Will a third political party emerge?

Some are suggesting that the Republican Party could split into principled conservatives and Trump populists. The next four years will also reveal the depth of the divisions within the Democratic Party. How hard will the progressives in the party challenge Joe Biden and the moderates? Or maybe we will see a unification of Republican moderates and Democratic moderates.

Whatever the case, I found Sriram Laksham’s interview with presidential historian Jeffrey Engel to be informative. Engel directs the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Here is a taste of the interview, published at The Hindu:

Laksham: If appears that people in the Republican party are torn between sticking with Trump or standing for the “real” Republican party. Do you think that there’s going to be a third major political party forming in the near term?

Engle: I’m glad you asked that. That’s what history suggests. Remember that one way to understand the entire Trump presidency and candidacy is as a civil war within the Republican party. That Donald Trump ran against the Democratic party, but also ran against traditional Republicans — the George W. Bush-Mitt Romney wings of the Republican party. Obviously he was successful in controlling the party and then ultimately winning the presidency, but those people haven’t gone away. And I think that what we’re seeing is quite likely a moment where the Republican party, I think, as a brand is going to continue moving forward.

That doesn’t mean everybody who’s in the Republican party is going to continue under that brand, which suggests — especially given that the people who are most antagonistic towards Trump are by and large towards the centre of the political spectrum and there is of course a centre wing of the democratic party as well — that there is a ripe moment here for a coalescing of these two into a new political party.

Now, before Democrats get very excited about that, I should point out that every previous time in American history we’ve seen one party collapse, it takes the other party down with it over the course of the next several election cycles, just because it completely realigns the interest groups and the coalitions and the alliances within the broad electorate. So I think that there’s a good chance of the Republican party is in its death throes. As we currently see it, I think Republicans will continue. I don’t necessarily know that their party is going to continue as is currently formed.

Read the entire interview here.

Here is the article of impeachment against Donald Trump

There is a very good chance that Donald Trump will be the second president in United States history to be impeached by the House of Representatives. Read the article of impeachment here. And here:

Resolved, That Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following article of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate:

Article of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and of the people of the United States of America, against Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Article I: INCITEMENT OF INSURRECTION

The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the President “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” and that the President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Further, section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any person who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States from hold[ing] any office…under the United States.” In his conduct while President of the United States–and in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed–Donald John Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States in that:

On January 6, 2021, pursuant to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, the House of Representatives, and the Senate met at the United States Capitol for a Joint Session of Congress to count the votes of the Electoral College. In the months preceding the Joint Session, President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials. Shortly before the Joint Session commenced; President Trump, addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington D.C. There, he reiterated false claims that “we won the election, and we won it by a landslide”. He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged–and foreseeably resulted in–lawless action at the Capitol, such as: “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.

President Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021, following his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensberger, to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensberger if he failed to do so.

In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institution of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Donald John Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law. Donald John Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

Today Congress called on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment. The House will vote on this call tomorrow. If Pence does not invoke the 25th, the House will move toward impeachment based on this article.

What is the difference between invoking the 25th Amendment and impeachment? Watch presidential historian Jeff Engel explain here.

Six Historians on Trump’s Acquittal

State of the Union

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Over at Time, Olivia Waxman asked Carol Anderson, Jeffrey Engel, Kevin Kruse, Barbara Perry, Manisha Sinha, and Brenda Wineapple to reflect historically on Trump’s acquittal.

Here is Sinha:

I think the person who was a real profile in courage [Wednesday] was Romney, whose speech will be remembered in history for its very careful constitutional reasoning on why he voted to convict. His vote made clear that this was not simply a partisan impeachment.

Historians are eventually going to remember this trial as a real blow, as a bad day for American democracy, when the Senate Republicans were just unable to put aside their partisan loyalty to the president, which is kind of ironic because the Republicans have called this a partisan impeachment. The only way a democracy works is when those who are opposed to each other in ideology or in policy goals agree to a set of ground rules on governance and procedures.

