The Trump impeachment tempest has been ebbing and flowing since the moment he won the election – before even his inauguration, it seems. While it dominates the news, it is but one of many other governmental tempests, including a medley of shenanigans surrounding the election itself, a deeply dysfunctional and even more deeply rancorous Congress (which hasn’t passed a budget since 2006, and hasn’t passed an on-time budget since 1996), increasingly meaty-sounding allegations of internal misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department, a “deep-state” leviathan that resists reforms tooth-and-nail, a thousand on-going but unauthorized government “zombie programs” that consume $300 billion a year, and Medicare waste and fraud that well exceeds $100 billion (several times the total private sector health insurance industry profit margin).

And that’s just two branches of the federal government.

More broadly, we witness municipal unions milking public coffers for as much as they can, while protecting their worst performers and resisting efforts to stem abuse, waste, and fraud. Police departments have increasingly fractious relationships with the communities they are meant to protect (while treating them as revenue centers via quality-of-life fines, civil asset forfeiture, and the like). Public education is failing the nation’s students, and yet the teachers’ unions resist any effort to change the (clearly broken) models and paradigms. Mental illness has grown to become a major public health matter, yet our politicians seem hell-bent on dodging the problem or ignoring its existence. We hear about crumbling infrastructure, yet a sizable chunk of money collected for maintaining the roads is diverted to non-road use. Californians are dealing with deliberate power outages to combat wildfires, wildfires that are the result of government mismanagement and bad policy. Fracking, a prime driver of cleaner air, lower carbon emissions, and energy independence, has been marked for death by the leading Presidential candidate on the Democrats’ side of the aisle. Government mismanagement, dysfunction, waste, and corruption seem to lurk under every rock and behind every tree.

About the only segment that we can (sometimes) turn to for hope is the judiciary, and even there, we find many imperfections and many head-scratching deferences to government run amok.

A friend and I were discussing the impeachment saga the other day. He is of the belief that impeachment should be a much more common tool/action, because the people need to have their faith in the nation’s institutions preserved if the nation is to survive. Historically, we witnessed those institutions rising up to the challenge in the Nixon impeachment, which, in a “clean your own house” fashion, became a broadly bipartisan effort, and was conducted with a degree of decorum and openness that bear almost no relation to current-day stylings. But, I look around me today, and find the notion of “faith in our institutions” dishearteningly quaint.

That the Democrats have done everything they can to turn the impeachment process into a kangaroo court does nothing to serve the notion that they are defending the nation against a corrupt President, Trump’s guilt or innocence notwithstanding. Accordingly, if they do manage to impeach him and refer that impeachment to the Senate, the approximate half of the nation that isn’t ‘of their tribe’ will certainly be inclined to view the process and impeachment as unfair, unjust, and illegitimate. Since it’d come across as a highly partisan play, it’ll be expected that the Senate will respond in a partisan fashion as well, and choose not to remove Trump from office.

What will have been gained by this debacle? No one who’s not blindly partisan will have his faith in the nation’s institution elevated (and indeed, most partisans won’t either). When the investigators, who are claiming they are acting in the name of propriety and fidelity to the nation, act in a fashion that turns the stomach of anyone interested in justice, there’s no redemption or restoration of lost faith. The behaviors by Schiff, Nadler, and several other Democratic politicians who’ve gone all-in on impeaching Trump (no matter whether he’s actually guilty of violating his oath of office) are as dirty as what is alleged of Trump. And, because they are acting this way, even if a legitimate case that Trump should be removed from office is presented, it will not be accepted by a sizable chunk of the populace.

Yes, impeachment is a political tool, and the rules of impeachment are whatever a majority of House members say they are, but if we are to look at impeachment as a means of restoring faith in the nation’s institutions, this is not how it should be done. When so much faith has been broken, when so many of the public servants and public sector workers act in a fashion that belies the premise and promise of faith and trust, the matter virtually screams for a clean, honest, beyond-reproach, open and transparent process. Yet, we are getting the opposite.

