By Ammar Campa-Najjar
I join many who feel that the impeachment trial was unfair and partisan. The lack of firsthand witnesses allowed to testify, the obstruction of the process, and the sense that accountability and transparency are gone. Impeachment is over, and quite possibly, broken for good.
Our founders, infinite in their wisdom but finite in their foresight, gave us a sacred document. The Constitution was a divine roadmap, written by mere mortals, to guide us on our shared destiny to bring America closer in alignment with its highest ideals.
Ending slavery was a welcome departure from our founders. One less noble departure, however, is the failure of the United States Senate to be the impartial jury our founders had hoped it would be.
In 1788, Alexander Hamilton explained the impeachment process in the Federalist Papers. He argued that the United States Senate, with its six year terms, would be emboldened to base its decision on impeachment more objectively than House members, whose decision would be swayed by constantly looming elections.
“Where else, than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent?” Hamilton asks. “What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in its own situation, to preserve unawed and uninfluenced the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the people, his accusers?”
Hamilton’s impeachment process hinges on the superior impartiality of the Senate. Respectfully, the clearest takeaway from the Trump impeachment, is that Hamilton was dead wrong.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, in his own words declared, “I’m not an impartial juror…we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.” McConnell puts an even finer point, just in case Hamilton couldn’t hear from the grave the first time, “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”
Washington is badly broken, and this impeachment inquiry is just the latest example. President Trump has a lot to answer for, and at this point it’s clear that we need to sort this out at the ballot box in November. In the long term, we’re going to have to fix the impeachment process, possibly by reassigning the responsibilities of the Senate to another more impartial body.
For now, the responsibility falls on us, the voters. We don’t get to give up on America, democracy and elections. Take agency, make 2020 the year more Americans voted than any time in history.
If people vote in record numbers, it will be impossible for anyone to get within cheating distance of winning an election illegitimately.
Even in our darkest hours as a nation, America’s destiny has never been at the mercy of one person or politician, not even a sitting President. It’s always been about all of us, placing our mortal hands on the arc of history and bending it slowly, sometimes too slowly, toward justice once again.
Election Day is soon. The greatest threat to our democracy is us taking it for granted. Our republic will not save us; this time we must save it.
Ammar Campa-Najjar is a candidate for Congress in the 50th District in east San Diego County.
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