Elections have consequences. Republicans lost the House of Representatives in 2018. Before that, our federal government was firmly in the hands of the GOP, and impeachment was just an MSNBC trash talking point. Now, Democrats completely control the process, and the Senate can only stand by and wait. They are bound by the Constitution to either dismiss or take up the charges, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not fooling around with dismissal.
Imagine if America had the kind of small-“d” democracy that I hear progressives screaming for these days. They scream because Hillary Clinton was such a terrible candidate that she lost entire counties that voted plus double-digits for Obama to Donald Trump. Two million bicoastal voters in California and New York could not overcome the 70,000-odd voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan who handed the federal government over to the Republicans, and to Trump.
Direct democracy–where the people vote on their leaders directly–is like breathing too much oxygen. You can do it for a while, but then it becomes toxic, and it kills you. Democracy, like oxygen, must be diluted for it to be healthy and effective. Oxygen is a corrosive gas, it’s powerful enough to fuel rockets. Democracy is also corrosive, because it gives the people what they want, immediately, instead of giving them what they need.
The kind of Democracy America has, representative small-“d” republican democracy, is the kind that works. The House of Representatives, in the hands of Democrats, will finally vote on a formal impeachment inquiry, which is something the White House and its allies in Congress have insisted on.
Rules Chairman Jim McGovern announced Monday that his committee will mark up a resolution Wednesday that would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward” as the House gets ready to begin the public portion of its inquiry. The Massachusetts Democrat plans to introduce the resolution Tuesday.Democrats control narrative in impeachment inquiry, The Hill, October 29, 2019
Once the formal rules kick in, there may be some greater due process given to the president and witnesses subpoenaed as the Democrats make their case. But in the end, impeachment is a political process. The Democrats in the House will take their vote on articles of impeachment when they want to vote, and not until they want to vote.
They can, in fact, stretch the hearings out well into 2020 and the primary season, if they wish–if things aren’t going the way they want. Or they can do what they say they are planning–have it ready by Christmas. This is democracy in micro, playing out the macro. Democrats do not want Rep. Adam Schiff to be the face of their serious impeachment efforts because Schiff is running a show (the “Schiff show” is an appropriate moniker).
Now that Democrats will hand off the inquiry to a more formal phase, with new, serious faces, House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy got cold feet on his call for a formal vote, calling it a “sham impeachment.”
McCarthy doesn’t need to legitimize the impeachment inquiry. This is democracy in action. It was legitimized by the voters in 2018, just like Trump’s presidency was legitimized by the voters in 2016–by the process of the Electoral College.
The same Democrats who rail against the Electoral College because it denied them a plurality, a direct democracy to give them what they want, will hail the democracy of the House of Representatives, where only 217 of 234 Democrats are needed to send the impeachment case to the Senate.
In the Senate, 100 Senators will act not as legislators, but as jurors. But instead of a unanimous sentence, only two-thirds are required to end Trump’s term. Democrats have 45 seats, plus 2 independent. They need to convince 19 Republicans, some of whom are retiring after 2020.
(As an aside, I can see how Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp could be the deciding vote on conviction, depending on who he picks to complete Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. It could be that close.)
A presidency won by 70,000-odd voters, when 2 million voted the other way, could be ended by a handful of Congressional elections in 2018, and one retiring Senator. That’s how American Democracy is supposed to work.
The other democracy, where the voters get whatever they want, because the majority voted for it–that’s for the birds. It always leads to tyranny, because the people will vote themselves into bloodshed. Our founders were very smart (yes, white, land-owner, colonial, some slave-owning, deal with it) men.
Elections have consequences, but aren’t you glad our founders hated democracy as much as I do?