A Trump Impeachment? Unlikely.

I’ve heard people throwing the term “impeachment” around a lot lately in reference to Trump’s presidency. I understand why many think that’s some sort of safeguard against presidential abuses because that was the Founders’ intent, but the fact is it isn’t. That’s especially the case now.

The power of impeachment was given to the legislature by our Founders as a means of removing presidents, vice presidents, or other federal officials guilty of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” (U.S. Constitution. Art. II, Sec. 4). There are also procedures for impeachment of state level officials, but we don’t need to get into that here. The important thing to understand is it’s up to the House of Representatives to start the proceedings in committee, vote to impeach (indict) the accused, and then it’s up to the Senate to convict. Got it? Good.

The House has only voted to impeach presidents twice in our nation’s history. The Senate has NEVER voted to remove a president.

Andrew Johnson ran as part of the National Union party for his presidency. He was also in the Democratic party at different other times in his career. The House attempted impeachment twice. The second time it passed the House but failed the Senate. Republican majorities both times.

‘Bill’ Clinton was impeached by the House in 1998 for perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate chose not to convict so he wasn’t removed. As most of us know, Clinton was a Democrat. The majorities in Congress at the time? Republican.

Many believe Nixon was also impeached. While he was threatened with it (as many others have been), Nixon chose to resign before the question of impeachment was decided by the House. Maybe he would have been, maybe not. It’s thought that had he not resigned Congress would have impeached him so I’ll go ahead and mention that he was a Republican. The majorities in Congress at that time? Democrat.

I hope you’re seeing a trend here because there is one. The instances where our Congress has come the closest to removing a president has been when the Congressional majorities were of a different party than the president. Partisan politics pervade our government with nearly everything. On something that can so drastically affect their next elections you can bet parties will vote in their own best interests and that means not impeaching a president from their own party.

Remember during the Republican primaries when numerous Republicans spoke out against Trump? Remember when he got the nomination and all of a sudden most of those Republicans fell into line and supported him? It’s incredibly unlikely enough will turn against him to successfully impeach. That would be political suicide.

Of course I could be wrong, but I think the chance of impeachment with a Republican majority is microscopic. About the only chance would be if Democrats got the majority in the next cycle and even then I’d be surprised. We have never impeached a president even when people widely thought there was reason to do so. A lot would have to change for it to happen.

Thoughts on the Boston Massacre

The following was originally posted by me on TBOH’s Facebook page, but I felt like it was something I wanted to archive here as well.


 

On March 5, 1770 in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, frustrations between government and civilians came to a head.

“Redcoats” had been stationed in Boston, lodging in the homes of civilians, in response to the colonials resistance to the Townshend Acts. Many of these redcoats were good men who joined the British army to defend their country or sought to make a living when their prospects otherwise were dim. Many of the colonials were good men who had grown frustrated with what they considered the government’s abuse of power which the redcoats were there to enforce.

That day in March, colonials were harassing the redcoats out of frustration and the redcoats were overwhelmed and feeling cornered. Whether they were confused or just hit a breaking point, the soldiers ended up firing into the crowd and five civilians died. Nine redcoats were arrested. Trying to prove that the colonies could do the right thing and ensure justice, John Adams and Josiah Quincy defended the soldiers in court and were able to get them acquitted.

Over two centuries later, it’s still hard to say who was right and who was wrong. No doubt good men suffered on both sides and both sides had not so good men. To the colonials, even a redcoat who was otherwise a good person was not to be trusted because he was there enforcing laws that were unjust. Either way, the events of that day were dubbed the “Boston Massacre” and contributed greatly to the eventual American Revolution.

Right now in this country we have a portion of our civilians frustrated by government abuses, abuses often occurring at the hands of those they are supposed to be able to count on to “serve and protect.”

Perhaps most police are good people, though civilians get frustrated by their enforcing laws that are unjust or the fact that some abuse their power and seem to get off with mere slaps on the wrist.

Likewise most civilians are good people and wouldn’t harm a police officer. Police officers can’t always determine who might though and distrust civilians just as they themselves are distrusted.