I wonder about the future of the Republican Party. It took the Democratic party a long time, a lot of realignments, especially during the New Deal, to recoup from being the party of slaveholders and white supremacy in the 19th century to being the party of civil rights during the civil rights movement. I wonder whether the Republican party is capable of reinventing itself. It’s certainly no longer the party of Lincoln. It’s the party of Trump.

Read the entire roundtable here.

 

Making Sense of Marco Rubio’s Statement on Impeachment and Removal

Rubio debate

Here is Rubio’s statement:

Voting to find the President guilty would not just be a condemnation of his action. If I vote guilty, I will be voting to remove a President from office for the first time in the 243-year history of our Republic.

When they decided to include impeachment in the Constitution, the Framers understood how disruptive and traumatic it would be. As Alexander Hamilton warned, impeachment will “agitate the passions of the whole community.”

This is why they decided to require the support of two thirds of the Senate to remove a President — we serve as a guardrail against partisan impeachment and against removal of a President without broad public support.

Leaders in both parties previously recognized that impeachment must be bipartisan and must enjoy broad public support. In fact, as recently as March of last year, Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) said there would be “little to be gained by putting the country through” the “wrenching experience” of a partisan impeachment.

And yet, only a few months later, a partisan impeachment is exactly what the House produced.

This meant two Articles of Impeachment whose true purpose was not to protect the nation but rather to, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, stain the President’s record because “he has been impeached forever” and “they can never erase that.”

It now falls upon this Senate to take up what the House produced and faithfully execute our duties under the Constitution of the United States.

Why does impeachment exist?

As Manager Jerry Nadler (D-NY) reminded us Wednesday night, removal is not a punishment for a crime. Nor is removal supposed to be a way to hold Presidents accountable; that is what elections are for.

The sole purpose of this extraordinary power to remove the one person entrusted with all of the powers of an entire branch of government is to provide a last-resort remedy to protect the country. That is why Hamilton wrote that in these trials our decisions should be pursuing “the public good.”

That is why six weeks ago I announced that, for me, the question would not just be whether the President’s actions were wrong, but ultimately whether what he did was removable.

The two are not the same. Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office.

To answer this question, the first step was to ask whether it would serve the public good to remove the President, even if I assumed the President did everything the House alleges.

It was not difficult to answer that question on the charge of “Obstruction of Congress.” The President availed himself of legal defenses and constitutional privileges on the advice of his legal counsel. That is not an impeachable offense, much less a removable one.

Negotiations with Congress and enforcement in the courts, not impeachment, should be the front-line recourse when Congress and the President disagree on the separation of powers. But here, the House failed to go to court because, as Manager Schiff admitted, they did not want to go through a yearlong exercise to get the information they wanted. Ironically, they now demand that the Senate go through this very long exercise they themselves decided to avoid.

On the first Article of Impeachment, I reject the argument that “Abuse of Power” can never constitute grounds for removal unless a crime or a crime-like action is alleged.

However, for purposes of answering my threshold question I assumed what is alleged is true. And then I sought to answer the question of whether under these assumptions it would be in the interest of the nation to remove the President.

Determining which outcome is in the best interests requires a political judgment — one that takes into account both the severity of the wrongdoing alleged but also the impact removal would have on the nation.

I disagree with the House Managers’ argument that, if we find the allegations they have made are true, failing to remove the President leaves us with no remedy to constrain this or future Presidents. Congress and the courts have multiple ways by which to constrain the power of the executive. And ultimately, voters themselves can hold the President accountable in an election, including the one just nine months from now.

I also considered removal in the context of the bitter divisions and deep polarization our country currently faces. The removal of the President — especially one based on a narrowly voted impeachment, supported by one political party and opposed by another, and without broad public support — would, as Manager Nadler warned over two decades ago, “produce divisiveness and bitterness” that will threaten our nation for decades.

Can anyone doubt that at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate — as nothing short of a coup d’état? It is difficult to conceive of any scheme Putin could undertake that would undermine confidence in our democracy more than removal would.

I also reject the argument that unless we call new witnesses this is not a fair trial. They cannot argue that fairness demands we seek witnesses they did little to pursue.

Nevertheless, new witnesses that would testify to the truth of the allegations are not needed for my threshold analysis, which already assumed that all the allegations made are true.

