HORIST: Will impeachment lead us to a parliamentary system?
One of the great advantages of our republican form of government is that we avoid a lot of the political chaos that inflicts many other nations – especially those with parliamentary forms of government. For more than 200 years we have generally operated with fixed terms of office.
We peacefully transition government leadership through free elections. Our domestic tranquility was founded on the acceptance of election outcomes. Elections to even our most powerful office – President of the United States – have been accepted even when the outcome has led to a dramatic shift in national policies – and even when the popular vote failed to produce the winner.
Many democracies operate on a parliamentary system in which elections can be required over and over again. We have seen Israel heading into yet a third election to settle the issue of which party will govern – and who will serve as head-of-state. In just a matter of months, Great Britain had to conduct two elections for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party to gain a clear victory – and even at that, future “no confidence” votes by Parliament can force another election. A generation or so ago, Italy was famous for a quick succession of elections and prime ministers.
The increasingly frequent – and lower standards – of impeachment in America is threatening the very stability of our national government. In 184 years since the founding of our Republic to 1973 only one President was impeached by the House of Representatives – and he was acquitted by a single vote.
In the 47 years since 1974 – less than the span of my adult lifetime — three Presidents have been submitted to impeachment. President Nixon avoided the impeachment by the Democrat-controlled House and subsequent Senate trial by resigning after the House Judiciary Committee voted Articles of Impeachment. He most certainly would have been impeached by the House. He was accused of criminally covering up a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Whether he would have been convicted by the Senate is an unknown.
Regardless, the impeachment process drove Nixon out of office shortly after his Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign due to corruption charges and Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford was confirmed as the new Vice President – soon to succeed Nixon. Had it not been for the recently enacted 25th Amendment enabling a President to fill a vacancy in the vice presidency, the Democrat Speaker of the House would have become President. That would have turned over the Oval Office to the party that was defeated in 1972.
The next impeachment of a President occurred only 26 years later when, in 1999, President Clinton was impeached by a Republican House. Like Nixon, Clinton was accused of a real crime – perjury. He had lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky to a Grand Jury. But unlike Nixon, Clinton’s actions and crime were of a personal nature – not directly associated with his office. That is largely the reason he was acquitted by the Senate.
Now we have the impeachment of President Trump – just 21 years after the Clinton impeachment. Unlike Nixon and Clinton, there has been no allegation of a crime by judicial standards. It is arguable that the charge contained in the Article of Impeachment is highly subjective and political in nature. Not a single witness testified to absolute knowledge that Trump encouraged the investigation of the Bidens FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE of gaining leverage in the 2020 election. Without that confirmation, it is just as likely – maybe even more likely – that Trump’s request was due to the involvement of Hunter Biden with a corrupt company in Ukraine. If that is the case, then the entire impeachment has been politically based on trumped-up charges – no pun intended.
Without getting into a debate on the Trump impeachment – that is already in full force – it is irrefutable that impeachments are happening sooner and sooner – and that the nature of the “crime” is diminishing.
From the edges of the political forum, there are also calls for the impeachment and removal of Vice President Pence. That would result in the ascension of Pelosi to the presidency. While that is extremely unlikely the fact that it is been proposed reveals the political nature of the impeachment proponents. They seek to take over the White House despite the vote of the people.
Contrary to the wishes of our Founders, impeachment is being weaponized as a partisan tool. Even in cases in which removal from office is virtually impossible, impeachments continue because they are used to weaken opponents and opposition parties in elections. That is exactly what the Founders prayed would never happen.
This can lead the United States into a quasi-parliamentary system that will undermine the entire concept of “terms of office.” Future Presidents may well be judged on policies and personalities.
The Trump impeachment is an outlier because it was hatched right after he was elected. It has been a political impeachment looking for a reason.
Should this trend continue, the meaning of our elections and the stability of our federal government will be compromised. It will refute the saying that “elections have consequences.”
So, there ‘tis.