the most part have followed the lead of their constituents and a majority of the Democratic caucus now favor impeaching the president.
However, most Republican voters and consequently the Members of Congress who represent them overwhelmingly oppose impeachment. Independent voters who often sway elections in close, so called purple districts are pretty much evenly split on this important question.
The ardent defense of the president by Congressional Republicans in the impeachment debate is in marked contrast to their reaction to the wrong-headed decision by the president to abandon the Kurds in Syria. The difference in reaction by our representatives in Washington demonstrates that it is unlikely that any significant number of Republicans in either the House or Senate will vote against the president in the impeachment process. Too many Republican members of Congress justifiably fear a primary challenge if they allow the president to be removed from office.
In 2019, there is no Barry Goldwater or Hugh Scott among Senate Republicans who will tell Trump he has lost their support as these gentlemen and others told Richard Nixon during Watergate. Additionally, unlike Nixon, Trump is not a student of history and has no respect for the most basic of norms which have typically been observed by all prior presidents, even in times of greatest national division and dissent. Nixon resigned; LBJ did not seek re-election. Donald Trump came to DC without the respect for the institutions shared by both Johnson and Nixon and as a result he would never resign and quite to the contrary has said he enjoys the anticipated fight of impeachment.
It is very likely that even if Donald Trump is impeached by an overwhelming majority of Democrats in the House he will be acquitted by an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the Senate. I am not saying I am pleased about the likelihood of this result, just that it is the most probable scenario. The question remains whether such a result is in the best interests of the nation. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that a Democratic party led impeachment in the House followed by a Republican led acquittal in the Senate will not only be contrary to the national interest in the long term, but will continue to further divide Congress and our nation in the immediate future.
Nonetheless, it is clear that the president, especially after his admissions of the content of his conversation with the president of Ukraine and his request that China investigate the Bidens, should be held accountable for his actions. No American president of either party should turn to another nation; either friend or foe and ask them for a political “favor” for which they would later be beholden.
For the sake of the nation and its future, we should hope that the leaders of Congress could in a bi-partisan way, agree to censure the president after undertaking a full investigation of his actions during the 2016 election, with the Ukraine discussions and in any other ways Mr. Trump violated his oath to uphold the Constitution.
Although a censure will not satisfy the majority of Democrats or their representatives who sincerely believe this president has committed “high crimes or misdemeanors”, it will provide another vehicle for fair minded Republicans to admonish the president and make it clear that his actions have been inconsistent with the oath he took and the high ideals we rightly expect from the individual who holds that lofty position. An alternative of censure versus impeachment, may allow ten, twenty perhaps even thirty percent of the Republican members of the House and the Senate to join with their Democratic colleagues in a vote which instead of further dividing the country can begin the healing process which we so clearly need.
For those who may say that such bi-partisanship is not likely on this issue with such a divided Congress, I ask, “what do we have to lose?” A censure vote in purple districts or states will allow Republican members of the House and Senate a way to express their displeasure without fully engaging Trump’s base against them. If they fail to join this most mild of rebukes of the president then they will get what they deserve at the ballot box. If, however, they show a modicum of independence they may be rewarded by an electorate worn down by the hyper-partisanship of 24-hour cable television. Similarly, Democrats who lay out the evidence which would justify impeachment can make their case just as strongly in favor of censure while at the same time acknowledging the near impossibility of obtaining a conviction in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.
A less partisan and overwhelming vote of censure after a fair and deliberative process in both the House and the Senate, where all evidence of Trump’s transgressions will be made clear, will have another very important advantage for the nation. A bi-partisan censure will not allow Trump to be cast as a either victim or a victor as he will do after an acquittal in the Senate. Instead such a vote will set the stage for the 2020 election and provide the electorate with the ultimate decision on whether Donald Trump should be removed from office.
Lou Magazzu was a Freeholder in Cumberland County NJ from 1998-2011 and the longest serving Freeholder in that county in the last 50 years. He also served as Freeholder Director as well as County Democratic Chairman. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counties, was the Chairman of the National Democratic County Officials as well as President of the New Jersey Association of Counties. He can be reached at Lmagazzu@aol.com.