This high bar I have set is not new for me. In 2014, I rejected calls to pursue impeachment of President Obama, noting that he “has two years left in his term,” and, instead of pursuing impeachment, we should use existing tools at our disposal to “limit the amount of damage he’s doing to our economy and our national security.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the President Pro Tempore Emeritus, once warned, “[A] partisan impeachment cannot command the respect of the American people. It is no more valid than a stolen election.”

His words are more true today than when he said them two decades ago. We should heed his advice. I will not vote to remove the President because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation.

There is a lot we can say about this statement, but two things strike me.

First, Rubio rejects Alan Dershowitz’s argument that the Senate can only remove the president if he commits a crime.

Second, Rubio’s argument seems to reflect the words of presidential historian Jeffrey Engel.  In my interview with Engel on Episode 61 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast he said:

Because Senators can use any standard of evidence that they want, any standard of burden of proof that they want, and any piece of information that they want (including from their own experience), their job is to determine whether or not the nation will be best served by having the president continue in office or not. It’s to use the evidence that has been accumulated of a “high crime” not necessarily to decide whether or not a crime has been committed, but whether a president is likely to continue to do so in the future having demonstrated a flaw in their character, if you will, that makes them dangerous to the American people. 

Consequently, you could have Senators who believe in their hearts that Donald Trump committed every single act that the House Managers say he did, and if you still believe the nation is better off with him as the president than not, you have an obligation to vote to retain him in office.

By the same token, you could decide that Donald Trump is innocent of the crimes that he has been accused of, the specific crimes he has been accused of, the specific deeds he has been accused of, and decide that he has demonstrated nonetheless a proclivity for putting himself above the needs of the nation, so therefore he should be removed from office. This is entirely subjective and intentionally so because there is no court of appeal.  There is no one who will ever be able to make a Senator change their mind if they don’t want to, or a Senator change their vote if they don’t want to, and they can’t change their vote once it’s submitted. A Senator never has to tell you why he or she voted for or against a presidential impeachment. Now most of them love microphones, so of course they will, but ultimately if you have a court–not a jury, but a court–that is able to make a decision that is without appeal and never has to justify it appeal what that really tells us is people can choose to do what they think is best, and what they think is best may be a political calculation, it may be a moral calculation, it may be a civic calculation, we’ll simply never know.

Which ultimately is why I think Donald Trump is going to be acquitted in this trial because Senators on his side, at least one-third of them, could look themselves in the mirror and say “I like the way the country is going.  I think this man committed a few crimes, but who hasn’t…and I think the country is better off with him in place.” And they can genuinely and justifiably say that to themselves in order to make their vote for acquittal.

Like it or not, Rubio believes that keeping Trump in power is what is best for the country.  Case closed.

Episode 61: Impeachment 101

Podcast

Are you watching Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial?  Are you trying to make sense of it all?  We want to help.  In this episode we talk with CNN presidential historian and Southern Methodist University professor Jeffrey Engel on the history of impeachment. Engel sheds light on the debates over impeachment in the Constitutional Convention, the historic meaning of “bribery” and “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and the inevitable political and partisan nature of American impeachments.

Engel on Trump’s Impeachment Trial: “guilty, yet acquitted”

mitch-mcconnell

Mitch McConnell is calling the shots in the Senate impeachment trial

I am really excited about chatting today with presidential historian Jeffrey Engel, director of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History.  Engel is the co-author of Impeachment: An American History and is often seen commentating on presidential impeachment at CNN.

Engel’s visit to The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast–Episode 62– will be released shortly.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is Engel at today’s Washington Post.  His piece is titled “The key to understanding President Trump’s impeachment trial“:

Criminal trials weigh evidence to determine whether wrongdoing occurred. By contrast, the Senate impeachment court is charged with weighing a president’s worth. Less restrained by rules and due process than a traditional court, it reviews an impeached president’s record not merely to determine whether his actions harmed the people he’d sworn to protect, but instead to ask whether he has proved himself likely to endanger them in the future. After all, the Constitution gives the Senate no means of punishing a guilty president other than to relieve him of his responsibilities and bar him from holding a post of public honor or profit for the rest of his days…

