If you are among the 86% of Americans who believe that our polarizing political environment represents a threat to our country, get ready; it's about to get worse. The announcement this Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that "the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry, (and I am) directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry," is one that many Democrats have been yearning for since President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016.
Pelosi was probably not happy when a Quinnipiac University poll (surveying 1,337 registered voters nationwide from Sept.19-23) released the next day showed that only 37% of voters supported an impeachment of Trump, with a clear majority of 57% saying Trump should not be impeached. While she may have made the base of the Democratic Party happy, her decision to proceed will not expand that base.
Many Republicans have concluded that the impeachment inquiry is a sign that Democrats in Congress are losing their minds; they predict that the resulting blowback will hurt the Democrats.
On Wednesday, the White House released the transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While it did involve discussion of an investigation into potential corruption by Hunter Biden, son of Democratic primary presidential candidate Joe Biden, and a Ukrainian company, there was no quid pro quo.
You might be wondering how we got to this process. It started with the election of Trump.
Unable to come to grips with the reality that a New York developer, reality TV star and self-promoter had been elected president on Nov. 8, 2016, many Democrats took the next day off to console themselves.
While many on the right made fun of those who asked for days off, looked for safe spaces or hid in bathroom stalls for a quick cry, Republicans might have been better off if we had simply slowed down, asked them why they were concerned and listened to their responses.
Maybe we might have understood their fears, concerns or dislikes -- even if we did not agree with them. This understanding might have allowed us to change our strategic communications strategy. It might have left those we engaged with feeling heard and respected.
Instead, many of us made fun of them and cheered the Republicans' victory.
Then we had years of the Russia investigation, which turned up nothing.
My advice is for all of us to slow down, take a breath and watch, learn and listen. We are so sure that we are right that we don't give any credence to the other side. While we may indeed be right, the other side still needs to be heard and acknowledged. They feel unacknowledged and disrespected, and we feel self-righteous.
This is not a new phenomenon. One need not look far back in history to find times when the Republicans felt unacknowledged and disrespected, and the Democrats acted in a self-righteous manner.
So, how is this going to work? The process of impeachment starts in the House. At some point, to move the process forward, the Democratic majority would have to list out the articles of impeachment and have the full House of Representatives vote on the articles. If passed by the House, they would move on to the Senate for the impeachment trial.
Removing the president from office would require two-thirds of the Senate to vote in favor of his removal.
There have only been two impeachment proceedings in our nation's history. The first was in March 1868, after our Civil War, when the House of Representatives passed 11 articles of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson. It moved to the Senate for trial, but was dropped after they could not get the two-thirds majority vote.
In December 1998, the House passed two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. The next month, the Senate initiated hearings but never mustered enough votes to remove him from office.
My advice for those of us who live outside Washington's beltline? When people say that Trump should be impeached, ask why. After taking a breath, ask again. When they finally stop ranting, take another breath and ask them for the facts that back up their position. When they finish, take another breath, smile, and explain your stance.
We live in the greatest nation on earth. We have the right and the responsibility to be active and engaged citizens, but we are not required to be mean and nasty while we engage in this great experiment. Engaging respectfully and happily might not win anyone over to your side. But it will win the respect and admiration of your opponents -- an achievement that may cause them to be more sympathetic to your point of view the next time around.