Who is “right”? Maybe everyone, maybe no one. The Boston Massacre was important because it was the result of systemic injustice that reached a boiling point because it was not addressed and fixed earlier. It doesn’t really matter whether the redcoats were justified in shooting that day and it doesn’t really matter if the civilians who died were good men or criminals. To their friends and families it mattered. To the courts it mattered. To society what mattered was that there was a larger problem that needed to be fixed and hadn’t been.

Right now there are major problems with our justice system, problems with being ensured due process or that our constitutional rights are protected. Does it matter to society whether the people involved in certain events are good people or criminals? Whether they mean well or meant to abuse power? Or even who is right? No, not really. It matters to their friends and families, but what matters to society is taking steps to ensure that this is addressed so that more people don’t suffer.

Take off the rose colored glasses. Stop drawing lines in the sand as if everyone on one side is an angel and on the other devils. Start looking at the reasons these issues keep coming up. Look at what we can do to fix the problems in the system itself. Find ways to hold people accountable for their actions regardless of whether they were a uniform or not. Learn from history for once.

Early Elections and the Development of Political Parties

After the recent primary craziness, I’ve seen a lot of comments pertaining to choosing between the lesser of evils among candidates and whether or not third party nominees are worth your vote. I think it’s time to take a look at the history of our voting system and how we got to this point of choosing between Republicans and Democrats.

Some may not realize that our method of electing Presidents has changed a bit over time. I remember the Electoral College being a major topic around the Bush/Gore election and the debate always seemed to be “this is how it’s always been” versus “we need a fairer system.” Not knowing any better, it was easy for me to assume that because we have had the Electoral College from the beginning that we have also had this party system from the beginning. That’s the first thing I want to make clear here, that the electoral college versus popular vote debate is a separate issue from how and why we have two parties dominating our political system.

The Original Constitution

At the founding of this country we did not operate with a party system as we recognize it today. There were political parties (like the Federalists) but that didn’t determine who ran. Being a part of a political party didn’t necessarily mean anything more than just having a label to quickly and easily summarize your beliefs. There were no running mates – the candidate with the most votes became President, the candidate with the second most became Vice President. Each elector had two votes so they could essentially place a vote for both positions. In the event of a tie, the House would choose. If even the House’s vote resulted in a tie, then the Senate became tie breaker. (See Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution to read more.)

In our first Presidential election in 1789, George Washington and John Adams both ran and are considered widely as representing the Federalist party. Washington got the most votes and so was elected President, though you’ll be hard pressed to find anything saying Washington considered himself part of the Federalist party. Adams got the second most and so became Vice President.[1] In the third election, when Washington declined to serve a third term, we saw more variation in the candidates, the main ones being John Adams (Federalist), Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican), Thomas Pinckney (Federalist), and Aaron Burr (Democratic-Republican). It’s not to say these groups didn’t have in mind a specific one of their own for President and another for Vice President, but it was set up in such a way that securing one position didn’t mean that party secured the other. It also means that if they had many candidates from their party running the votes could be split resulting in someone else completely winning. So we see that the parties weren’t really relevant when it came to who could be a candidate and there wasn’t truly a party system as we know it today.

In his Farewell Address, Washington specifically addressed the party system and cautioned against it (emphasis mine):

“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

The Twelfth Amendment

As time passed, the political climate of our young country drove more and more of our leaders, even founders themselves, to stick to their parties. Trying to get their candidates in office with the original voting procedure proved problematic and so it seemed imperative to change things.

The Twelfth Amendment held slight changes for the electoral process and was passed by Congress on December 9th, 1803 and then ratified June 15th, 1804. This came primarily as a solution to issues surrounding the 1796 election where Jefferson was able to secure Vice President because the Federalists weren’t united in their voting for Vice and then again in the 1800 election with the Jefferson/Burr tie. It required that one vote be given for the President and one vote be given for Vice President. It also changed how many candidates the House and Senate could choose between when serving as tie breakers. Although it’s been a near thing, the House of Representatives hasn’t actually decided the outcome of an election since 1824. However, it’s important to note that if there was ever enough of a tie that would mean that the lowest population states would have equal power as the highest population states in the election outcome.

