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    Impeachment Is Not a Coup

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    The Last Outlaw
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    PostThe Last Outlaw on Wed Oct 30, 2019 3:46 pm

    Impeachment Is Not a Coup Qsc05

    The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bethea's Byte

    From Jamelle Bouie to The New York Times

    Impeachment Is Not a Coup $

    In his letter denouncing the impeachment investigation, Pat Cipollone accused Democrats of waging an “illegitimate” effort to “overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the president they have freely chosen.”

    The president’s allies have either stuck to the same line or taken it further. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana did the former when he told Fox News that Democrats were “literally trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election, a year before Americans get to go to the polls to decide who’s going to be the president.” And Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist, a pro-Trump political website, did the latter when she cast a hypothetical Democratic victory in the 2020 presidential election as part of an illegitimate attempt to overturn the results of the last contest:

    "We are facing an attempt to tear down the foundations of our republic by corrupt, unelected bureaucrats who have decided the will of voters is subordinate to their will to power. It represents a fatal threat to our system of government, and if this coup succeeds — whether through impeachment proceedings, or through an election that (if the last three years are any indication) the other side is clearly willing to steal by hook or by crook — the nation will cease to be a constitutional, democratic republic."

    The president also routinely denounces the impeachment inquiry as an attempted coup d’état. In a tweet he posted on Monday, Trump, quoting a guest on Fox News, said that “ ‘Americans know by now that the impeachment inquiry is just another hoax and silent coup to remove the president from office.’”

    Taken together, Trump and his supporters are making three distinct claims. The first is the idea that the House impeachment investigation is an extra-constitutional assault on the office of the presidency. This is nonsense. The Constitution outlines only the basics of impeachment — the House votes on charges, the Senate holds a trial and votes on the charges. Everything else is up to the chambers themselves. Previous impeachment investigations had different procedures: There is no set process. Republican complaints notwithstanding, Democrats can draft articles of impeachment without ever casting a vote to authorize an investigation (although they plan to).

    The second is just as straightforward: the idea that impeachment “overturns” the previous election. This too is ridiculous. If Trump is removed from office, he’ll be replaced by the Republican vice president he chose and vetted during the presidential campaign. The Trump administration, including his cabinet officials — acting or otherwise — will still exist. His judges will still be on the bench. Presidential removal is certainly significant, but it isn’t nullification.

    Each of these three arguments treats the 2016 result as sacrosanct, but the final claim is a bit more subtle: The American people chose Donald Trump and the only way to litigate that choice is in the next election. Anything else is an attack on democracy. The problems with this are endless. To start, impeachment is part of the constitutional structure, specifically created to deal with presidential misbehavior, including corrupt attempts to solicit foreign influence on elections.

    Then there’s the secondary but still important fact that there’s no way Trump or his supporters can honestly claim the support of “the people.” Trump is president despite the wishes of the public. Voters did not want him in the White House, but our state-based system for choosing presidents — where the geographic distribution of your supporters is more important than the number you have — gave him a victory. As president, he has yet to earn a majority of the public’s support and in the last national election, his party suffered a decisive defeat, losing the lower chamber of Congress. At this moment, a majority of Americans support the impeachment inquiry. Trump is the legitimate president of the United States, but the idea that he represents “the people” — and that the investigation is an assault on their will — is untenable.

    In which case, the claim that the 2016 election is inviolable — and that impeachment is therefore “illegitimate” — makes sense only if you adopt Trump’s right-wing populist logic. In this style of politics, Jan-Werner Müller notes in “What is Populism?,” “other political competitors are just part of the immoral, corrupt elite.” For populists, he writes later, “only some people are really the people.” Trump makes this explicit whenever he denounces entire cities as violent hellscapes or ignores crises and emergencies in states that didn’t vote for him. Trump has not tried to represent the nation as a whole and does not pretend to govern on everyone’s behalf.

    Instead, he casts himself as a representative of “the people,” narrowly defined as his supporters, who are themselves — in a sort of circular logic — the essence of the nation. In the Trumpist vision, the 2016 election stands apart from all others. It’s no longer a grant of constitutionally-bounded authority. It becomes a kind of coronation, in which Trump is sanctified as the embodiment of a “real America,” the actual size of which is irrelevant.

    Under this logic, the pro-Trump case against impeachment is straightforward. Democrats, hostile Republicans (“human scum”) and dissenting bureaucrats are illegitimized by the fact of their opposition, whenever it started and whatever the reason. That opposition, in turn, is a repudiation of “the people” of Trump’s imagination, which is how the use of a legitimate, constitutional process becomes an attempt to “overturn” their will.

    This topsy-turvy logic about the will of the people can end only in an ugly place. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. He heard the phone call between President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and President Trump and registered his objections to Trump’s behavior.

    On Tuesday, Vindman spoke to House investigators. And in providing evidence against Trump, he became an enemy to the administration and its allies. On Fox News, John Yoo, a Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, said that Vindman — who immigrated from Ukraine as a three-year-old — might be engaged in “espionage.” The Federalist accused Vindman of being part of a “deliberate effort to subvert the authority of his military command and potentially overthrow the elected commander-in-chief.” And on Twitter, Trump denounced Vindman for supposedly being a “Never Trumper” who simply shouldn’t count as a result. “How many more Never Trumpers will be allowed to testify about a perfectly appropriate phone call when all anyone has to do is READ THE TRANSCRIPT!”

    All of these accusations and attacks come from the same place. Trump is the nation, and the nation is Trump. As “the people” incarnate, he cannot be challenged. Right now, that just means the public should reject impeachment. But it seems to set up a similar argument, should the next election end with Trump on the losing side.

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