Trump’s impeachment is a tribute to the robustness of American democratic institutions

| Updated on December 19, 2019 Published on December 19, 2019

US President Donald Trump (file photo)   -  REUTERS

Trump has put pressure on every department and wing of government in a way that has, almost certainly, never happened before.

Irrespective of President Donald Trump’s ultimate fate, it’s clear we’ve just witnessed a moment in history. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has charged the president with one count of abuse of power and another count of obstructing Congress. The final vote was along party lines and the Republicans stayed solidly behind Trump. Now the matter moves to the Senate where the Republicans hold a majority. Republican House Leader Mitch McConnell is a wily tactician and is looking for a quick-fire one-week Senate trial with no witnesses called that minimises damage to Trump and the GOP. Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi hopes to ensure this doesn’t happen and drags on long enough to hurt Trump’s re-election prospects. Both sides know chances of actually removing Trump from office are low because such an action would need a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Still, Trump will have to live with the infamous legacy of being one of only three US commanders-in-chief to have ever been impeached.

The Republicans are looking to paint the Democrat-driven impeachment proceedings as the vindictive act of a party which has never accepted that Trump was the surprise winner in 2016. The Democrats, on the other hand, are hoping to discredit Trump sufficiently so that swing voters turn against him conclusively. Trump, who’s unbowed, has claimed that the “lawless partisan impeachment is a political suicide march for the Democrat party” and has, if it’s possible, escalated his level of vitriol against his critics. Both parties know they’re in a high-wire balancing act. The opinion polls report that, for now, the impeachment proceedings have had no impact on Trump’s support. Trump’s personal ratings are absolutely unchanged, though a Fox News poll Sunday showed a majority of registered voters favouring impeachment. Under the circumstances, it might be smart for the Democrats to get the entire impeachment circus out of the way before the real election action commences.

Trump, a billionaire businessman who has run a large one-man real estate business, basically cannot understand a process under which his decisions and actions can be questioned by the legislature. But it’s a tribute to the American system that, despite all the pressure on it, it is holding fast to the rule of law and the checks and balances that are designed to rein in an over-powerful executive. Trump has put pressure on every department and wing of government in a way that has, almost certainly, never happened before. But, while they have bent, they have not broken. The contrast with our institutions, many of which appear to be in terminal decline, is striking. Indians should watch the impeachment proceedings to see how the rule of law must stand supreme above all else.

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Published on December 19, 2019
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