Today is a good day to discuss something we seem to be losing not only in the United States, but in the world. It’s long been held that for government to work, it needs the consent of the governed. For democracy to work, we need the consent of the defeated.
Today, there will be a vote in the US Senate to decide whether to call witnesses in the trial of President Donald Trump. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who was considered a possible swing vote, has declared that he will vote against calling witnesses. I may be proved wrong later today, but right now it appears that no witnesses will be called and the move to remove President Trump from office will fail. Senator Alexander has said he thinks the things President Trump was impeached over were inappropriate, but don’t rise to the level of being removed from office by impeachment. He believes this year’s election is the appropriate place to evaluate President Trump.
One of the things President Trump was impeached over is using foreign aid to coerce the government of the Ukraine to investigate the family of former Vice President Biden, a possible opponent in this year’s election. Wrong? I think so. On the other hand, more than one of Trump’s potential November opponents get to vote on whether to remove the President from office.
From the start, voting on the removal process in the House and the Senate has been along political lines. Since the Senate must convict to remove any President from office, it seemed likely from the start, and still seems likely that President Trump won’t be removed from office. The next chance to do that will come on November 3rd, election day.
The point about President Trump’s impeachment is a significant number of people were agitating for it even before he took office. A disturbing number of Americans were running around the Internet using hashtags such as #NotMyPresident. This whole process has been largely political. All impeachments of US presidents, from the first, President Andrew Johnson in 1868, have been largely political, and President Johnson stayed in office because the Senate failed to vote two-thirds to remove him, by only one vote. President Clinton didn’t come that close and I don’t think President Trump will either. A lot of people think President Nixon was impeached, but he wasn’t. He resigned from office to avoid the disgrace of impeachment and removal. In his case, removal did seem likely.
Worldwide, this is not the only instance of people who lost continuing to fight the result long after the election. Tonight at 6 PM eastern time, The United Kingdom will leave the European Union, a process commonly referred to as Brexit. The referendum that decided this took place in June, 2016. The results were close and people in Britain have been arguing about it, heatedly, since. One of the points of argument was that the vote was so close there should be a second referendum. This issue crossed party lines in the UK. If I remember correctly, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. As a result, Parliament couldn’t come to an agreement on necessary legislation, through two national elections. Finally, in December, 2019, British voters gave Prime Minister Boris Johnson the votes he needed in Parliament to get it done.
There are long-accepted things the defeated can do after an election. They can continue to put forward their agenda and speak out against policies when they object. What’s different now is too many people are trying to circumvent the electoral process instead of working on making their case to the public and targeting the next election. I suggest that’s not healthy for democracy.