OPINION: Republicans Disparaged Impeachment

Are we experiencing the fallout of a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” scenario?


Clinton Presidential Library

Bill Clinton and Donald Trump meeting in Trump Tower, Trump unaware he could someday suffer Clinton’s fate. (June, 2000)

In all the history of the United States, only two Presidents have ever been impeached; Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868.

It is due to the brain-numbing ordeal that was Bill Clinton’s impeachment that Americans are confused — and wary — to impeach Donald Trump despite the fact that it seems as though his obstructions of justice far outweigh any President since Richard Nixon. But the truth about impeachment is: it’s not as disconcerting as you might think.

Impeachment is a process explained in social studies only to be vaguely recounted for the rest of most Americans’ lives – the process is fairly straightforward, however.

It begins with the House of Representatives, which introduces an Impeachment Resolution pertaining to any perceived crime committed by the President from bribery to treason; the Founding Fathers purposefully allowed the calls for procedure to be up for interpretation as to ensure that a corrupt executive branch would be dealt with by our legislative branch. The House Judiciary Committee then analyze the accusations, create the Articles of Impeachment, and a vote is held by the House to determine whether the charges are valid. At this stage of the process, the House needs only a simple majority, or over half of the votes. If a simple majority prevails, the President in question is impeached and is sent to a Senate trial.

Nevertheless, no President has ever been sentenced after an impeachment. No Senate trial has ever resulted in the declaration of an acting President’s guilt. That is to say, no President has ever been removed from office, nor convicted for a crime while in office.

Thanks to Bill Clinton and the blue dress, no President ever will be.

In 1998, Bill Clinton made a mistake in the Oval Office, a mistake more fitting for a divorce court than the Senate. But the well-liked President (73% approval rating in 1998) was too much of a threat to the Republican party, which had unified control of Congress as of 1994.

It was no coincidence that the Republican Party had complete control of the chamber which oversees impeachment and used the excuse of “perjury” to politically antagonize the first Democrat to ever serve a full second term (keep in mind the one before him was shot in Dallas). The impeachment was successful, though the trial did not see the necessary two-thirds majority vote for there to be a conviction. The whole debacle made a mockery of the impeachment process, such that those who lived through it will hear impeachment and chuckle at the thought of stained dresses.

Two decades later and the joke has paid off.

It is a simple fact that older people vote more consistently (70+% of people 65 or older voted in 2016) than younger people (last exceeded 50% voter turnout in 1992), and this means that the people that vote most often are people who experienced the impeachment of Bill Clinton and saw how ineffectual it was.

These voters are who our Representatives and Senators appeal to; they know that if they don’t push or vote for impeachment then there will be no loss of votes. Their voters don’t care for impeachment, and thus these Representatives and Senators have no need to concern themselves with it.

The circus show of 1998 has stained the public regard for the impeachment process and made a mockery of it, which will persist until the last of Generation-Y dies. Even then, the children of people alive during Bill Clinton’s impeachment may carry their parents’ sentiments and devalue the impeachment process.

While it couldn’t had been planned, the pieces have fallen to the Republican party’s advantage. Perhaps the false cry of injustice in 1998 will mean true injustice goes uncovered in 2019.