When I was in grade school, the beauty of the American government, as presented to me, lay in the fact that it consisted of three separate but equal branches. The Legislative Branch made the law, the Executive Branch enforced the law, and the Judicial Branch interpreted the law. It all made a lot of sense to me, and in theory, it still does.
But what does it look like in practice these days?
Well, the Legislative Branch basically doesn’t do a whole ton, because it’s made up of people who can’t agree on anything enough to make any significant changes. So instead of actually making laws that make sense for today, the Democrats (at the moment) rely on the President to make executive actions that somehow sidestep the whole process, and the Republicans (for now) rely on the Supreme Court to tell everyone that actually what the Republicans want in the first place just so happens to be what the law said all along.
Am I oversimplifying? Maybe a bit. But that certainly seems to be the reasoning given for why so many things continue to be broken in our country. (And don’t get me started on lobbyists, who somehow get paid to tell Congress what to do, and Congress is somehow gullible enough to listen to whoever sends the most lobbyists?) Whether it’s gun control or health care or any other big issue, nothing seems to change, year after year.
So why am I belly-aching about it today? Well, primarily because of how irritated I am about the way we’re suddenly splitting hairs over what an “insurrection” means, and what it means to take part in one. The Constitution clearly states:
“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.“
So the questions in court about how this applies to Trump apparently boil down to “Is the President an officer of the United States?” and “Did Trump participate in an insurrection?” There’s a good overview of the answers to these questions in the New York Times, but basically, the first answer seems pretty cut and dried. Elsewhere in the Constitution, it says “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.” How can you be removed from office if you’re not an officer?
I can’t believe we’re even having this come up as a question.
As for “did he participate?”, it seems to me the biggest actions he took on January 6th (and the days leading up to it) were, first, to rile people up, and then second, to do and say nothing while the attack on the capitol took place. Did his speech before the insurrection rile people up? Undoubtedly. You just have to watch it to see the riling taking place. But at the same time, Trump never overtly said, “Go down and break into the Capitol and stop this from happening.” So we’re supposed to pretend that he innocently played no part in the instigation of the insurrection.
Fine. Let’s assume for the moment that he didn’t. But it also took him over three hours to respond to the rioters and tell them to stop. If you’re going to argue he never intended the crowd to get violent, then why in the world wouldn’t he do whatever he could to stop the crowd once they had become violent? He had made an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and yet he did nothing to follow through on that oath.
Let’s say the Constitution was a person, and I’ve sworn to defend them. If I see someone trying to beat that person to death in public, and I watch them do it for three hours before saying, “Gee, maybe you should stop that,” have I upheld my oath? You can’t make the argument that Trump had no way to try to stop them. He was the most vocal President we’ve ever had, continually peppering out messages on Twitter.
However, people make the argument that the Senate had the chance to convict Trump of insurrection, but couldn’t get the 2/3rds majority vote to do so. It was 57 votes for guilty, and 43 not guilty. Except 29 of those not guilty votes said their primary reason for voting that way was because Trump wasn’t the President anymore, and impeachment was only to apply to current Presidents.
(I need to write a book where a lame duck President goes on a blatant crime spree, knowing that the only people who can convict him of crimes are Senators, and the Senators won’t convict him because by the time he goes to trial, he won’t be President anymore. We’ve found the loophole, everybody!)
In the end, it really seems like nothing matters in politics anymore, so long as you can find some sort of reason (it doesn’t have to be a good one) to justify your actions. Some reason for why the thing you want to happen politically just so happens to be the thing that’s legal and right. And there’s no one out there to stop you from doing it.
I’m dreading–dreading–the upcoming election season. 2020 was so, so awful in so many ways, and the election was a big factor in that. In the wake of all that’s happened since, I’m worried a repeat will be worse.
Do I love Biden as President? Not really. I don’t actively dislike him, but I also don’t think he’s done a particularly noteworthy job. But it seems the Republicans are going to put Trump forward as their nominee again, and my feelings toward him have never changed. I am very concerned what a second Trump term would look like and what it might do to our country. I suppose I just have to hope there’s a lot of other people out there like me. Not Biden supporters, but 100% ready to get out and vote for him, just to keep Trump from coming back.