I have been watching the impeachment hearings with some degree of internal conflict. On the one hand, seeing the end of the Trump administration is appealing. On the other hand, the path towards ending that administration by impeachment troubles me. At the end of the day, I realize that my discomfort is linked to a larger issue than the impeachment.
Let me first clarify that it is not the fall of Trump that bothers me. Indeed, if he loses in the elections next year, then that is the way it goes. America deserves a better president than Trump. Cannot say that I am excited to see a Democratic administration as I think the Democrats bring their own problems. As it concerns the two major political parties, I am pretty homeless right now. But if push came to shove, I believe the country is better off without Trump as president regardless of the failings of the Democrats. My aversion towards the impeachment is not about protecting Trump.
Perhaps my aversion is because impeachment seems so unnecessary right now. Ultimately impeachment is not a legal proceeding but a political one. Ultimately the real political decision will be made by the voters next year. So why do we need to engage in the process right now? I hear from progressives that we had to start an impeachment. The crimes of Trump are said to be too great for us to ignore. But somehow, I am not convinced this is true. I suspect that if the same fact pattern was true for a Democrat president that it would be the Republicans talking rule of law and the Democrats saying that this is as a sham impeachment.
Yeah, I know the charges of false equivalency are coming. Those charges expect me to believe that the Democrats are more willing to address the failings of their candidates than Republicans are for their candidates. Ever hear of Justin Fairfax? After all the attacks on Brett Kavanaugh, one would think that the Democrats would feel ashamed to prop up a politician who faced even more evidence of sexual assault. Yet this is what has happened with Fairfax. A big part of my cynicism on party politics is the way both major political parties fail to be consistent in the values they state that they defend.
So why are the Democrats engaging in impeachment right now? If, as I suspect, it is not a true concern that what Trump has done must lead to his removal, then what can be the reason for this move? Ultimately I believe that the Democrats see impeachment as an advantage in the upcoming election. They hope that during the impeachment hearing, they will land more blows on Trump. Indeed, I have seen evidence of our president’s crudeness, selfishness, and incompetence during these hearings. Whether those qualities make him impeachable or not, Trump does not look good in the data that has been brought out here.
But will this work for the Democrats? We know that they will impeach him. We also know the Senate will acquit him. I try to stay out of the political prediction business ever since I was so wrong about the election of Trump, but absent of any bombshell information, these results are all but assured. Most people have already made up their minds about his guilt or innocence. Whether they help Republicans or Democrats depends on the spin after the acquittal. If that spin makes the Republicans seem bull-headed in their defense of Trump, then they will suffer. If it makes the Democrats seem like they wanted impeachment at all costs, then they will suffer. I will not predict which is more likely to be true because I predicted his wipeout in 2016 at the hands of Clinton as we saw just how accurate I was with that.
This is getting at what bothers me about the impeachment. We all know the outcome of this process. Democrats impeach and Republicans acquit. Few minds are changed. And the toxic rhetoric in our society gets refreshed with a whole new set of outrages. As if we need any new reasons to tear ourselves apart, along comes an attempt at impeachment and removal that we all know will fail. It seems so unnecessary to do a year before we will decide if we will retain our current president. That is a big part of what grieves me.
The impeachment hearings also set a precedent that will not soon go away. Impeachments are becoming much more common in the last few decades and I think will become even more common in the future. As long as the opposing party holds the House of Representatives, they can impeach the sitting president even when there is no chance of removal. Impeachment will become the new normal which will take away the sting it is supposed to have for a sitting president. It may not be long before every president will expect to be impeached if the House of Representatives is controlled by the opposing party. That is not good for our country.
The polarization of our country predated Trump and I fear will become even worse after he is gone. The impeachment hearings have reminded me of the condition we have with this polarization. We cannot just disagree. We must remove our political opponents from office or even jail them. I found the “lock her up” chants launched at Clinton to be distasteful. I have no better feeling for the “lock him up” chants launched at Trump. I cannot pin down when we moved from a politics of disagreement to one of destruction. Progressives can say it started with the impeachment of Clinton, and I will not disagree with that. But we are seeing this desire to impeach in full force right now.
How bad can this polarization become? A recent study indicates that many Americans envision those on the other side are evil and our country would be better off if those on the other side would just die. We already have seen violence, right? Murder at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville does not happen out of nowhere. Neither does an attempted assassination of Republican congressmen. I do not know how far this goes. I do not want to do a freak out and claim that we are on the verge of another Civil War. But for someone raising three young boys, I want to see our society get a lot healthier before they grow up.We do not have to agree with each other in our society. We do not have to agree on the right political course or the proper way to view issues of sexuality. We do not have to agree on religion or the right way to raise our children. We can disagree at lot, and that is perfectly fine. I know that I am wrong some percent of the time and having people in my life who can help me see where I am wrong is valuable.
