Impeachment justified in midst of nationwide partisanship

Connor Wielgos, Opinion Editor

It was presumably a quiet night in New York on June 6, 2014, when then-businessman Donald Trump rhetorically tweeted “Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?” Back then, Trump was viewed as nothing more than a game show host who was a staunch critic of the Obama Administration, going as far as suggesting that the then-president wasn’t born in the United States. 

But, if one were to turn on a TV that year, they would see the future of America sitting in a boardroom on ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’. Trump sat in the center of a dim table that Americans would eventually decide looked enough like the Roosevelt Room to qualify him for the presidency. Trump made it into the White House campaigning as an outsider that would weed out corruption and “drain the swamp,” only shortly after wrapping production of season 14 of his show.

Across the world in Ukraine, a similar campaign happened when comedian Volodymyr Zelensky starred as a history teacher-turned-president in the show ‘Servant of the People’. A few years later, Zelensky was actually elected president of Ukraine, arguing that he would be the one to end the rampant post-Soviet corruption. Eventually, he fulfilled his fictional prophecy in reality. 

The two eerily similar figures crossed paths in a July 2019 phone call, in which President Trump called to congratulate Zelensky on his recent electoral victory. However, the topic soon changed to former Vice President Joe Biden.

“President Trump had allegedly requested that Ukraine look into the business dealings of presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was employed by a company in Ukraine,” social science Matthew Myers said. “The allegation is that the request was made in return for hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine.”

A whistleblower inside the White House legally reported the incident, thinking that it was an “urgent concern” that the president withheld this money and made the request to investigate Biden, according to a declassified whistleblower complaint. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi began an impeachment inquiry shortly after, allowing Democrats to parade several White House diplomats with a specialization of Eastern Europe to testify about the irregularity of the request. Destined to find an answer to Trump’s five-year-old question, Pelosi aimed to see just how incompetent and criminal this action was.

“Impeachment would begin in the House, and even if they vote to impeach it doesn’t mean he’ll be convicted in the Senate,” social science teacher Mary Ryan said. “Impeachment is looking at whether the office of the President was abused.”

A moderate argument against impeachment is that the presidency is an office that deserves to have certain freedoms. Presidents routinely do and say things behind the scenes that you couldn’t envision them saying during their quadrennial Hall of Presidents speech. Such secretive activity could include investigating a former Vice President.

“Personally, I don’t think [Trump] made a wise choice, but I could say I understand why he was doing that,” junior Mia Elsadek said. “I understand he may be suspicious of Joe Biden and his son.”

Partisanship has taken over Washington, and the impeachment inquiry could be seen as the most notable symptom to come from these divisions. Republicans in Congress have attempted to downplay the service of career diplomats and Purple Heart recipients, as Democrats remain dedicated in their quest to convince the court of public opinion that impeachment is a just cause.

“If our president’s impeached, I’m sure it’ll cause more problems,” Elsadek said. “Our country is not going through progress because people are focusing on accusing each other of things.”

However, it’s clear that Trump’s actions were taken solely to help his re-election campaign, and not national security. One doesn’t have to make a particularly large mental leap to conclude that what Trump did was both wrong and impeachable.

Trump will likely become the third president to be impeached in American history, only because the Democratic Party has a majority in the House of Representatives. However, he will likely avoid conviction and removal from office in the Senate, simply because the Republican Party has a majority there. Whether or not a crime was actually committed is seemingly irrelevant to Congress, whose primary goal is to win re-election.

There have been times in history that are similar to where we are now, such as the Watergate scandal. During the Johnson and Clinton admistrations, we’ve seen impeachment as a bitter process that should be used sparingly. President Trump. Despite the crippling effects of impeachment, Trump’s efforts to taint the 2020 presidential eleciton have justified its use.

“It would be an abuse of power to withhold in order to gain something for domestic political gain,” Ryan said. “Usually when dealing with foreign dignitaries, it’s been a general rule of thumb for presidents to not bring domestic politics with them.”

Our vision can’t be limited to 2020, however. This impeachment process should be used to set a precedent for future presidents, to show that any efforts to undermine politicial opponents can result in impeachment, as it nearly did after Watergate.

It’s disconcerting to see many Americans abandon their values for contemporary political figures. The attempted exploitation of a foreign ally by an American president to influence a domestic election would’ve horrified the Founding Fathers.

 At best, this period of American history will baffle political scientists and psychologists alike. Decades from now, they’ll wonder about the campaigns that shaped a country, about where they came from and where it left us. They’ll also likely see that this was all started by different perceptions of normalcy, and how we collectively failed to find it.

“I think we’re at one of the most polarized moments in American history,” Myers said. “With the rhetoric of both sides at this point, it’s difficult to see how we work ourselves out of where we’re at.”