Notes On Impeachment

Image courtesy of WikiMedia Commons under a CC-by-SA 2.0 license.

I’ve actively been trying to avoid the news on this, but it’s been inescapable. There’s a lot of spin going on. Most of the media coverage is spent making the process seem more dramatic than it really is. Here’s some stuff to keep in mind as you’re told your [favorite/least favorite] President is going to be forced out of office.

Why this is happening.
Generally, impeachment is a political process here in the States (more information here). Without getting bogged down by details and legalese (you can read the linked Wikipedia article for that), this means the House votes on impeachment by a simple majority of whoever’s there that day. As long as the House can do business, it can impeach someone if the majority wants to. The people doing it are elected politicians. And since there’s a record of who voted for what, it means there are political consequences.

Specific to Trump, the House is looking into whether Trump abused the office of the President. House Democrats are taking the position that he did, while House Republicans are taking a contrary position. Think of it like a grand jury. It’s not a trial. Instead, it’s a bunch of people trying to say something important happened or didn’t happen.

Why the hearings are so public.
Because it’s a political process, every Representative needs something to tell voters. Voters need to see what’s going on. When everyone votes in a year, they’re going to play whatever soundbites they get from all this coverage. As you’ve probably guessed already, Republicans want a reason to vote against impeachment. Democrats want a reason to vote for it. If voters think the reasons are bullshit, you can expect them to vote for an opposing candidate.

What happens if the House impeaches.
Since it’s easy to approve Articles of Impeachment, the Democrats hold a majority in the House, and none of them like Trump very much, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that the House impeaches. If that happens, the Senate gets to have its own little circus. The Chief Justice gets to hang out in the Senate and be a real judge. Senators get to be the world’s loudest and most obnoxious jurors. They all get to sit and decide whether the President gets removed from office.

But it takes 2/3 of them to do it.

Right now, it’s not likely that the Senate would convict. There are more Republicans than Democrats in the Senate. Also, there’s not enough evidence to sway GOP Senators to convict Trump. Remember: Senators have to care about voter perception, not the actual charges themselves.

Bottom line, impeachment is an unpopularity contest.
There are no matters of principle here. It’s a case of someone saying Trump did something so bad he can’t be President anymore. Most people have already made up their mind about it. There’s enough testimony to justify anyone’s position on the matter. The only thing that matters is perception.

So if you’re cynical like me, you can sit back, relax, and actively ignore the whole thing. It’s basically our response to Brexit. Yeah, something big could happen, but after November 2020 it won’t matter.