We can’t rid ourselves of citizens loyal to tyrants
America’s dearth of leadership, hampering us for 25 years or more, is now an imminent threat to our cherished institutions. Central to that problem is how Democrats and Republicans use a Peter’s Principle for advancing candidates. Intelligence and wisdom are less desirable attributes than abilities to raise money, organize campaigns and win at all costs. With spite and political retribution on the rise, victory today is less about controlling destinies than excluding opposition. That paradigm wouldn’t exist, however, if voters reliably made decisions in their own best interests. Instead, we latch onto tribal images and personalities, support serial failures who take us where we shouldn’t go, and expect some messiah to deliver us from evil and ourselves.
By Scott Deshefy
December 22, 2018
This has always been an angry nation, but expressions of anger used to bring progressive reforms. The growl of labor and environmental movements, the hiss of civil, women’s and nonhuman animal rights produced factions willing to listen and evaluate, speak honestly and accommodate each other’s complaints. Not anymore. Elections are the major focus, so Democrats and Republicans fail to impose meaningful restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, expand Medicare for all, reduce military spending or promote gun laws. Without leaders, the system fails to be a conduit for change, and anger, once episodic and transformative, becomes continuous, seething and destructive. Donald Trump wasn’t its originator. He just learned to tap into it, make it his own and aim it at scapegoats. Ironically, the nature of the crime that might impeach him is far less onerous than policies he and many holding seats in congress still support.
To paraphrase Harry Truman, every president has to be a reader and know history. To be elected to high office without those qualities requires an awful lot of voters similarly impaired. Unfortunately, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, the president, vice president and other civil officers of the United States can’t be removed from office for lacking knowledge. If that were so, term limits would be mute points for many current incumbents. Civil officers can be removed on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other crimes and misdemeanors. Sadly, neither failing to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change nor willful ignorance of global warming constitutes an impeachable offense, however detrimental to the biosphere and nation. Neither does exclusion of 134 million Americans with pre-existing conditions from affordable healthcare or rolling back the Clean Water Act. Even Trump’s refusals to read intelligence briefings and obstructions of justice during the Mueller investigation raise little bipartisan ire.
High crimes and misdemeanors cover a smorgasbord of behaviors, including perjury, abuse of authority, intimidation, unbecoming conduct and dereliction of duty. If Trump is impeached, his likely tripwire will be Michael Cohen’s testimony over undisclosed hush money given Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal “for purposes of influencing” an election. The president will likely characterize those bribes as shielding his wife from his extramarital affairs. And even if the House initiates impeachment, a Republican-controlled Senate must convict by two-thirds. It all boils down to Mueller’s synthesis of facts and how much authoritarianism Americans condone. Al Capone, after all, was indicted for tax evasion, not the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. We can rid ourselves of unworthy presidents, not citizens loyal to despots.
Scott Deshefy is two-time Green Party congressional candidate.