The fight for impeachment is being decided less by facts and more by emotion.
It was Donald Trump himself who recently warned there would be a civil war should the Democrats initiate impeachment proceedings against him. In light of American history, this is a sinister threat. Despite strong political polarization, no one actually expects bloodshed in the U.S., but in Congress we are seeing the first signs that one side of the conflict is ready to use force, namely, Trump’s Republicans.
For five hours, a few dozen members of Congress took over a secure meeting room where confidential hearings involving Republicans were taking place about the Ukraine scandal. The protesters demanded a public proceeding, which is not required by law. And on Twitter, the president cheered them on.
What was promoted as an act of civil disobedience is an attack on the constitutional order. The Democrats are fully within their rights to hold this impeachment inquiry, and the hearings support these rights. Following U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv William Taylor’s testimony, one can hardly deny that Trump systemically abused his power to involve Ukraine in a smear campaign against his rival, Joe Biden. So far, all witnesses and documents have been unfavorable to him.
However, impeachment is not a legal process, but a political one. Conviction of the president on impeachment charges is decided by the Senate, where 20 Republicans would need to vote against their president in order for him to be removed from office. They will only do that if public opinion turns strongly against Trump, including within the Republican Party, where the president is still extremely popular. Only then would many senators find it risky to continue supporting the president.
The fight for impeachment is being decided less by facts and more by emotion. The latest campaign makes that clear. Trump and his allies are doing all that they can to discredit the Democrats’ proceedings as an attack on a legitimate president. “Stop the coup,” they say. This tactic works for hardcore Trump supporters, but it is driving the U.S. further and further away from constitutional norms. Even if Trump loses the November 2020 election, or his office before that, the damage to America is getting worse as time goes on.