As this nation nears its third impeachment of a sitting president it is clear that the American people are clearly divided. This division has been analyzed over and over again as Republicans v. Democrats, conservatives v. liberals, coastal elites v. the heartland forgotten, Trumpists v. Constitutionalists and the President v. Congress. What we are experiencing as the House of Representatives nears its vote is a mix of all of the above reasons for our political polarization. There is, however, one more source of the division that needs to be analyzed further, a source which may provide an insight into why we as a nation do not see eye to eye on the two impeachment articles presented by the Democrats in the House.
The supporters of impeaching President Trump continually stress that abuse of power was the primary concern of the Founding Fathers when they included the language on the removal of a sitting chief executive from office. Historians, constitutionals scholars and media pundits looked back to the Constitutional Convention and found that the Framers were fearful of excessive power in the hands of a president, and more importantly excessive power that would be used to weaken opposition forces and maintain control of government.
The Founding Fathers feared a return to monarchy with limitless, unchecked power. Just today over 750 historians and other academics voiced support for impeachment citing constitutional principles, the intent of the Framers and the threat to democracy posed by the Trump presidency. As for those everyday Americans who support impeachment, they often stress the importance of the rule of law, separation of powers and the absolute necessity of protecting the constitution as the guiding document that is the foundation of our government and indeed our way of life. They also detest President Trump with a passion and base their passion on constitutional grounds rather than simple hatred.
But those who are fighting the impeachment of President Trump are less enamored with all this talk of abuse of power, constitutionalism and threat to democracy. They often point out that impeachment is a political act and the Democrats are merely seeking to weaken President Trump as the country moves toward the 2020 election. Republicans in the House and Senate do not see President Trump as engaging in abuse of power during the Ukraine foreign aid process and instead support his actions, while vilifying his detractors. While some will say the Republicans have little if any appreciation of what the Founding Fathers were concerned about in terms of abuse of power, to the anti-impeachment side this constitutional exercise is all about weakening President Trump and has little to do with “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
But then there are those Americans in opposition to impeachment. The nearly 50% of the those opposed to removing President Trump are likely fearful of the political and economic chaos that removal of a president will create. These are prosperous times, with little unemployment, a hot stock market, rising wages and solid consumer confidence. Most Americans, including those in favor of impeachment, don’t know a great deal about the constitution or the thinking of the Framers of the constitution. But Americans do know economic prosperity and the benefits of sustained growth. Constitutional principles are fine in theory, but economic self -interest overshadows this governing document. Americans by their capitalist nature are “pocketbook patriots” and when faced with a challenge to their economic self-interest by a constitutional argument will likely follow their pocketbook.
No one can predict how the impeachment will play out; who knows there might be a new revelation that helps solidify either side. But the American people, if there is any certainty at this point, is that they are tired of impeachment, enjoying a financial mini-boom, and do not want to see this country and this economy fall into instability and unpredictability. The Founding Fathers may be turning over in their graves at how little appreciation there is today with their concerns over abuse of power but they shouldn’t be surprised since self-interest is also a fundamental principle of our country, our government and our way of life.