House Democrats have seriously damaged our democracy. Their relentless pursuit of dubious charges against the president has created a constitutional crisis. House actions to this point have blurred the lines of power between the three major branches of our government.
The founders created a mechanism to depose a president if he or she oversteps their authority. At the same time they were careful about delineating crimes of a president that might qualify him or her for impeachment. They used words like high crimes and misdemeanors that portray a guilty president as one who is detrimental to our democracy because his crimes were heinous under any circumstances. Visions of treason, sedition and murder are the crimes that come to mind.
The founders certainly didn’t envision presidents being ousted for speculative indiscretions that couldn’t be proven or were based upon hearsay without being processed under the rule of law. Keep in mind almost all of the initial testifiers in the Judiciary Committee’s investigation of Trump had second and third hand information about the president’s actions and conversations. Most of the evidence was hearsay that wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law. When the proceedings move to the Senate, the president will benefit by the usual amenities of a court of law that will include facing accusers (including the whistle-blower), representation by counsel and calling witnesses.
But the real damage by Democratic shenanigans over the past few weeks is that impeachment is now a tool readily available to any opposition-led majority in the House of Representatives. For frivolous and unpopular actions future presidents will be subjected to yet another three-ring circus, as we witnessed in recent weeks. The bar for impeachment is now on the ground as if we were prosecuting a common thief, as opposed to the leader of the free world.
The lesson about “lowering the bar” should have been obvious to liberal lawmakers in the House based upon a similar episode in the Senate a few years ago. For decades the filibuster was used to stymie appointments to federal courts by the minority. Democrats, in frustration, changed the rules of the Senate enabling senators to confirm judges with a simple majority, and not a super majority, for all judges except Supreme Court justices.
Democrats, thinking that they outwitted their rivals, disregarded the reality that they might face if control reverted back to Republicans, which it did. Republicans, upon assuming power changed the rule further to include Supreme Court justices. Democrats objected, but were drowned out by their own stupidity.
The result was confirmation of a series of young conservative justices to the highest court in the land that will affect the law and our society for many years. It was a naïve and tragic miscalculation.
Here we are at the same crossroads. Prospectively, Americans should expect a hair trigger when Republicans regain the House, which could be in 2020 even if Trump loses the presidency. If Warren is elected, perhaps Republicans will impeach her for lying about her background to the electorate and to Harvard University when she applied for a position at the law school.