Last night, I was witness to history. For the second time in my lifetime, a president had been impeached. The U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
I’m not going to comment on the impeachment process, blue versus red, or my thoughts on Trump. No, in the wake of the shock over the impeachment vote, my thoughts went to three digits: 130.
That is 130 years. As in, it took 130 years for the second president in U.S. history to be impeached.
Andrew Johnson was the first president to ever be impeached in early March 1868 for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” relating to the violation of the Tenure of Office Act for removing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from office. Fast forward more than a century and we get the impeachment of Bill Clinton in late 1998 for lying under oath and obstruction of justice.
This time? It was just shy of 21 years from Clinton’s impeachment to last week’s vote. In fact, in a weird almost-anniversary, it was just one day shy of the 21st anniversary of Clinton’s impeachment.
So, what’s the big deal? I’m all about perspective, and looking at the gaps of time between these types of votes, our country had 25 presidents move through the Oval Office from impeachment No. 1 to No. 2. This time it was three.
I don’t want to be over dramatic, but I think this is a mini-referendum on the state of our country. I’m not sure what all this says about the United State at this point in time. Are we becoming more polarized? Are our politicians becoming more corrupt? Is our society being more politicized? Or is the timing all just a fluke?
It’s clear that the Democrats and Republicans in Washington are on complete opposite ends of the aisle. Several politicians feed into it at all, which riles up party supporters back home. That creates more division among us, here.
So, in reality, are we as divided as some politicians in the country and our state, even our parish, would have you believe? It’s clear to me that perception is reality. Especially when it comes to politics. Polls show Americans are still sharply divided on impeachment along partisan lines.
And, many GOP senators have come out saying that the articles of impeachment are DOA in their chamber. This impeachment is, on the surface, at least a political statement by Democrats. Now, is the lasting legacy of this a precedent for impeachment, a major black mark for any U.S. President, to become nothing more than political payback?
Will impeachment articles be drawn up and voted along party lines every time a president does something that Congress doesn’t agree with? Will important, heavy, difficult topics be brushed aside for grand statements that don’t do anything more than create more division?
Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of President Trump. Regardless of my feelings, Thursday’s vote does make me sad that this is where we are in our country. The pessimist in me feels that the whole system is broken. The optimist hopes we’re just going through a turbulent time in our political history.
Where you fall on political lines probably determines how you feel about this. I plead that we can be better than what’s going on in Washington — that red or blue doesn’t shade what should be an objective view on the fate of our country.
Sean Green is editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune and publisher of BIZ. Magazine.