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American Impeachment Hearings Made Simple

December 13, 2019
Devin Milford


American Impeachment Hearings Made Simple

Much of the world is watching or reading about the impeachment of American President Donald Trump.

From a distance of 25,000 feet, and with the disadvantage of 25 years of legal experience, let me save you the trouble and I will boil down this entire scandal into its essential elements.

1. Impeachment means that the American “House,” the lower body of the two-part legislature (Britain’s equivalent is the House of Commons), approves of the equivalent of criminal charges against the President. The difference here is that President Trump isn’t facing prison; he’s facing removal. But impeachment itself is not removal. And it’s very unlikely removal will happen, because…

2. Removal is done by an affirmative vote — that is, a supermajority of 67 yes votes (which satisfies the two-thirds vote stipulated in the United States Constitution) are needed — of the American Senate, the upper body of the American federal legislature (Britain’s equivalent of the House of Lords) which seats 100 Senators (two from each of 50 states).

3. This means you can have impeachment but not removal if the requisite two-thirds vote to convict is not achieved. This is what happened to the two former Presidents who were impeached: Andrew Johnson in the 19th Century, and in 1998, former President Bill Clinton, who was impeached essentially for the bad judgment of losing control of his secretions and then of failing to properly dispose of the evidence. (All together now: What a wanker!!!) Side note: Former President Richard Nixon is commonly thought to have been impeached, but in reality, although he was threatened with impeachment, he elected to resign when he lost support in the Senate and it became apparent he would not only be impeached but convicted with the two-thirds needed in the Senate.

4. On a more high-brow note, the American federal government is a three-part government in which the branches (executive, legislative and judiciary) exercise competing powers that are supposed to balance each other. Remember the concept of “competing.” The American system is designed to have tension, because that disperses power rather than concentrating it.

5. Background: This is why the American system was (and still is) so revolutionary; the American Founding Fathers of the 18th Century recognized the inherent corrosive nature of power and the need to have peaceful transfers of power. At that time, power was most often held by monarchs, often with the support of wholly-owned puppet religious bodies (the notion of separation of Church and state was totally novel), and power was transferred only at the edge of a bayonet, or the use of other weaponry. The concept of power being transferred through popular elections was unheard of!

6. Now take the separation of powers issue to the present day. This entire issue, when the politics (there’s a Presidential election ten months away, and every member of the House is also up for election at the same time), pandering and rather unintelligent posturing is stripped away, can and really should be a very high-brow, intellectual and legal discussion about the proper metes and bounds of executive power AND of legislative (Congress, consisting of both the House and Senate) oversight.

But on a planet where the average IQ really is double-digit, that won’t happen.

7. Purely on a political level, this is what I take away from the impeachment hearings — and remember, I have 25 years of useless legal experience to bring here:

8. On one side, the Democrats (who dominate the House but not the Senate) are pushing for more legislative (Congressional) power, and of course they want to get rid of Trump (although this would arguably result in a November 2020 general election against a stronger Republican candidate who would enjoy votes from the revenge-motivated Trump supporters without Trump’s baggage). Distilled to its essence, people recognize this as a push for redistribution of power = power grab, not too different at all from the street mob agitators you see around the world. Democratic activists and self-styled intellectuals act like the street protestors; does that appeal to enough voters who do not protest in the streets or on the Internet?

9. The Democrats’ arguments in the impeachment hearings are about “abuse of power.” These arguments interpret Trump’s actions as being in furtherance of the (probably unsavory if not necessarily illegal) intent to investigate the favoritism shown the son of a likely future political opponent by a foreign power. Americans, as a culture, are intolerant of inequality of opportunity and do not accept or shrug off corruption. The concerns sparked by the very notion of a government that would investigate and prosecute its rivals cut across traditional social lines and evoke memories of “Third World” despots in many people, particularly those born and raised in much of the rest of the world (where the phrase “rule of law” has a far from benign meaning) before emigrating to the United States. Yet it must also be noted that the same alarm arises from a visceral realization that power corrupts, and that the alleged corruption of one side does not mean that the other side is free from the same corruption or temptation. This skepticism, rather than indifference, helps explain why nearly one-half of eligible voters in the United States choose not to vote even in Presidential election.

10. On the other side of the American political divide is the Republican Party (often referred to as the GOP, standing for Grand Old Party). Republican voters tend not to do the street protest thing. Their impression of this may not be terribly intellectual — but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. On an emotional and visceral level, Republicans may be thinking like the common man, in or past “midlife” and likely not too satisfied with how life has turned out, and they see and hear how possible Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Joseph Biden got his son a job working on a crane. Their takeaway? There’s too much favoritism and connections in American life, this is unfair, blah blah, and they will vote against Biden and for Trump — warts and all, scandals and all. This isn’t ideology, but a manifestation of class warfare, and class trumps (pun intended) all other dividing lines whether they be race, color, religion or ethnic origin.

11. In many respects, American political life and really most of its institutions (academia, the media, popular culture, religious institutions, finance, the banks) have changed from being examples to which to aspire, to objects of derision. The appeals made two generations ago to the highest character (think of former Presidents Reagan and Carter) have been supplanted in efficacy by appeals now made to the lowest common denominator. The result is that while cultural and media impressions may remain dominated by an elite, and news programs may still appeal to an ever-shrinking audience dominated by people who studied political science at university, American elections are decided by a decidedly non-elite mass of people.

12. In viewing the American political scene as intellectual (if not necessarily intelligent) Democrats versus class and envy-driven workers in economic struggle (as they perceive it), one must see the American Presidential election as similar to parliamentary elections where the party who gains the most seats gets to choose the head of the government, with important differences. In America, everyone gets to choose the presidential candidate AND their own regional representatives in the House. However, unlike the representative elections which are majority-vote contests, the presidential election is decided by a point system where the candidate with the most votes in each state gets “electoral votes” (i.e. points) and 270 are needed to win election. This is how one candidate can get more actual (or “raw”) votes, but lose the race to 270 if his support is concentrated in states. A sports analogy is like taking any sport playoff (this is the American system, after all) where the winner is determined by the most number of games won instead of the highest number of aggregate goals scored.

13. The final takeaway: Any weakness revealed in existing institutions is long-term bullish for bitcoin and crypto technology as a whole.