Robert F. Jakubowicz: Founders' 'greatest political evil' realized
PITTSFIELD — The expected Senate vote to find President Donald Trump not guilty today in his impeachment trial is neither headline news nor something for Trump to take a victory lap over because it was expected since the House of Representatives began holding hearings in that legislative matter. Why? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken) provided the answer last December when he said: "I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There is nothing judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision." And thus the Republican Party majority in the Senate, led by McConnell, will have acted accordingly in a political, partisan manner opposing the Democrats and further dividing this country.
This almost utter lack of any cooperation by McConnell and the GOP senate members, except for Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Mitt Romney (Utah), to sensibly work together with the Democrats to hear all the evidence related to the impeachment, may be that point in our history feared by Alexander Hamilton as "fatal" to our popular government and with great "dread" by John Adams of the "greatest evil" to befall America. McConnell seems bent on working exclusively in the interest of Trump and himself while keeping the congressional members of his party in line to hold onto their political base.
Political parties were deliberately not mentioned in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers feared them as political factions detrimental to the government they were creating. George Washington believed that political parties destroyed character, distinction and leadership. Hamilton called political parties, "the most fatal disease" of popular government. James Madison wrote in one of his essays in the Federalist Papers that one of the functions of a well-constructed union should be "its tendency to break and control the violence of parties. And Adams said this. `There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerning measures in opposition to each other. This, is my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution." According to American historians Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, the Founders creation of a "clumsy system" to elect a president, was the political opening for political parties to become involved in our political system to nominate presidential candidates. This constitutionally unwritten intrusion by parties become "as strong as any written provision" in that document and grew to become a major part of our political system.
ON THE SLIPPERY SLOPE
America was fortunate that this party system worked as it did because congressional members on both sides worked together for the most part under the Constitution for the benefit of the country with public support . This was a period of a more than less functional national government. But now, especially since the GOP majority took over the Senate with McConnell as its leader and with the election of Trump, America seems to be realizing the fears of the Founders about a slippery political slope by two major political parties to destroy or radically change our government. McConnell, for example, proudly talks about how he stood eyeball to eyeball with former President Obama and the Democrats to deny that president his constitutional right to appoint a Supreme Court Justice and to allow Trump to appoint one. Trump shows his disdain for congressional Democrats by utterly refusing to cooperate with them in the impeachment and most of everything else relating to this nation's governance.
The Senate impeachment trial is an indicator of how far America has slipped down the slippery slope mentioned above. The president by his withholding of evidence, ignored the House of Representatives' constitutional power of impeachment. His defenders at the trial argued about the unfairness of the process rather than rebutting the evidence against the president. And this was all capped by Alan Dershowitz's bizarre reasoning to propel this nation down the slope toward dictatorial rule with his statement that if a president believes that his reelection is in the best interest of the country then any act he does to win "cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment." The view by constitutional experts is that serious, non-criminal, political offenses such as abuse of power, unethical conduct, violation of the public trust and the like by a president are grounds for impeachment. And that should have been the issue seriously debated at the Senate trial and not the fairness of the process or the unlimited power of a president to do what he wants for election or reelection.
It will now be up to the public to have this national debate and to decide as voters in November whether Trump's conduct merited his being found guilty of impeachable acts and removed from office. In my opinion, this should have been the outcome of the Senate trial, but the same result can still be accomplished by the voters voting not to reelect him.
Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular contributor to The Eagle.
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