But what we must have is the ability to live with others we disagree with without feeling a need to destroy them. Do we still have that in our society? The impeachment hearings are just one more piece of evidence that we do not have the willingness to live with those with whom we disagree. It is not conclusive evidence, but it does disturb me because it reflects this polarization is becoming more pronounced in our society. And I fear that few people really want to do something about it.
Let me stop and say here that if you think this is just about impeachment or what we do with Trump, then you have missed it. This is larger than Trump. One way or another in a few years he will be history. This poison in our society will endure past him, and if we are unwilling to confront it, then we will continue to be sickened by it. Somehow we have to find ways to rise above our partisan interest to deal with the division in our society.
I do not have all the answers on what to do. Being aware of a problem is a start. Fixing the problem is not going to be easy. There are no easy answers to the polarization in our society. We did not get here overnight, and we will not solve this problem overnight. But we must work towards solving it if we expect to move away from this type of hostility.
So, let me suggest this as a start. Look at your own group. Do not start by blasting those with whom you disagree. Of course, they have contributed to the polarization in our society. But I suspect that members of your own in-group are culpable as well. In fact, if you are engaging in political discourse, then I am quite confident that your group has contributed to this problem. We all have helped to create this mess, and it will not get cleaned up until we all work towards that end.
So to be fair I should start with myself. I do not fit easily into left/right political dichotomies, so I cannot start by addressing the left or the right. But while I have blogged on many things, there are two groups I have been the hardest on. Conservatives who are Trump supporters and progressives who defend Christianophobia. I have been especially hard on Christian Trump supporters who defend our president no matter what he does. It seems unbelievable to me to provide him with so much undeserved support. And I have been very hard on progressives who have not engaged in the introspection necessary to understand the type of anti-Christian religious bigotry many of them exhibit. The way they justify such bigotry is horrifying given that eventually we will have a Democratic president who may fulfill some of their desires.
My passion for dealing with these two groups is authentic. I think both groups in their own way are dangerous to our society. I cannot pledge to stop my criticism of them. Indeed, to do so would be to silence my voice on issues I find important to speak about. I believe I can reach certain people with my critiques of Trump loving Christians and Christianophobia that normally cannot easily be reached. The solution is not to shut up. If what I desire is a society where we can disagree with each other without dehumanizing each other, then the disagreeing element has to be kept in place.
But I do not have to demonize. I can seek to find ways to talk about these issues that do not reduce individuals down to negative stereotypes. I must struggle to accomplish this if I take my fears of polarization seriously. To critique but not dehumanize. To hopefully give those I critique the respect they need to reconsider their actions. And to do so in a way where others do not simply take my critique and use it to unfairly attack them in a dehumanizing way.
This is a tall order and I am not always up to it. I know I have failed at times to be as respectful in the past and given my past failures, I will likely fail in the future. But I must try. My one action will not make much of a difference, but what if many more of us strived towards talking about our social and political opponents in ways that are humanizing instead of trying to find the right insult? Could this change the social atmosphere of our society? Could we see the development of new norms where there is a discouragement of the type of polarization that has become too common in our society? If enough of us strived for that, then this is possible. It will be a lot of hard work, but it will be work that is necessary to move away from the polarization that has impacted us.
As I stated I have failed in the past. But let me offer one “small” victory from the past that I hope to use to inspire me to do better. When Trump first announced his candidacy, I came up with a great name for him – Lex Luther. Most people only know Lex Luthor as the archrival for Superman. But he also was elected president of the United States in the DC world. An evil billionaire who become president. Seems like a great description for Trump. So when I talked about Trump on facebook I used the term Lex Luthor. But then I listened to a pastor talk about how we treat our political foes in dehumanizing ways. As I listened to that message, I became convicted about calling Trump Lex Luthor. I knew that in doing that, I was dehumanizing him as a cartoon character and those who supported him. My criticism of Trump remains unabated. But I dropped the use of Lex Luthor. It made me feel good to have Lex Luthor to insult Trump, but using that term did not further helpful dialog. It only helped to alienate myself from those who supported Trump.
That was a small step, and I need to take more. Let us be honest. Many of us need to take steps unless we enjoy this type of polarization in our society. Introspection and recognizing our own failings first is vital for us to be part of the solution. It is too easy to see the problems of others and not deal with our own mess. The Bible says something about taking the beam out of our eye first. That is great wisdom and a good way to start.