A few days ago, TruthDig published an opinion piece by Chris Hedges called The Problem With Impeachment. It nicely summarizes a lot of the arguments I’ve seen from left-leaning folks who still oppose impeachment, including where those arguments go awry.
Hedges opens by severely mischaracterizing the argument for impeachment. He presents a list of very serious problems in the country, sarcastically implying that impeachment is meant to save us from all of them in one fell swoop. No serious person believes that. Trump is indeed only a symptom of a larger disease, but impeachment is as much treatment and prevention as it is symptom control. By impeaching, we assert that there still exists some constitutional standard of acceptable conduct in office. By forcing GOP senators to tie themselves to Trump’s slowly-sinking ship, we reach a little further toward the roots. Ultimately, if we refuse to impeach because of the political risks, we’re just as complicit in Trump’s ongoing crimes as Republicans who make the same calculation despite their private discomfort. There’s a lot more to say in favor of impeachment, but suffice it to say that the argument is much deeper than Hedges allows.
Despite the fact that progressives have been overwhelmingly driving calls for impeachment, Hedges somehow decides that the entire process is really just about elites trying to install Joe Biden. Further, he implies that all politicians are just replaceable figureheads for the same oligarchy, so it doesn’t matter anyway. This is like refusing to vote: despite serious systematic failures, politicians are indeed different, and we should absolutely choose when allowed to do so. We can and should work for change in other ways as well, but that doesn’t preclude using what power we have in the meantime.
Hedges then simply states that “there is probably some” dirt on Hunter Biden. Let’s be clear, I don’t like Biden either. If his family is involved in anything criminal, throw them into the sun. But until there’s something substantial, let’s leave the right-wing conspiracies to Fox and Breitbart.
Whatever dirt does exist on the Bidens, it’s not just a normal “quid pro quo” to use the office of the president (and AG, and SoS) to obtain it. The comparison with Steele’s work for the Clinton campaign is total bunk, as Steele was hired by a political campaign and not a political office. The social contract entrusts the office of the president with (much of) the resources and power of the United States under the explicit requirement that they be used for the good of its people. A campaign is entrusted with donations intended to further that campaign. Using political office for personal gain absolutely violates the contract that gives it power, while using campaign contributions for opposition research simply fulfills the promise made by that campaign. Trump is unable to either acknowledge or understand this distinction. If he isn’t challenged, then the distinction may as well not exist.
Next, Hedges details the ways that impeachment will anger Trump and his supporters. He isn’t wrong, except if he believes that refusal to impeach would change that. It won’t. The Democratic party — and, really, the “Deep State” as a whole — will always be attempting a coup, and instead of shouting about hearsay, they’d tell us to “put up or shut up” if we refused to hold them to account. When hatred is the core of their rhetoric, no amount of appeasement will calm them. It would be wiser to inspire the majority that already dislikes Trump to actually come out and vote, and a good way to do that is to demonstrate that the Democratic party will actually use the powers entrusted to them.
The rest of the article is accurate, outside of a totally unprompted dig at homeless people and strippers (neither situation is, to my knowledge, correlated with political violence). Hedges is correct that Trump is a “giant middle finger” given to the elites, born out of “frustration with social, cultural, economic, and political crises” that leave many people feeling disenfranchised. That feeling isn’t even wrong in many cases, and big, structural change is absolutely what we need to fix all this. But appeasing the party primarily responsible for engineering these crises won’t get us there. Impeachment at least gets us started.