Back on topic, the Twelfth Amendment created the party ticket we have come to expect with one person put forth as President and another put forth as Vice President. This is partly because there were concerns that a President from one party and a Vice President from another (as happened with President John Adams and Vice Thomas Jefferson) would result in difficulties working together… though some might contend that is a good thing and in truth the Vice President has limited powers anyway unless the Vice has to take over the role of Presidency for some reason. Perhaps that was the real rub, the idea that their candidate could win President but then by some fluke of poor health, assassination or whatever else the position could end up in the hands of their opponents. It also prevented that pesky problem of votes getting split among a party to their own detriment.

By this time, so soon (relatively) since the warnings of Washington, elections had taken a partisan turn making them eerily similar to what we see today.

One Fish, Two Fish…

Certainly in recent memory the two main parties have been Democrat versus Republican and many seem to feel that it’s inevitable that one of those two are the only possible winners. I wonder if people realize that it has not always been these two or if they think that Democrat versus Republican is just a renaming of the two original groups that seemed to emerge. In fact, we have had Federalist presidents, Anti-Federalist, Democratic-Republican, Democratic, National Republican, Whig, and Republican. While these names sound familiar to each other, the platforms of parties have varied and developed substantially over the years. There have also been other parties that, while not winning a Presidential election, did win electoral votes in many states – parties you’ve probably never heard of like Constitutional Union, People’s/Populist Party, Progressive, States Rights Democratic (“Dixiecrats”), and American Independent.

In truth, we as a people could choose any party we wished and it doesn’t have to be one of the main two. The real upper hand that they have, beyond just the power in general of being incumbents, is the fact that Republicans and Democrats get federal funding for every Presidential election and have since 1976. This involves millions of dollars to each which go to contribution matching and funding of their national conventions, conventions that are run by whatever rules those parties decide on. Though minor party candidates have qualified for this funding before, it’s more difficult for them and some have challenged whether the setup of this funding and the party requirements is even Constitutional.

Have we somehow forgotten, though, that we live in the age of the internet? We are not confined to ignorance and now more than ever any party should have an equal shot if the people have the backbone to vote their conscience rather than continuing to subscribe to “lesser of two evils” and “third parties are wasted votes” mentalities.

Geographical and Cultural Differences

One of the excellent observations made by Washington in his Farewell Address was that:

“In contemplating the causes wch may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations–Northern and Southern–Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views.

One of the expedients of Party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions & aims of other Districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies & heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations. They tend to render Alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal Affection.”

Isn’t that what we have seen repeatedly in our past? Yet, as Washington adds, “[w]ith slight shades of difference, you have the same Religeon, Manners, Habits & political Principles. You have in a common cause fought & triumphed together–The independence & liberty you possess are the work of joint councils, and joint efforts–of common dangers, sufferings and successes.” Remember this is the same man who welcomed Muslims and who exact beliefs on Christianity remain mysterious. This was not an insistence that we are solely a Christian nation or that we must all agree on controversial topics, but a reminder that our disagreements only divide us so much as we let them. If we managed to learn how to mind our own business and not attempt to control others we might even run out of things to argue about. At least, argue as much about.

[1] http://www.270towin.com/1789_Election/

Thanksgiving

There has been controversy around Thanksgiving because of what would eventually happen to the Native American tribes despite the generosity of the Wampanoag and others like them. However, I think tomorrow is a good day to recognize that generosity and how it can and should be applied to modern events. If we don’t value other humans than what is our humanity worth?

Stock Photo by freeimages.com/thefarside-31164

Stock Photo by freeimages.com/thefarside-31164

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Freedom or Fear?

When the Europeans came to the New World they brought with them civilization. A funny word because essentially what it means is “our way of life is the right way and you will comply or we will force you because we are right and your differences cannot be tolerated.” The native American tribes had their own religious beliefs, some of which were not far from Christianity but different enough that it was a threat. So over years it was stamped out. Only Christianity could be tolerated among the natives because any other belief is a threat. Fear of their differences won out, even when it was among tribes they were allied with.

I remember when I was about nine years old reading a book called the Witch of Blackbird Pond. That book was one of my favorites and even as I grew older I’d still occasionally read it. It was set in the late 1600s in New England and there was a character named Hannah Tupper who was an elderly Quaker woman that lived on her own. She was suspected of being a “witch” essentially because she didn’t conform to the social norm of her community. Her greatest “sin” was in being a Quaker, a variation of Protestant faith that emphasized the relationship between a person and God rather than putting faith in a central church. To the Puritans of New England this was abhorrent, a threat to them and their faith. They had both been persecuted in Europe but when the shoe was on the other foot the Puritans had no problem persecuting the Quakers because they allowed their fear to rule them.

