Wednesday, December 11, 2019

BEYOND THE TRUMP IMPEACHMENT AND A LESSON LEARNED

                                                 By Lily Hikam*)

Today, December 10, 2019, after weeks of long debates and hearing sessions, the Democratic leadership in the Judiciary Committee of the US House of Representatives (the Committee) drafted two articles of impeachment for the purpose of removing President Donald J. Trump from the office of the presidency. These articles of impeachment are as follows:
1) Abuse of power, which refers to the President withholding military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine investigating the dealings of the son of a political opponent, son of former VP Joe Biden, Hunter Biden when he was a Board member of a Ukrainian Gas company; and
2) Obstruction of Congress, which refers to the alleged blocking testimony and refusing to provide documents by the President in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.

These articles of impeachment will then be voted on in the Committee and, depending on which one passes, it will be the one that will be sent to the House floor. Since the House of Representatives currently holds a Democratic majority, simple math and reasoning deduce that the articles of Impeachment will pass and from there, it proceeds to the Senate floor. The Senate is where things will go differently.

While the way impeachment proceedings occur in the House is through a series of hearings, and the congressmen/women who are part of the committee will question witnesses, impeachment in the Senate floor will most likely resemble a full courtroom with a judge, jury and witnesses. The President will send his lawyers who will then cross examine the impeachment witnesses, present evidence defending the President or refuting evidence presented by the senators. The Senate is also where the President’s party, the Republican Party, holds a majority. Thus while we can safely assume that the articles of impeachment will pass quite easily in the House, using the same simple math and reasoning one can also predict that Impeachment will not pass in the Senate.

So, what are the significance of this Impeachment process which, now that we’ve laid it all out in the open, seems pretty sure to fail? Or in other words, what was the point in going through this long, harrowing and massively complicated process in the first place?

First: It’s a political calculation on the Democrats’ part to help them in the 2020 election. By pushing for impeachment of the President of the United States (POTUS), the Democratic establishment is showing their voters that they are, in fact, part of the Resistance and that they are resisting the Trump administration. They sure are resisting, in every way that matters but one: policy. Why?

In the interim of this whole Impeachment process, the House and Senate have sneakily passed two laws behind the American public’s back: one law to cut Social Security funding and another law to extend the provisions of the Patriot Act. The former would adversely affect the growing aging population of the country who depend on the steady paycheck of a benefits that they have paid in to during their entire productive years, and the latter would massively broadens the Trump Administrations’ scope and ability to spy on US citizens, in violation of their Fourth amendment right.

In addition to these two laws, the Trump Administration also added work requirements to Food Stamps, which would effectively cause hundreds of disabled Americans who are unable to work to be ineligible for food assistance and to potentially starve.

Ironically though, also in the interim, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (who is also currently running for the Democratic nomination for President) introduced a resolution to withdraw U.S. troops from guarding Syrian oil fields where Trump has posted them in blatant violation of international law. Not only did it receive no introduction to the floor, Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in Congress after Rep. Nancy Pelosi, remarked that he would oppose it!.

So, tell me again the ways in which you are resisting the Trump Presidency and defending our democracy, Democrats?

It couldn’t be clearer that the impeachment process is just a smoke screen to all the ways the Democratic party fails to stand up to the Trump Administration in meaningful, impactful ways.

Second: It’s also possible that the Dems hoped the impeachment process will hurt Trump’s approval rating and helped themselves in 2020 elections. However, they’re not winning that battle on account of Trump still having a sky high approval rating among the Republican base and the remaining “bipartisan” public are torn between supporting impeachment and opposing it. I’m not sure if the Democratic Party folks still remembered their history, but there was a president who was impeached, acquitted and afterwards his approval rating skyrocketed to a number higher than when he was first elected. That president was Bill Clinton.

Look, I’m no fan of the POTUS myself. His policies are horrendous, racist, xenophobic, anti middle-class, pro Corporate America, effectively disregards human rights, as well as encourages war and conflict which ultimately are destroying the planet. His removal from the office of the Presidency would be nothing but a joyous occasion for me, but it has to be done correctly: through the ballot box.

Truth be told, there are more blatant violations that Trump did during his tenure that warrant impeachment, and will make the articles of impeachment stuck better had they been used:

1) his violation of the emoluments clause by refusing to let go of controlling interests in his business dealings and profitting off taxpayer money under the guise of conducting government businesses,
2) continued support of the Saudi-led war (genocide) in Yemen,
3) disregarding the murder of a U.S. permanent resident, Jamal Khashoggi (coincidentally a vocal critic of the Saudi theocratic government) in favor of a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with the Saudi Arabian royal family,
4) increasing the frequency of drone-strikes in countries the United States have never declared war on, and
5) separating children from families and placing them in detention cages and so on and so forth.

If someone like me can readily think of a multitude of reasons, each more horrifying and terrible than “abuse of power” and “obstruction of congress”, I’m sure the smart, Ivy-league educated politicians in Washington DC can too. They just don’t want to.

There’s a lesson we can glean here as Indonesians. If a Democratic system as big and well-established as United States’ can fall prey to this type of corruption, ours can too. The lesson here is the importance of having an opposition party to keep the check and balances process to run smoothly. But the opposition needs to have substance, needs to have the full backing of policies and ideas, not just rhetoric. IMHO.

*) PhD candidate, Dept. of Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA

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