We must ask ourselves – what is the goal of this impeachment effort? Is it to “clean the house,” to restore the public’s faith in government by punishing and removing, or at least trying to remove, a bad actor? Or is it a baser motive, like satisfying the blood lust of those who rejected the 2016 outcome, or simply damaging the opposition party enough to tip the electoral scales in 2020?

The process embraced by the Democratic leadership reeks of the latter. Nancy Pelosi, this past March, noted that:

[I]mpeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path because it divides the country.

The impeachment saga fell flat on its face with the Mueller report’s failure to produce something “compelling and overwhelming.” Are there actionable matters therein? Many seem to think so, and I won’t argue otherwise. But, are they of sufficiently “high crime” status, that would warrant the incredibly disruptive process of removing the President from office? To that, I ask how many who think so would think so if they didn’t bear a personal hatred for Trump. Who among us wants him impeached but hasn’t let personal animus infect that desire? That notwithstanding, it remains that no action was taken in response to the findings in the Mueller report, and the expectations inflated by the hype machine never came through.

Along came the Ukraine story, and the allegation that Trump sought to pressure Ukraine’s leadership into assisting a political “hit” on a potential opponent by withholding military aid. Do we, finally, witness a “compelling and overwhelming” reason to impeach the President? Opinions vary, especially in the context of Pelosi’s erstwhile standard.

Still, the matter can be (and is being) explored, and that’s as it should be. But, the compelling question is: what is the goal?

If the goal is to restore faith in our institutions, then those running the impeachment process should run it in as high-minded a fashion as is possible. Full transparency, all the due-process elements afforded to any defendant, and a prioritization of the truth, even if the opposition chooses to play its own version of partisanship.

If the goal is to restore faith in our institutions, then Schiff and Nadler and the rest of the “get him, no matter what!” partisans should step aside and let some new faces run the inquiries, and make it clear, both in word and deed, that they will let the chips fall where they may.

If the goal is to restore faith in our institutions, then the party that’s currently out of power should not put forth the appearance of prioritizing getting into power over getting to the truth.

That’s not what’s going on, though. The Ukraine investigation carries with it the stench of pure partisanship, and the carry-over of the Democrats’ burning desire, from the day after his victory, to undo that victory by any means possible. The unvarnished truth about Ukraine seems of (distant) secondary importance.

I’ve also witnessed conservatives who want Trump gone, and who advocate for impeachment over Ukraine, with a “burn it down so the process of rebuilding the party can begin” mindset. Of them I ask – who do you see leading this rebuilding? The GOP hasn’t done shit to live up to the ideals of your philosophy, not in years. Politicians on the right side of the aisle have been great at decrying government’s excesses when they were out of power, but their actions when in power have revealed the emptiness of their rhetoric. Of them I ask – what will impeaching and removing Trump accomplish, from an institutional-faith perspective? Where are the high-moral-standard people on the right, who bristle at the Dems’ handling of the impeachment process from a non-partisan perspective rather from a “I love Trump” perspective?

If you believe Trump did wrong and should be impeached in order to help fix our dysfunctional system, you should be offended by the Democrats’ handling of this matter. On the other hand, if you support the partisan approach to this, whether you’re a Democrat or a conservative never-Trumper, because it unseats Trump and that which his supporters stand for, you’re not really about fixing the system. Removing Trump because you don’t like his politics or his style is an electoral matter, not an institutional-integrity matter. Guilt in the Ukraine controversy, to be properly addressed, demands adjudication that prioritizes form and process, that is conducted with “clean hands.”

Unseating Trump, or harming his re-election chances, does not help fix politics if it’s not done in a high-handed way. It’ll have the opposite effect, and it’ll ensure that dysfunction continues – and probably gets worse. It’ll likely ensure that impeachment is used as a partisan punitive tool – again, whether Trump is guilty or not – because it’ll validate a “the other side played dirty, so we have to” mindset that’s been growing for the past two decades.

Even as we properly distrust government, we need some faith in the institutions of the nation. We need some confidence that we can turn to the police and the justice system for remedy if we are wronged, criminally or civilly. We need some trust in those whom we elect. To move in the direction of restoring that trust, we need politicians to show that their respect for the system trumps their desire to gain or regain power. Otherwise, we’re simply affirming the current dysfunction, and assuring more of it in years to come.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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