Recent tallies show many Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, including three of Oregon's delegation, support impeachment of Donald Trump. But this action is wrong for presidential critics — and a severe political blunder for Democrats. Here are the unintended consequences:
In our country's first 100 years, Congress acted only once to impeach a president: Andrew Johnson.
In the second 100 years, Congress acted only once to impeach a president: Richard Nixon.
In each instance, members of the president's own party acted against him. (In 1864, Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln and most of Congress belonged to the short-lived National Union Party.)
Thus, for 200 years, impeachment was a once-a-century phenomenon reflecting bipartisan consensus regarding presidential unfitness.
But 1998 changed everything. After House Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton, each succeeding Congress demanded impeachment of every president of the opposing party: Democrats for that of George W. Bush; Republicans for Barak Obama; and now Democrats for Donald Trump.
Perpetuating this tradition creates a lifetime of chaos.
First, all future presidents will require a crack team of anti-impeachment attorneys for their entire term.
Second, the administrations of all future presidents, bad or good, will be crippled, if not paralyzed, by impeachment proceedings.
Third, no presidential election will ever be final.
It gets worse. The 63 million Trump voters are our neighbors: Trump received 780,000 votes in Oregon, 200,000 in the tricounty area, and 65,000 in Portland. Hillary Clinton won only eight of Oregon's 36 counties. A parachutist in Oregon has an 83% chance of landing in a Trump precinct. In acres, Oregon is Trump territory.
Why did so many vote for him? Some wanted anti-abortion Supreme Court judges. Some wanted a business-friendly president. Some were conventional Republicans unwilling to vote for Hillary Clinton.
But perhaps 30 million Americans voted in flat-out rage. These anguished voters felt actively ignored by a disdainful elite. This vision, right or wrong, is real to Trump's base.
And when voters go to the polls, fury triumphs. People don't vote their financial self-interest — they vote their emotional self-interest. What kind of life makes Donald Trump the best expression of emotional self-interest? Now imagine 30 million such lives.
Charles M. Blow attributed Trump's bond with his base to his unexpected persona as folk hero: "Behavior that people would never condone in their personal lives, they relish in the folk hero." Frantic attempts by Democrats to prematurely eradicate Trump's presidency by impeachment simply confirm this legitimacy to infuriated supporters.
If congressional Democrats, the very people Trump voters consider the disdainful elite, vote for impeachment, they send this enraged population a toxic message: "You can elect whomever you want. But we're still in charge, and you still don't count."
Impeachment confirms Trump's provocative campaign salvo to his base: "They tried to erase your vote."
Impeachment feeds rage and promotes discord.
This disenfranchisement of millions of Americans calls for understanding, not contempt. Instead of impeachment, Democrats should look beyond the enraged man in the White House and instead honor — and respect — the pain of the enraged voters who put him there.
Samuel Metz is a retired physician and registered Democrat.
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