This afternoon, the United States House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, launched a formal impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump. In the hours since, I have broached the topic various friends and family (largely through feverish and emoji-laden text), curious for their thoughts and reactions. All of these individuals — my mother, my boyfriend, my friends — despise Trump (as does anyone I associate with), yet I did not receive a single elated response to the news that baby steps have been taken to possibly remove him from office.
Instead, they all reacted to the news with a shrug and a “meh.” To them, it seemed like another empty gesture, another “one step forward, two steps back” scenario as we all, living under the Trump presidency and the internal combustion of the Democratic party, have come to expect from each day’s headlines.
It’s a cynicism that is perfectly warranted, given the current political climate of the country. Everything is “fake” and all opinions, no matter how destructive to humanity, are valid. The spineless Democratic machine refuses to stand up to clear and impending dangers of all kinds. It’s a sickening mix that alienates the average individual from politics completely.
From a zoomed out perspective, it’s easy to see why an impeachment of Donald Trump (which, by the way, doesn’t even constitute a removal from office) would do nothing to change the deeper power structures of our country that have allowed his rhetoric to thrive in the first place. In a sense, it would be like cutting but a head off of a nationalist-capitalist hydra.
Yet, something about the all-caps declaration of “HOUSE OPENS IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY” atop the CNN homepage struck me. Impeachment is such an extreme word in U.S. politics, never used in a concrete sense but as a far off possibility. Now, it is here before us — being led by a Congress that will no doubt stick to proceduralist technicalities in order to maintain the status quo.
Yes, the largest part of me does agree with the cynicism of those around me. Still I can’t help but wonder at the possibilities inherent in an overthrow of power; a leveraging of the moment for deeper purposes, beginning with the possibility emerging before us.
Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry will likely last a few months (Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearing lasted roughly two and a half months). People could spend the coming weeks putting extreme pressure on their local and state governments to support a verdict of impeachment and spread that pressure throughout D.C. This may prove to be an exercise in demonstrating just how un-democratic our government is, but it could be a rallying cry worth testing nevertheless.
If Donald Trump were to no longer be president, Mike Pence would assume his duties. He would have, at most a year in office before the winner of the 2020 election would take the Oath of Office.
Pence is a nightmare all his own, with his “Mother”s and his conversion therapy and all the rest. But could a removal of Donald Trump from office help shift the conversation radically enough to inhibit Pence’s real power? Could a year of a Pence presidency be neutered in a way that would allow for energies to be exerted on the building of mainstream support for movements (including shaping policy for 2020 candidates), rather than acting out in resistance to Trump’s latest onslaught?
I suppose what I am asking, fellow activists and desierers of a future, is the impeachment of Donald Trump a worthwhile effort? Do you see any way in which the left can leverage this moment for a better future? Or am I missing the point entirely, failing to recognizing and instead over-idealize a scenario so far beyond our control?
Part of me hopes that this is an opportunity for the U.S. left to start thinking differently, following the mass movements and approaches of our international comrades in recent months (Hong Kong, France, Ireland) and taking a more direct approach.
Of course this requires bodies, which requires movement work, which requires organizers, which requires unpaid labor and a host of other resources that are practically nonexistent, given the omnipresent boot on our necks. So again, I ask — what are we going to do about it?