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Opinion: For all the fighting, America can still disagree about leadership without shedding blood
Trump Jan 2020
President Donald Trump reacts after speaking during a campaign rally at the Huntington Center, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, in Toledo, Ohio. - photo by Associated Press

Section 4

The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

It’s over now. Done. Time to move on.

The agonizing impeachment process in which the nation has been embroiled for months came to a formal end as expected Wednesday, with the Senate’s decision to acquit. Now it is time for the powers that be in Washington to return to the more routine business of governance, and for the people of the nation to turn their attention to the ballot box, where they can let their feelings be known on all that has transpired.

As a nation, what do we take from all that transpired?

President Donald Trump was impeached, something that has only happened three times in the nation’s history. Despite his impeachment, the president was not removed from office. No president has ever been removed from office.

While the end result left virtually no one happy, the process worked the way it was designed. 

In some countries, presidents are removed via military coups. In some countries, there is armed revolt in the streets when the legitimacy of an administration is challenged. In some countries, entire governments are overturned, national leaders forcefully removed from office, sometimes killed. In some countries, leaders who survive such challenges often enact swift, sometimes fatal revenge against their enemies.

Over the past two months, the United States has proven that its constitutional foundation is solid enough to withstand challenge without leading to the sort of anarchy often found in other countries when leaders and regimes are questioned.

The Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager
  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown
  • David George
  • Mandy Harris
  • Brent Hoffman
  • J.C. Smith
  • Tom Vivelo

The members of the House of Representatives, duly elected to represent their constituents, found the facts sufficient to warrant the extreme measure of presidential impeachment.

The members of the U.S. Senate, duly elected to represent their constituents, found the articles of impeachment insufficient to warrant the removal of the president from office.

It is time now to move on to a year of elections, when the people of the nation who do not serve as elected members of the Congress will have the opportunity to have their say.

At the congressional district level, the voters will decide if the members of the House who voted for and against impeachment and are offering for re-election are deserving of being returned to Washington to continue in public service.

Similarly, those members of the U.S. Senate whose terms expire this year will face voters in their respective states, who ultimately will decide if their respective senators should be returned for another term.

And finally, the president who has been in the impeachment crosshairs for months will take his case to the voters of the nation, who will decide if they think he should be removed from office, or returned for four more years.

Before closing the books on the impeachment, however, there is one historical point that must be acknowledged. Through the first 41 presidents of the country, there was one impeachment proceeding, that of Andrew Johnson, who became president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

By contrast, two of the last four men to hold the nation’s highest political office have been impeached by the House of Representatives, both in largely partisan votes when the president was from one political party and the other party held control of the House.

The impeachment of Bill Clinton saw some limited bipartisanship, with a handful of members of both parties crossing the aisle to vote with “the opposition,” but by and large it was a Republican House voting to impeach a Democratic president.

And with Trump the opposite was true, with Democrats in the House voting to impeach a Republican president.

The nation has so little experience with the concept of impeachment that we don’t really know how to handle the process and the aftermath. Clinton was in his second term and not involved in a re-election campaign, so voters never had an opportunity to make their opinions known on the issue.

It does not bode well for the republic, however, if the impeachment process is to become weaponized in a partisan fashion so that it becomes something more than a means to enforce the ultimate sanction for the most egregious of presidential actions.

Even in the midst of a constitutional challenge to a sitting president, the process of governing continued. Agreements were negotiated, military actions taken, social programs served their functions, health crises were addressed, political appointments were made, all against the backdrop of an ongoing impeachment investigation and vote.

In that regard, perhaps, we saw once again that as flawed and frustrating as our nation’s political system often seems to be, in the end we persevere and move on. Now the next stop is the ballot box, where the people can have the ultimate say about the events of the past few months.