With apologies to the representatives and staffers on the House side of the Capitol who sweated every word and clause of their impeachment articles, senators therefore don’t even need to read them. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may be impolitic in announcing his verdict even before swearing his requisite oath to administer impartial justice, but if he believes that the nation is best served by Trump’s continuation in office for reasons beyond those covered in Trump’s trial, he has the constitutional right to do so. By the same token, House managers need not try to insert evidence from Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation or of Trump’s other alleged misdeeds (such as violation of the emoluments clause or campaign finance law) into a trial ostensibly about Ukraine. Senators may of their own volition consider this evidence in determining Trump’s continued fitness for office. A judge in a criminal case may bar jurors from hearing improperly obtained evidence because legal principles matter more than one defendant’s fate, but with the national interest to consider, this Senate court can consider everything.

This is why Trump is likely to remain in office even if irrefutable evidence of treason, bribery or commission of a high crime appears. Senators may know to their marrow that he committed every crime detailed in his impeachment, yet if they believe that the American people would be best served by Trump’s continued service, they may nonetheless justifiably vote to sustain his presidency. At least one-third of this unique court undoubtedly likes the direction he is taking the country. He’ll therefore be guilty, yet acquitted.

Read the entire piece here.

The Meaning of D-Day

DDay

Here is a taste of SMU’s Jeff Engel‘s piece at The Washington Post:

Lives were lost every day of the war — in the Soviet Union, one life every four seconds — but D-Day holds a special place in American memory because it marked the beginning of the end of our nation’s last clear-cut conflict between good and evil. “Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history,” President Ronald Reagan once explained on the wind-swept cliff above the bloodiest beach of all. We’ll hear similar invocations this week about bravery and sacrifice on behalf of this noblest of causes, and how we must aspire to such greatness today.

Those exhortations will be hollow if we fail to remember the real purpose behind those hallowed deaths, which was not merely the destruction of an evil regime but construction of a world capable of preventing its return. Today, nationalism, xenophobia, trade barriers and just plain hate — all the elements that produced World War II — once again dominate global politics. Even the war’s simplest lesson, that Nazis are bad, finds critics, a development that would undoubtedly surprise and sadden the men of Omaha Beach and Point du Hoc. That is a shame. It is also dangerous, because “lest we forget” is not merely about remembering grand deeds of old. It is also a warning.

D-Day was nothing less than the down payment on an investment Americans had debated since their inception: whether this country should build bridges to the rest of the world, or walls. The former brought costs but perhaps greater benefits. The latter meant isolation behind our splendid ocean moats, or at least engagement only when it suited our narrow needs alone.

Read the entire piece here.  Engel’s piece also echoes some of Queen Elizabeth II’s words earlier this week.

Presidential Historian: “Trump has none of the traits the founders thought essential for presidents”

george-washington1Here is Jeffrey Engel, director of Southern Methodist University’s Center for Presidential History:

This willingness to put country before self is why Washington’s presence lent legitimacy to the controversial convention, why delegates immediately voted him the presiding chair and why they ultimately designed the presidency with him in mind. Put simply, they trusted him and knew he would put America first.

Not every president would. “The first man put at the helm will be a good one,” Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin assured the convention, probably nodding in Washington’s direction as he spoke. “Nobody knows what sort may come afterwards.”

So delegates designed a mechanism for removing a dangerous president, one who did what Washington never would: impeachment for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

That pesky phrase, “high crimes and misdemeanors” has befuddled Americans ever since. It shouldn’t. The Constitution’s authors understood that impeachable treachery need not, in fact, be a literal crime at all, but rather a demonstration that a president’s presence harmed the body politic, the people, either through maliciousness or selfishness.

For example, any president “who has practiced corruption” to win election, a Pennsylvania delegate argued, should be impeached. So, too, in the eyes of Virginia’s James Madison, should any president who “might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression,” or any who “betray[ed] his trust to foreign powers.”

And what of a president who used his immense pardon power to conceal his guilt, perhaps by promising a pardon to subordinates he ordered to break the law? They thought of that, too. “If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person,” who schemed against the republic, Madison argued during ratification debates, “and there be grounds to believe he [the president] will shelter him,” impeachment should follow. No one debated the point.

