“Never let yourself be persuaded that any one great man, any one leader, is necessary to the salvation of America. When America consists of one leader and 158 million followers, it will no longer be America.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
From a political standpoint, this has not been a good week for the United States. On Wednesday, the 18th, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump. Trump now holds the dubious distinction of being only the third Chief Executive to be recommended for removal from office. As much as I personally despise our Russian-elected president, I’d rather see him voted out of office next November than be forcibly removed. It would be the single strongest message to Trump and his band of right-wing sycophants that their extremist ideology is of no use to the American populace.
But the impeachment process hints at a failure in our national leadership and puts the institution of voting into question. As the oldest continually-functioning democracy in the world, the U.S. has always been a beacon of freedom; our constitution an enviable guide to how a nation should operate. Our right to vote is a core element of our very national existence. It’s the heart of our democratic soul. The president of the United States is often deemed the leader of the Free World. That other elected officials would seek to oust him from that pinnacle slashes at our democratic heart.
I’m old enough to remember Watergate. Even people who considered themselves staunch conservatives had to concede that President Richard Nixon was as crooked and devious as his detractors made him out to be. On the night Nixon announced his resignation, millions of Americans tuned into the live broadcast. Afterwards there was no sense of real jubilation. As the nation inched closer to its bicentennial, most people – including my parents – felt sad. When Nixon left the White House, the transition of the office occurred at the tip of a pen, instead of the barrel of a gun. After all, we didn’t live in a third-world society. No tanks, no bombs and no bloodshed. Still, Americans asked, how did we get to this point?
I definitely recall the Clinton impeachment fiasco. My brain and body became flush with anger at the self-righteousness of the Republicans Party. They had done everything to undermine Bill Clinton’s presidency – even before he won the Democratic Party’s formal nomination. And they failed. Their bloodthirsty overreach extended shamelessly to the president’s secretary and the mother of the woman who kept that infamous blue dress. They paid the price for their arrogance in the November 1998 midterm elections. They lost their super-majority in both houses of Congress. Conversely, the Democrats gained seats; the first time the same party as the president attained positions in the House and the Senate in a midterm election since 1942.
And now, here we are – for the second time some twenty years – at the threshold of usurping the leader of the Free World. How did we get to this point? As I wrote in an essay two years ago, impeachment should not be taken lightly. Neither politicians nor average citizens should become obsessed with it. A sanguineous mindset traumatizes the national soul.
With the term “impeached” now added to the title of President, Donald Trump’s place in political history has been secured – unpleasantly and distastefully carved into the American psyche. He cannot escape it. Deny it, yes, as his narcissistic persona is already doing. But – like the sky – it’s ubiquitous and unmalleable.
How painful for this nation.