Around the late 1700s and early 1800s there was discussion about Islam. Many of the slaves brought into the country followed that faith and this required some careful thought on the part of those Christians already established here. Some founding fathers were opposed but many including George Washington actually either found merit in the Muslim teachings or at the very least supported their freedom to continuing practicing that faith. After all, had we not just fought a war for freedom, to create a country where we could have differences but still work together?

Into the 1800s, forgetting how we had worked together to gain independence, the divisions in the country once again began to fester. Tariffs unfairly targeting certain sections of the country, no matter that we had objected against unfair taxation practices from King George. It festered and it festered and when things came to a head with secession fear was once again used to control the populace. The Union, as Lincoln admitted, was terrified of losing the tax revenue from the South if they successfully seceded since they had been financially supporting the majority of the federal government as well as subsidies to many industries that didn’t wish to take a financial hit (the early days of our crony capitalism). The South was afraid of losing their autonomy as they lost more and more power within the government while their share of the taxes seemed to only get higher. For some there was a fear of abolition, though that was far from the only fear. In that war, terrorizing others became a favorite tool. Rarely did the Confederate armies attempt to cross into the Union but in the South civilians, both free and slave, were being targeted by the Union armies. All food was stolen, homes burned to the ground, women were raped, black men regardless of whether they were free or slave were forced into leaving and joining the Union army, graves of the newly dead were desecrated on the off chance that civilians might be attempting to hide supplies. Fear and destruction were the tools to obtain compliance.

Following the war came a period known as Reconstruction which is somewhat glossed over by the history classes. Immediately after abolition of slavery the southern legislatures had passed laws of their own volition, modeled after laws in the north, in order to make sure the newly freed would have no trouble with their rights to travel freely, etc. However, soon after more and more started migrating from the north to buy up land and take political power. There began to be laws and policies meant to divide the races, to keep everyone as separated as possible to keep the south weak and ensure the northerners maintained control. Fear was the order of the day. Whites, fear blacks. Blacks, fear whites. Worry about each other and don’t look over here at what we are doing. The racial tensions from that still rock us to this day.

Over the next few decades the world continued to turn and life went on. Technology was developing quickly and there was so much going on in the world. Wars happened, as they always do.

Fast forward to World War II and the Nazis were quickly gaining control in Europe. We knew Jews were being persecuted but that wasn’t on our doorstep and it was easier to say we didn’t want them here. After all, they had money. They could figure something out and it wasn’t our problem. Besides, we were just coming out of the Great Depression so we really didn’t have the resources to be helping foreigners… If millions died, well, we had to protect our own first. Why didn’t the Jews do more to stand up to the Nazis if it really was so terrible? And there could have been Nazi agents that snuck in with them had we accepted the refugees!

We helped our allies from a ‘safe’ distance but that sense of safety wasn’t to last. Pearl Harbor happened and our fears skyrocketed. We had so many Japanese immigrants already, what if they turned on us too? If they didn’t agree with what the Japanese had done to us, why weren’t they doing more to speak out against it? Keeping our borders safe and preserving our culture was the most important thing, so we rounded up all the Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps to make sure they couldn’t act against us. Though, if they wanted to serve in our military we would let the young men out and arm them with guns and planes to go into battle. The women, children and elderly though? They were scary. They needed to stay in the camps so we could feel safe.

Now, in 2015, we have forgotten the threat of the Native American faiths, the Quakers and other dissenting Protestant faiths, the Japanese… but some fears we still cling to. Why? Are we better people for allowing our fears to rule us?

Yes, we are told to fear the Syrian refugees. We are told we have enough economic troubles as it is, that these are Muslims who hate us, that they could do something else and don’t need to come here, that there could be agents of ISIS among them. If they truly oppose ISIS, why haven’t they done a better job of standing up to ISIS?

My question is, “Why are a people who claim to cherish freedom so quick to cling to fear?”