By Edgar Mana-ay
Houston, Texas, USA – The Trump impeachment trial in the US Senate finally came to an end on February 12 when US senators voted to acquit Pres. Trump on both two articles of impeachment, 53 to 47. It will take 2/3 votes or 67 senators to kick Pres. Trump out of office.
As usual, voting was along partisan line with all Democrats voting yes and all Republicans voting no except for Senator Mitt Romney of Utah who voted yes on Article 1 only. To ordinary Americans, the impeachment process was obscure, highly partisan, and NOT relevant to their daily lives. In fact, all the citizens I’ve met here did not give an iota of interest in the Senate hearing.
As a backgrounder, Article 1 of the impeachment accuses Pres. Trump of withholding $400 million of US security aid to Ukraine and a coveted White House meeting with Ukraine Pres. Zelensky to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, who was a high officer of a Ukraine gas company. Joe Biden is a 2020 leading Democrat presidential contender and the investigation will benefit Trump’s presidential campaign.
The second article is that Pres. Trump obstructed the investigation by the House by preventing witnesses to appear before the investigating committee. But many believed that Trump’s behavior, however aberrant or improper, did rise to the level of high crime and misdemeanor as envisioned by the framers of the US constitution. The President’s action at most is inappropriate but not impeachable. It does not qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” which the US Constitution specifies as a ground for impeachment.
As shown in surveys, the American people did not believe in the relevance of what the Democrats in the House did. Since the nation is NOT interested as shown by an almost empty spectator gallery in the Senate, it was a rating disaster for print and tv networks covering it. There is also the absence of surprises because everyone, both Democrats and Republicans, assumed that the trial would end in acquittal. The Democrats believed that their weak and failed impeachment quest would weaken Pres. Trump this coming November election but surveys showed that the American people were against it, hence this reckless adventure could backfire on them. The impeachment will do little to change minds or politics in a much-divided nation. In fact, it just exposed the tectonic plate of political tribalism that put this expensive but useless exercise into motion.
What are the lessons in governance and politics that nations, especially the Philippines, can learn from the recent President Donald Trump impeachment saga? First, the impeachment is a futile political exercise because blind justice is the new normal. Despite surveys from their respective districts that don’t favor impeachment, the Democrats congressmen placed their career at risk and went ahead towards the impeachment road violating the voice of its constituents for their thirst to return to power. This is also common in our country where personal gains of our leaders run paramount over the welfare of the people. The purpose and the spirit behind the impeachment process as envisioned by the framers of the constitution both in the US and here in the Philippines are now degraded and bastardized.
Any sitting President should see to it that he or she has the blind loyalty of the majority both in the lower and upper house. Had President Trump not have the majority in the Senate, he would have been convicted and so this is where political patronage and largess prevails over the welfare of the people.
The gossip in the US Senate is that had the voting been held in secret at least 35 Republican senators would have voted to convict Trump. Party loyalty in politics is not abnormal, whether in the US or the Philippines, but the way the Republican senators defended Trump, it is more of blind loyalty which of course will be repaid by the President this coming November election.
Another lesson here is that any political party should NOT embark on an impeachment adventure unless their case is “overwhelming and incontrovertible”. While the Democrats claimed this is so, yet they were arguing for more witnesses like John Bolton a disgraced cabinet member of Trump. The impeachment case relied too heavily on unprovable assertions that Trump’s motive was corrupt. The House of Representative abuse of power theory rests entirely on the president’s subjective motive and this vague standard cannot be sustained. Just like the dismissed impeachment case filed against Pres. Duterte.
Lastly, impeachment should not subvert the will of the voters since Trump is running for reelection this November. Ousting the president ten months before elections will worsen the political and partisan division. The Senate should not interfere with the coming November election. Under the constitution, impeachment wasn’t designed to be a litmus test on every action of the president. Elections were designed to be that check.
But above all of these, it is us the voting citizens who should possess the morality and decency to choose leaders that will not indulge in dirty politics to the detriment of our country. For according to Philosopher Carl Jung (1875-1961): “It is a fact that cannot be denied; the wickedness of our leaders becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our hearts.”