This is a political rant. It’s not designed to be in defense of one candidate—though I am defending him in this specific instance. Rather, my larger concern is what has become of what was supposed to be a last resort, fail-safe feature when an Executive ran amok. Of course, I’m referring to impeachment.
Prior to Trump taking office, we had two actual impeachment trials in our nation’s history: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. For the record, I believe both of those were political witch hunts too. Since Eisenhower left office, Democrats have introduced Articles of Impeachment against every Republican POTUS except Gerald Ford. That’s Nixon (ok, well-deserved), Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr., and Trump. There is an obvious pattern here. This is a problematic pattern too. It has delegitimized the intent of that process.
When wolf is cried each and every time a person we don’t like comes into legitimate power (i.e., the Presidency), it becomes impossible to know when we should take that threat seriously. Perhaps, the Left truly is right in this instance. Perhaps, Trump is all of the things they’ve said he was all along. But the same things were said about duly elected Republicans for sixty years. After being called terrible adjectives for such a long time, it becomes nothing but white noise. There’s simply no way to know this time is real. You know, not like those other times we said it. We really mean it this time.
Or, I have to conclude that the good half of the country has, for sixty years, hated the bad half and grown up believing the bad half of the country really are irredeemable. I struggle with this conclusion because I have personal friends from the other side of the aisle (though that list grows smaller each day). And for the record, I may generally be conservative but I don’t vote along Party lines nor do I belong to the GOP. In my heart, I’m a Libertarian. A staunch supporter of individual rights above all things. This is why I get so concerned when I see the chasm growing wider across the country. I’m perfectly fine with me being a right-of-center Libertarian and you being whatever your political and moral compass guides you to be. I’m concerned when your moral compass tells you that I’m some enemy because I don’t agree with your every word.
Circling back to impeachment, what are we to make of a process that is so rushed that it cannot be completed before the sitting President leaves office in six days? How are we supposed to take the next impeachment hearing seriously when this is what it has devolved into? And there are already calls to pre-impeach both the incoming President and Vice President. Where does this madness end?
One of the things that stands out to me is the notion that Trump’s speech on January 6th SPECIFICALLY incited his supporters to storm the Capitol.
Hear me out, for this to be true—which it’s not—it would require that the actual text of the speech was MATERIALLY different from the 600 other rallies he’s given over the last five years. We know this because the Article of Impeachment SPECIFICALLY references the speech on January 6th. It also references a phone call with the Georgia AG on January 2nd, where Trump allegedly threatened Raffensperger. We know about the phone call only because the AG released the audio of the call to WaPo, which compelled Trump to release his own recording of the conversation.
There are two significant problems with this premise for an Article of Impeachment.
1. The accusers would need to demonstrate that Trump’s speech on January 6th was MATERIALLY different from the sort of language he used in 600 previous rallies where no such violence occurred.
2. The accusers would need to demonstrate that Trump’s phone call on January 2nd was SUBSTANTIVELY related to the language of the speech referenced for January 6th.
Failure to deliver on either of these claims would void the validity of the alleged evidence, as presented. Furthermore, proving the main claim (point one) would require an audit of all of the transcripts of the 600 rallies to show the speech on January 6th was MATERIALLY and SUBSTANTIVELY different in both its actual language and in the implied messaging.
There are 600 data points where Trump’s rallies did not end with his supporters storming any building, public or private. There is one single data point in contention to the contrary. Proving this seems insurmountable, unless—of course—we don’t apply reasonable standards expected of judicial objectivity and, instead, turn this into a political CYA for Congress.
Regardless of the rhetoric Trump used in his 600 rallies, his supporters were able to see those speeches as political rhetoric and act in a way that demonstrated reasonable behavior as they dispersed following the rallies. Any violence that may have occurred after any such rally would have been the result of direct contact with counter-protestors. Those would have to be adjudicated at the jurisdictional level where the alleged violence occurred, and they would be held to the standard of a what a ‘reasonable person’ would do when confronted with such an interaction. Those interactions would have no connection to having attended the Trump rally after the crowd dispersed anymore than attending a Megadeth (or fill in your favorite “detested violent music” genre) concert compels a ‘reasonable person’ to go around smashing or breaking property after attending a concert.
At best, the claims cited for the single Article of Impeachment are specious. For the record, I’ve attended a Megadeth concert when my friend won free tickets. Wasn’t my jam. Didn’t break anything afterwards. We got in our car and drove home. Just like a ‘reasonable person’ would do.
The January 6th rally was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. The Los Angeles Times reported that anywhere between 3,000 and 20,000 persons may have participated in the insurrection. This would suggest that anywhere between 0.6% – 4% of the actual crowd participants (based on an estimate of 500,000 rally supporters) took Trump’s words to mean they were expected to storm the Capitol.
I am not here to defend anyone who breached the Capitol. I thought it was poor judgment for the time and place to act in such a way. I condemned it that day on this very blog. Having said that, any speech that incited such a small percentage of persons to abandon the bounds of what a ‘reasonable person’ would do directly implies the speech, itself, was no call to arms.
The transcript of the Article of Impeachment can be found on the NYT website. The reference to the numbers reported on how many rally goers participated in the insurrection can be found on LAT website.
It’s clear that this rushed impeachment is nothing more than political theater intended to silence not only the sitting President, but his followers through fear that exercising their First Amendment Rights for peaceful assembly and protest of the government will be met with swift and punitive measures. We saw the FBI say as much in their news conference today.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to return to an America where we can disagree and not worry that it will result in being hunted down. I’d like to return to having a variety of opinions weigh in on an issue so we can address our needs with the best possible chance for success rather than having to parrot Team Red or Team Blue’s messaging. I’d like to think we can solve these problems, but maybe I’m wrong. You may think this country is deeply divided because of one dangerous man. I think this country is deeply divided because we started down a dangerous path sixty years ago. As always, this has been the World According to Chris.