Impeachment Has Become A Dangerous New Normal – By David Marcus (The Federalist) / Jan 21 2020
For 187 years, the United States had only one president face impeachment. Since 1974, three have. This is a disturbing and dangerous trajectory.
For the first 187 years of American history, exactly one president, Andrew Johnson in the 1860s, faced impeachment. In the last 45 years, three presidents have: Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and now Donald Trump. Put another way, only one of the first 36 presidents had impeachment brought against him, but three of the last nine have. What has traditionally been an extreme and extremely rare tool for emergencies has turned into a process one out of every three chief executives has faced.
This is a wildly dangerous trajectory for the country. Since the founding of America, no other nation on earth has had such a successful record of transferring executive power through free and fair elections. With the exception of Nixon’s resignation, the only other exceptions occurred when presidents died in office. The normalization of impeachment threatens that record by making the process an extra electoral means of choosing the president.
There is no reason to anticipate that this recent spate of impeachments will tail off anytime soon. This is true because not only has the frequency of impeachment quickened, the standard for impeachment has been eroded. This arguably began with the Clinton impeachment, which although it was somewhat bipartisan and there was an actual crime of perjury, was rooted in a private sex act that few thought warranted the overturning of an election result.
In the Trump impeachment, the bar got even lower: Not only was the vote to impeach entirely partisan, even after Democrats said that would not be legitimate, it also did not claim any specific crime, instead choosing vague charges of abuse of power and obstruction. This leaves the door wide open for a future House of Representatives controlled by the opposite party to the president to pursue impeachment for almost anything.
To make matters worse, history shows us that the first midterm after being elected tends to go badly for sitting presidents. Whether it was Barack Obama’s 2010 “shellacking” or the blue wave of 2018, we saw the pendulum swing back to the party out of power. This means it is very likely that the conditions needed for impeachment will occur again and again.
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