For most Americans, political power is wrapped up in the vote, their ability to select the the candidate of their choice to occupy a public office. Political power is about engaging in various forums i.e. courts, voting booths, administrative hearings, etc., in order to get other political actors, i.e. voters, public officials, media, business firms, etc., to get you what you want.
In a republic, the electorate hopes to see gains in political power manifested in the officials they choose. Donald Trump with the aid of approximately 62,984,828 popular votes and 304 votes in the Electoral College became the manifestation; certified by America’s electoral process as the chief executive who would exercise political power specifically on behalf of those whose political values he asserted to share during his campaign.
The approximately 65,853,514 American voters not sharing Mr. Trump’s political values via their elected agents in the U.S. House of Representatives have decided that to wrest political power from Mr. Trump that impeachment of the President is their best strategy for placing political power into the hands of the Left. To paraphrase U.S. Representative Al Green, Democrat from Texas, failure to impeach Mr Trump today would result in his re-election. This lack of faith in the Democrats’ ability to beat Mr Trump in the voting booth should be most telling about how the Democratic Party assesses its own power of persuasion over the American electorate, an incapacity that does not get too much attention.
What does impeachment get you?
If the Democrats are successful in removing Mr Trump from office, the immediate gains in their political power will be reflected how? Yes, among their base Congressional Democratic approval ratings may receive a bump because they would have delivered on their promise to remove Mr Trump, but in order to increase their power, they would need to take the Senate in the fall as well. Will the Democrats be able to spread the taint of a disgraced U.S. president to his Republican colleagues in the Senate or will Republican voters be emboldened to do everything in their power to ensure that the Senate stays in Republican hands?
But even if the Democrats are able to win control of both Houses of Congress in the fall combined with a removal of Mr Trump, what does that say about the voter’s political power? What does this say about the importance of the vote? Is it okay that close to 300 individuals in the Congress would in effect invalidate and throw out the 63 million popular votes and 304 Electoral College votes? Shouldn’t the electorate, with just over seven months to go to the 2020 general elections, be allowed to determine whether or not Mr Trump receives another four years in the White House? What does impeachment say about how seriously Congress takes the exercise of democracy?
More importantly, what does the impeachment say about individual political power? One takeaway is that individual political power is severely diluted on the national level due not only to one vote being merely one vote among 130 million votes, but is increasingly made irrelevant by the actions of a handful of men and women in Washington. Americans may be so caught up in the “we, we, we” of this impeachment trial that they run the risk of not being able to answer the “so what?” question when the trial is over.
Where the benefits of democracy don’t equal its costs …
It is no wonder that democracy is taking a hit in popularity around the world. Democracy’s dwindling efficacy, if it ever had any, is being exposed in the world’s most noted “democracy”, the United States. Where significant portions of the American populace is stressed over their inability to create an economy that works for them, that stress is compounded by an electoral system that they have no control over. This is ironic in a society where “democracy” promises that one person’s vote is as important as another person’s vote.
I would argue that participation in the national vote is less important a tool of individual political power and more important in the validation of national government’s rule over the individual. National government has to demonstrate that it has validity with the people and does this with a national tally. National government has to consistently show why it has the power to tax 300 million people and what better way to get “permission” than to encourage the election franchise. Ask people to describe what the returns are to their vote and they would be hard pressed to describe any tangible benefits that may equate with any tangible hits they take on their wallets when taxes are due.
As an avenue of political power, the vote has not succeeded in aligning the tangible costs of tax liability with any tangible benefits of government. While one can speak of the benefits of a standing army, harbors, highways, and medicare, most cannot define what the actual cost to the taxpayer is. The taxpayer does not even demand an itemized bill from government so that she can verify the returns from the tax dollar she pays for alleged benefits.
Nor does it behoove government to offer up an itemized bill. The blow back and scrutiny from the public would be too much for legislators to address.
Conclusion: Impeachment is a campaign tool on steroids …
What should be asked by the voter is how does impeachment increase my political power. What message does impeachment send about the benefits I receive from government? Does impeachment increase my ability to influence government? As I have shared before, I see impeachment as a distraction. Impeachment is a campaign tool on steroids, clearly used as a marketing tool by one political faction to gain public support for a political power grab. Democrats hope their attempts to remove the President will taint Senate Republicans with the end result being control of both Houses of Congress.
I just don’t see such a power grab, where electoral power is circumvented by an impeachment process, resulting in more political power for the individual. If anything, it shows how weakened American democracy has become.