Read the entire piece here.

The Role of Historians in “Unfaking the News” (#AHA19)

trump fake news

Matt Lakemacher of Woodland Middle School in Gurnee, IL reports on a very relevant panel held at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.  You can read all his posts here. Enjoy! –JF

This afternoon’s AHA19 panel, “Unfaking the News: Historians in the Media in the Age of Trump,” was a lively and much needed discussion on the role that historians can and should play in bringing their scholarship to the general public through mass media.  It was by far the most political session I’ve attended, but it’s hard to envision how that could have been avoided, considering the session’s namesake politician’s evident lack of historical understanding and (according to the Washington Post just two months ago) average of five false or misleading claims per day since becoming president.

The format was round-robin and each round of discussion was started with a question posed by session chair Kenneth Osgood.  This allowed for plenty of back and forth from the panelists and a good deal of follow-up questions and commentary from the audience.  What follows are two of the questions asked, with a summary of the responses from the historians on the panel.

1)  What’s an issue facing the country that cries out for meaningful historical understanding?

Nicole Hemmer – “The crisis of political journalism in the Age of Trump.”  According to Hemmer, the values of objective reporting have come under fire and the solution of some to just offer both sides has led to false equivalencies being created and unchallenged notions being promoted on the air and in print.

Jeremi Suri – “The bureaucracy (the ‘Deep State’).”  Despite its demonization, and view by some during the current government shutdown that it’s even unnecessary, Suri explained how bureaucracy is a good thing.  It makes our lives better and we need it.  At a conference with attendees from all over the country, his example of the air traffic controllers who are currently working without pay had easy resonance.

Julian Zelizer – “Partisanship and polarization … we need to understand just how deeply rooted this disfunction is or we’ll always be waking up like we’re Alice in Wonderland.”

Jeffrey Engel – “How much do we need to be educators, how much do we need to be citizens, and how do those responsibilities overlap?”  He continued, tongue in cheek, “When Trump sends that next tweet, we need to be able to step in and say, ‘well no, John Adams also tweeted that.’”  In some of the more sobering analysis from the panel, Engel admitted that over the past two years he has genuinely started to think that the Republic is in danger.  “What does the history we are talking about mean to us today?” he asked.  “These are unusual times.”

2)  Is Donald Trump just saying out loud what other presidents have thought in quiet?  Is the Trump Presidency unprecedented?

Hemmer – “The ‘just saying it out loud’ is important … that matters.”

Suri – “What makes Trump unprecedented is that despite the impossibility of the job, he doesn’t even try to do it.  He’s the first president to not be president.  He is running the Trump Organization from the White House.  He is using the office to help his family … He is running a mafia organization from the Oval Office … Every other president has tried to do the job; he is not doing the job.”

Zelizer – The unusual question we’re continuing to see played out is, “how far to the brink is the party of the president willing to go in support of their president?”

Engel – “Abraham Lincoln’s most recent thoughts didn’t immediately pop up on your phone.”  He continued, “If any other president had admitted to having an extramarital affair with a porn star, their world would have exploded.  It’s important to know just how far we have, and how far we have not, come in the last two years.”  Engel explained that never in the discussion of Stormy Daniels was anyone seriously questioning whether it happened.  The debate was always over whether it was illegal.  And for him, that’s a shocking development.  He also cautioned that historians have to be careful with how they use the word “unprecedented.”

Suri – “We need to move people away from the false use of history.”  For him, the word unprecedented means “beyond the pale for the context that we are in and the trajectory we’ve been on.”  He stressed that historians need to push back against the impulse to say that “everything is Hitler,” just as much as they need to push back against the narrative that “everything is normal.”

Osgood had opened the session with the observation that “these challenges were not invented by Donald Trump, but they have been exacerbated by him.”  Towards the end of the panel he added that for Trump, “Twitter is the source of his power.”  With that in mind, perhaps it’s a good thing that Kevin Kruse, Kevin Levin, the Tattooed Prof, and other so-called “twitterstorians” are practicing public history online and on the air.

Thanks, Matt!