While President Donald Trump has had a number of high-profile controversies since taking office, the impeachment inquiry that he is currently facing has unique repercussions, considering the rarity of the procedure and the proximity to the 2020 presidential elections. He has been accused of improperly pressuring the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinski to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, by withholding aid and offering a White House visit in exchange for announcing the investigation. Trump strongly denies the allegations.
So far, support for Trump has fallen almost entirely along party lines. Republicans argue that since Trump’s lawyers aren’t guaranteed a role in the dispositions and hearings, as Bill Clinton’s lawyers were during his impeachment inquiry, due process is being violated. Additionally, because Ukraine received the aid in the end, many Republicans argue that there was no quid pro quo. However, the Democrats have asserted that the evidence is clear: the president abusing his office to pressure a foreign country and influence a U.S. election clearly calls for removal from office.
The impeachment inquiry has made an impact at GDS. Some hearings were shown live in the forum, and as students prepare to either vote in or follow the 2020 election, they have been reflecting on how this controversy demonstrates political polarization in the United States. “I feel like people see what they want to see,” junior Ella Farr said. Farr believes that in the end, very few people who are strongly pro-or anti-Trump will change their opinions based on the impeachment proceedings. She does, however, think that centrists will feel increasingly disconnected from either party as divisions intensify.
Junior Anoushka Chander agrees but hopes that moderate Republicans will not support Trump’s reelection as a result of the impeachment inquiry. “Always Trumpers are going to always be Trumpers. They’re going to believe that it’s a hoax,” she said. “I’m hoping that it would make moderate Republicans wary of another Trump administration.”
Chander hopes that if moderate Republicans don’t vote for Trump, and Democrats can unite as a party against Trump, then a Democrat will win the 2020 election. “I think that as much as there’s division among Democrats right now, this might be a uniting force to be something we can all get behind,” she said.
Ultimately, Farr thinks that despite the issues displayed during the hearings, the 2020 election will not be heavily impacted. “I don’t think that it would change most Trump supporters’ views,” she said. “I don’t think anyone is going to start supporting Trump because of this, and I think a few people will stop supporting him, but I don’t think it will be overwhelming enough to force a shift in the electoral college.”
Junior Jonah Sachs thinks that even though Trump’s actions do constitute impeachment, “Democrats are screwing themselves.” Because two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate is needed to remove Trump from office, removal is very unlikely. “If they fail, it just gives Trump another round of ‘I beat the system. We can beat the system.’ It would basically win him the election,” Sachs said.
Chander believes that even though the impeachment process is portrayed as partisan, it is actually an enactment of American laws. “Everything that’s happening right now is due process of law; it’s not partisan,” she said.
Chander and Sachs agree that the impeachment inquiry is demonstrative of larger issues in American politics. “The way [Trump’s] handling all these different trade deals and military decisions is just not befitting of the office of president and also not befitting of the lives that are at stake, and the livelihoods that are dependent on his decisions,” Chander said.
Sachs fears that the increasing partisan divide in the U.S. will ultimately harm democracy and prevent progress. “At this point, Democrats are so focused on certain issues and Republicans are so focused on certain issues that I don’t think that compromises can be made anymore. I think that’s the ultimate demise of our system,” he said. “Over the last two presidencies, we’ve just seen policies flipped back and forth through executive orders. If we keep doing that flip flop eventually something’s going to break.”
Lena Levey ’21