Things Falling Apart in the US?
For the first time in the 232-year history of the US Presidency, the House of Representatives voted to impeach a President for the second time during a single term in office. With just a handful of days left until President-elect Joe Biden takes oaths as the 46th President of the United States, the incumbent, Donald Trump is charged with inciting an insurrection.
The events of 6 January marked a black day in US history and shook the foundations of its democracy to the core, jolting to consciousness a number of Republicans, who had been in a state of stupor for the last four years, willfully ignoring the slow descent of the country towards what ultimately transpired at the Capitol.
Although, many were caught unawares by the level of violence and anarchy unleashed by the incensed mob at the heart of political power in the US Capitol, a closer look at some of the speeches made by President Trump as well as his close family members and supporters, indicate that this in fact was the culmination of the politics of discordance adopted by them ever since the end of the Obama presidency.
What was refreshing to see however, at the end of the insurgency at the Capitol, the number of Republican politicians who finally stood up and said enough is enough, chief among them being Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to bow down to repeated calls by President Trump to not certify the electoral college votes sent in by the States thereby overturning the November 2020 election results.
Amidst repeated browbeating from the President, Pence stood steadfast and remained faithful to his constitutional duties. In a statement following the violence at the Capitol, Pence said he shares the concerns of millions of Americans about the integrity of this election. But, he continued, the oath he swore to uphold the Constitution prevents him from claiming unilateral authority to settle objections.
“Today I want to assure the American people that I will keep the oath I made to them and I will keep the oath I made to Almighty God.” Immediately following Pence’s statement, Trump tweeted, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.” It was caught on camera that the mob that entered the Capitol was chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
However, the question now is, with only three days remaining until the end of Trump’s term, will he face the trial in the Senate, the Republican-run upper chamber, where a conviction requires a two-thirds majority? There are many claims that even if he is impeached after the end of his term Trump will stand to lose many of his post-presidential term benefits. The question in the mind of many was whether he would lose his US$ 200,000 pension for the rest of his life, one million dollar/year travel allowance, lifetime full secret service detail and his eligibility to run for president in 2024.
However, what is notable is that revocation of these benefits is contingent upon the Senate convicting Trump before his term is up. The Constitution says, “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of Honor, Trust or Profit under the United States.” Most of the benefits afforded to presidents were passed as part of the Former Presidents Act.
On the other hand, Congress could pass a new law to strip Trump of his post-presidency benefits, and it would not require the same two-thirds vote that a conviction in the Senate would. But impeachment alone, even the second in Trump’s one-term presidency, would not disqualify Trump from receiving some benefits.
However, what the powers that be should keep in mind is that the US today is deeply divided along political lines, more so than it has ever been, perhaps after the 1865 civil war era. Continued persecution of Donald Trump could, however justifiable maybe the reasons, further divide the country as over the last four years the 45th President has gained cult-like fame among a large portion of his supporters.
He came into power promising to do what the career politicians failed to do for decades – to move the US away from its globalist policies towards an America first policy. And by doing so, he fuelled the flames of ultra nationalism and religious fervor that no other US President has done for decades. This was seen by many political pundits as alienating the US from its traditional allies, particularly Canada, UK and a number of EU countries.
The fact that his supporters still maintain that the election was fraudulent and that Trump actually won, is not going to make Biden’s first few months in office easy.
Therefore, the question to ponder at the juncture is, wouldn’t it be prudent for the incoming President to try and put out the flames of discord and anarchy by uniting the United States of America, rather than pursuing a path of revenge to convict his most bitter political opponent – however justified the cause maybe – as it would push the largest nuclear power in the world down a dark and dangerous precipice, which would spell doom for the entire world!