The most difficult thing for much of the American public right now is to formulate a stance on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. The majority of people ― especially college students ― do not have the time, resources or even interest in the situation to fully dive into the politics of it — to recognize what is fact, what is fiction and what is clouding the airspace of truth.
To be sure, there is an awful lot of petty politics involved. Congressional and party leaders trying to control the narrative, intense focus on the optics, and obsession with framing in the media, all make it harder for an average citizen to get the facts and forge an opinion on the matter.
So let’s review.
Thanks to the alarm-sounding of the CIA whistleblower, we know Trump called the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky and communicated that Ukraine will only get the congressionally-approved military aid in exchange for a favor, the favor being a public investigation into Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, and his involvement in a corruption scandal during his time working in Ukraine. A meeting with Zelensky in the U.S. was also conditioned upon the investigation.
The act of soliciting foreign assistance to aid Trump in the coming 2020 election has been admitted, albeit accidentally, by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and deliberately by several government officials during closed-door congressional hearings including George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Bill Taylor and Laura Cooper.
Republicans have been playing defense for quite some time, with few straying from the pack. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has refused to rule out impeachment, declaring himself “deeply troubled” by the president’s actions, calling upon everyone to “search their own heart and do what they think is right” amid the conflict of party vs. country. Former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich has reversed his stance, throwing his support behind impeachment after Mulvaney admitted to the quid pro quo and ordered the press to “get over it,” but not going so far as to call for removal.
At the same time, Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops from northern Syria, leaving our Kurdish allies vulnerable to Russian-backed Turkish invasion, is drawing harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle. This poses a serious policy conflict due to past U.S.-backing of Kurdish forces in our combined efforts to suppress the Islamic State, who now has an opportunity to reemerge as a dominating terrorist force in the Middle East because the Kurds can no longer focus solely on containing their leaders in prison.
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The bipartisan opposition in Congress to Trump’s decision to pull forces included a specific and rare condemnation from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a Washington Post opinion piece, outlining the policy decision as a breach in constitutional duty. But this disagreement between branches regarding foreign policy has not been the dividing factor within the Republican Party over impeachment.
When Watergate broke in 1972, President Richard Nixon had a strong Republican base defending and backing him strongly against the opposition. But as the story unraveled and incriminating evidence piled up, those who were once loyal to him split off. George H. W. Bush himself was adamant about Nixon’s innocence until he felt that there was enough evidence to show otherwise and that it was in his best interest politically to impeach him.
This case will be no different.
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As more evidence and personal testimony emerge detailing Trump’s deliberate unconstitutional behavior of soliciting foreign assistance to leverage a political advantage in the upcoming 2020 election is revealed, simultaneously more Republican leaders will speak out against him. His base can’t hold on forever or they will risk their political careers. We all know that reelection is at the forefront of every legislator’s mind.
As of right now, the Republican Party cannot throw their support behind impeachment without risking a huge political divide. They also cannot go on in this middle ground of privately admitting this isn’t morally right while publicly acting on their support for their party leader.
There is soon going to come a time when hard decisions have to be made for the future of the country, the political parties and for the political careers of every elected official. When that time comes, parties need to come together to realize the underlying issues plaguing healthy politics: a lack of constitutional limits on the presidency, the mistake of placing party affiliation over country and an overall lack of integrity and trust within our government.
So if you’re looking for a recommendation for what to think or how to feel or where you should place your vote in 2020, search for the facts, listen to both sides of every argument and news outlets, and, reflecting the wise words of Pierre Delecto (our fictitious Twitter friend Mitt Romney likes to hide behind), search your own heart and do what you think is right.
Kaitlin Kons ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying political science and public policy.