Saving the Republic  

Saving the Republic  


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


Events surrounding the impeachment trial this week in Washington ought to raise very serious questions concerning the fate of the United States as a Republic. Beyond the details and fine arguments underlying both sides of the impeachment controversy there is the fundamental question about the viability of America’s political institutions as created by the Founding Fathers in 1787. Impeachment as the Founding Fathers understood was developed in English Common law, is a essentially a political decision and not a legal one. The entire surreal scene transpiring on the floor of the U.S. Senate, nevertheless, is unlike any other similar impeachment deliberations, presidential or not. This is not a trial or a genuine presentation of the issues which will be seriously and openly debated; rather, so far, it is a presentation of the positions on both sides neither of which want to engage in an actual deliberation.  Admittedly, there will still be a period of questions and then some critical votes on whether to request additional material and hear more witnesses, but at this juncture the expectation is that the Senate will not vote to remove Trump from office.

Scholarly observers are very concerned about the nature or lack of any serious consideration by most of the Senators—especially Republicans—of the consequence of their rushing the impeachment process through in order to complete it before the Super Bowl, the Iowa Caucus, and the State of the Union Address. The outcome following a careful review of additional material will still likely to be the same, since 67 votes are needed to remove the President; but the credibility and integrity of the process will be elevated. By speeding up this procedure, Congress is succumbing to the President’s political whims. Donald Trump does not consider history and law important. For him it is all about politics and winning; what happens after his tenure and how it will affect future Presidents is irrelevant.

On the political level—leaving totally aside the unlikely possibility that Trump will be removed from office– there are two issues which ought to concern Democrats as this impeachment process continues. First, the more sober thinkers in the Party ought to recognize as many presidential analysts have as well, that if President Trump is re-elected in November there will be no constraints on his ability and willingness to be even more dismissive of the rules, laws, and norms of Government. In his second term, he will have no political audience to which he will need to cater.

Second, it is crucial for the Democrats to focus on winning the Presidency and the Senate in November and holding the House.  The Democrats need to cease pretending that Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren can beat Trump. While this can wait a few weeks until after the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, some of the remaining candidates need to face the music and fold their campaigns.

The very future of the nation could be at stake, if by March 3, Super Tuesday, the Democrats have not rallied around moderate, middle of the road progressives to challenge Trump.  Ultimately, the future of the Republic will be lost as the Democrats fiddle around, just like Nero.

Ironically, this is one of the few areas that President Trump’s observations are correct. The American voters will have their say next November on his Presidency. The next nine months will not be pretty, and the mudslinging will be heavy, but Democrats need to focus on getting the voters out, especially those Obama voters who sat out the last election. They need to have a huge turnout among minority voters especially in the swing states. If they succeed in having President Obama champion a major effort to register voters and then turn them out, the Democrats will win regardless of the results of the impeachment trial. America’s nightmare then will be over. If they fail, this Republic will face a greater national as well as global crisis than it did during the Civil War and World War II.


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