I was taking a break from putting away Christmas decorations when I picked up David Leonhardt’s OpEd in the New York Times, “The People vs. Donald J. Trump.” The columnist comprehensively lays out the case for beginning impeachment proceedings of the President now. The article is not a partisan rant or hysterical doomsday fantasy. Rather, it is a thoughtful, comprehensive piece; and whatever your views on the subject, I commend the article to you. Leonhardt avoids policy considerations (a wholly different issue, for which there may also be grounds for impeachment), and focuses on character and how the President’s continued deportment is more damaging to the country than would be the distraction caused by an impeachment process.
As the new Congress begins its work, whether or not to advocate for impeachment is a contentious topic among Democrats. Leonhardt’s article does not minimize the societal disruption that impeachment would cause, nor does he fall into the trap of trivializing the tool set out by the founders as a final peaceful guardrail against tyranny. Rather, he weighs the costs of impeachment against the potential damage of remaining silent on this issue, given the unpredictable, volatile and often vengeful practices of the current President. As Leonhardt says, Trump is “demonstrably unfit for office. What are we waiting for?” Delaying action until voters make a decision at the ballot box in 2020 would essentially give the President a pass for his current behavior. What would be the long-term impact of such a pass?
The article prompted me to recognize that, whatever happens on the national or global stage in the coming two years, this issue is one about which every American needs to consider and develop an informed opinion. It is inconceivable that this will not be a topic of conversation—in the halls of Congress, in classrooms and board rooms, around dinner tables—into the foreseeable future. Ducking the issue, it seems to me, is irresponsible citizenship. Knowing where you stand is an important means of addressing what will likely be the most significant political question of a generation.
There are two aspects to this question: the first involves President Trump’s fitness for office and the potential price that his remaining in office through January, 2021 may have on our country. Each of us must ask ourselves the key question: is the man fit to serve in the office he holds. Since he was duly elected, answering this question is no trivial matter, and demands cautious and thorough consideration.
The second part of the question is strategic: is it better to wait and let Robert Mueller’s investigation conclude and then decide? Or is it more important to be an advocate for impeachment now, believing that enough evidence already exists to begin this process and that waiting exposes the nation to chaotic governance in an uncertain future? (There may be a third option; I would welcome your thoughts on that as well.)
So, my challenge in this post is to be prepared: do some research, talk to trusted friends, make a chart of pros and cons, form a cohesive position and then be an advocate for that opinion. It is important that we not shy away from this difficult topic, but rather engage in courageous conversations, listening actively to one another and then be prepared to defend our position before any legislative action takes place.
Informed opinions in the marketplace of ideas can add deeper insight and new understanding to the conversations that will take place in the coming months among families, colleagues, legislators and friends. Engaged dialogue can both tamp down the noise that is so rampant in the media and help break the silence that so often happens among families and friends as people say, “we just agree not to talk about such things.” Thoughtful, respectful, caring conversations are just what we need. But first, each of us must figure out where we stand.