Impeaching Donald Trump Is Not a Victory

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Written by Walter Hill

President Donald Trump is being impeached. This is not a sunny moment in America. As of this writing, it has been roughly 48 hours since Speaker Nancy Pelosi lit the match by way of a televised announcement. A lot has transpired in very little time and it’s left my head spinning. Donald Trump, once again, requested the assistance of a foreign government in sovereign US elections. He then tried to cover up his machinations, likely with the help of other executive branch officials. These details, and the documents and stories that have come from it, have kept my eyes glued to my phone. 

Hourly, I fished for any scrap of news on the constitutional unraveling of the Donald Trump presidency. There was an initial sense of relief. This most volatile of Presidents had finally sprinted past a line he could not walk back from. That relief soon turned sour. I’m a fan of the Hemingway quote about bankruptcy – disaster comes gradually, then suddenly. This moment certainly fits the bill. This week has felt like a reckoning, a spilling over of more than four years of dishonest and destructive conduct from the campaign trail to the White House. Donald Trump may have finally met a scandal he can’t spin his way out of.

As the snowball of this historic moment has continued spinning, getting bigger and picking up speed, I’ve had to pull myself out of my furious analysis of Atlantic articles and tv news clips. There’s a bigger, wearier picture here.  

A lot of people have wished for Donald Trump’s impeachment since the earliest days of his presidency. Countless times along the way, the president’s conduct has raised red flags, from his private businesses, to a bona-fide campaign-finance violation. Trump’s unprecedented exploits has long since hardened public opinion in both corners and worn out the attention spans of busier people than I. In his three years in the White House, the President has made many damaging policy decisions domestically, and he’s warped and stretched the international order further than ever before. In short, Donald Trump has left a mark. And that mark is stained deep. On one hand, impeachment represents an indelible time. As a follower of history, I’m aware that Trump has entered rarified territory as one of only four Presidents to face the specter of impeachment in US history. It is a dreadful period even more so as a believer in democracy.  

As I lay in bed a couple nights ago consuming the late night headlines that trickled in, I had a moment of sleepy understanding. Impeachment is not a success. The media frenzy isn’t worthy or warranting of celebration. This president has made this moment feel like a victorious one because there is finally a small whiff of justice in the skies over Washington, DC. Against all urges that simple, sad fact feels like winning. Impeachment is not victory, and that reality makes me incredibly tired. There is still so much left for us to do as a nation to recover from the harm Donald Trump has caused. There is no winning in the impeachment process. Impeachment is more akin to constitutional chemotherapy or emergency surgery. We can save the whole, but much will be lost and altered in the process. 

Already I’ve grown wary of the spectacle. We’re only a few days into this process, and impeachment could take months. Impeachment will be exhausting, but it is without a doubt the right course of action. It is not a triumph. It is an inventory, a duty-bound cleansing of the office of the presidency, and a chance to record just how much damage the man from New York has wrought upon our people and our policy. These whirlwind days have exhausted my civic reserves, and with impeachment on the congressional agenda I don’t expect much rest soon. One thing is certain, Donald Trump will leave us all with much to clean up, discard, and reassemble once the dust settles and all the constitutional wheels have turned.

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