Opinion

Coronavirus Swept Away America’s Impeachment ‘Hangover’ but Important Lessons Remain

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Posted: Apr 04, 2020 12:01 AM
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Coronavirus Swept Away America’s Impeachment ‘Hangover’ but Important Lessons Remain

Source: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, Pool

The dust has settled on impeachment but only as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Otherwise, the American public would still be subject to a relentless and exhausting rehashing of why President Trump should not have been acquitted by the Senate after the House of Representatives failed to convince the upper chamber on abuse of power charges. 

Now the pundits are pontificating and prognosticating ad nauseam about silly things like whether or not referring to the virus’s geographic origin (Wuhan, China) is racist. Meanwhile, the public continues to suffer as Congress waffles on the passage of legislation critical to the federal and state response to curtail the outbreak. And while this has led to important and cerebral conversations about the exact role government should play in what used to be considered the most basic and essential functions of the federal government, Americans are pulling themselves together one community at a time, leaning on their state governments, and weathering the viral storm.

But America is at risk of being capsized the clutches of the usual partisan bullshit. Congress clamors to pack round after round of emergency legislation with pet projects and nongermane spending. The people see through gamesmanship and partisanship. Few in Congress actually do.

The time for a systemic discussion on whether Washington is capable of working for the people may not be here in the now, but its reckoning seems evermore imminent once we overcome perhaps the greatest societal and public health challenge of our time.

No one could have predicted the sequencing of these events but the new landscape of American politics is here. So what are Americans supposed to glean from all the hand wringing, inaction, and elitism (aside from maybe, term limits)?

It starts with an acknowledgment that the perfect governmental system is impossible and that our form of government, which is written to be closest to the people, is the most empowering option for humankind, let alone a world economic and military superpower.

That sounds really good but when this invisible enemy passes, Americans should not only come away with an incredible sense of unity and accomplishment for coming together to defeat a global health threat but endeavor to revisit and act upon the essential challenge of our time: to systemically refresh our republic.

Our founding provides the framework and our history the scars of remembrance, but it’s the impeachment debacle and the COVID-19 chapter which can serve as our multigenerational catalyst to change for the better.

The process of removing an elected president should be arduous, thorough, and serious. And it should roil a country and captivate audiences, but the process should not be damned just because it is hard - just as we have not shied away from pulling together to overcome the coronavirus. Why can’t Congress learn from the example of their constituents in times of great challenge?

The manner by which a party seeks the impeachment and subsequent removal of a president should require a high bar to clear, be chaotic in nature, of high risk to its champions, and test our country’s bedrock institutions. And it should yield definitive results.

This has been achieved. The result: Washington’s aloofness allows President Trump to run against the very entity he presides over, meaning he can both cite a long list of accomplishments as well as marshaling the world’s best scientists and health experts, not to mention empowering states’ governors to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

This reaffirms the brilliancy of our Constitution and its imperfections. Our process of change is ugly - but it works. Issues matter more than echo chambers and purity standards. This is the real partisanship in America and it is increasingly dangerous. The “wisdom of the crowd” wins the day. 

Parties can use electoral victories as mandates to assail their opposition and raise money for elections while the media continues to reward the most outlandish and salacious claims with nonstop ideological favoritism. But one thing remains true, constant, immovable, and resilient: the republic’s imperfections are perfect - it’s the people’s work to cultivate reformation.

In this case, the cure is not worse than the disease.