BONNIE GREER: Impeachment is what America needs to awake from its slumber

PUBLISHED: 09:46 06 June 2019

House speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump in a joint session of the US Congress. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto

House speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump in a joint session of the US Congress. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto

Cheriss May/NurPhoto

Trump's nemesis Nancy Pelosi needs to show the president that no one is above the law, argues BONNIE GREER.

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The time has come to consider impeachment of the 45th president of the United States.

The special counsel looking into Russian interference into the 2016 election and matters arising from it, Robert S. Mueller, last week stated that if he could exonerate the president of any "criminal" offences, he would have done so. The inference has to be drawn that if he did not, he could not.

However, the Department of Justice, which set up the probe under the deputy attorney general at the time, recommends that - while Congress has the authority to impeach a president - a sitting president cannot be charged with a federal crime. Trump is, thus, immune from the 'judicial' process while he is in the Oval Office - but not safe from the 'political' process of impeachment that could ultimately remove him from that office.

This immunity from criminal indictment is, some say, to protect the president from political harassment in order to allow her or him to do their job. This has never been tested in court, yet has stood as a kind of unspoken law.

In a sane world, this probably makes sense. Barack Obama could have been indicted, say, for his drone attacks, or even for Obamacare - the name for the Affordable Care Act, which stated that everyone had to have health care. George W. Bush could have been indicted for his response to 9/11.

The American people like to believe that somehow, once an occupant arrives at the Oval Office, a condition Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature" settles in and the commander-in-chief attains some kind of nobility.

Donald Trump has proved this - as he has done with so many notions of an America that can rise above itself - to be complete fantasy. He has found all of the buttons and he is pushing them, pushing them with glee and the kind of vengeance seen only in five-year-olds denied their favourite brand of candy. His suits have grown into variations of the mafia spoof-character Boss Hijack in that great 1980s film My Favourite Year.

Like Boss Hijack, Trump struts around the world, a human fridge with arteries and veins. Except that Trump is not a spoof. He is real. It is understandable why speaker Nancy Pelosi, the person who can get this ball rolling, is reluctant.

She understands that Trump likes nothing better than a fight, nothing better than an enemy: someone he can wave, like a red flag, to his cult and the moochers who ride his coattails to they know not where. Before Mueller stood gravely, and somewhat nervously, to recite aspects of his report, it might have seemed reasonable to lay low.

But if Trump is allowed to escape the House, we may see him again after 2020. And much, much worse.

Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at the American University in Washington, developed a 13-point forecasting model which has fairly successfully predicted the outcomes of recent presidential elections.

According to Lichtman, everything is decided on: 1.) Party mandate: after the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the US House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections; 2.) That there is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination; 3.) That the incumbent party candidate is the sitting president; 4.) That there is no significant third party or independent campaign; 5.) The economy is not in recession during the election campaign; 6.) Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms; 7.) The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy; 8.) That there is no sustained social unrest during the term; 9.) The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal; 10.) The administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs; 11.) it achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs; 12.) The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero; 13.) The challenger is not charismatic or a national hero.

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To Lichtman, electorates are pragmatic and will elect or re-elect a president based on performance in the White House. Period. The challenger will have no real effect.

If the national economy, as perceived by the electorate, is doing ok, the incumbent wins. If not, the challenger wins. Debates, conventions, according to Lichtman, mean nothing because the public see these as spin.

In 2000, Lichtman's model failed because it predicted the popular vote winner, but not the actual winner. 
And Al Gore, like Hillary Clinton, won the popular vote, but not the White House.

The popular vote for the president of the United States is perhaps the only vote, maybe in the world, that does not elect the head of state. An archaic system known as the electoral college does. This is determined by how many states a candidate wins. Not the total votes.

Each state is allocated a number of votes in the college. The Founding Fathers thought it a good idea to give more votes to states with lesser populations so that they have a chance to be in the game. Unfortunately, that makes a state like Idaho par, in terms of power, with massive and population-heavy state like California. Lichtman's model did not allow for the electoral college in 2000, just as the polls in 2016 did not allow for it either.

They were correct in that Hillary Clinton would win, in any normal system. She received the most votes.

But Lichtman predicted that Trump would win, based on his model, and will win again if he is not impeached. The question is why does Lichtman believe this?

He sees the process of impeachment as the 'big reveal' - the disrupter in the comfortable inner narrative that most Americans have about the presidency. Even as it implodes in front of their faces.

A Trump impeachment process would become a roll call of transgression, the slo-mo of the car crash of the White House he has created. It will be the Prince of Ugly that wakes up the Sleeping Princess of the American people, and makes her see the light of day.

And Lichtman believes that if the Democrats do not do this, if they do not go out on a limb and at least impeach Donald J. Trump, he'll be back. And the Democrats might lose the House again, too.

Lichtman is right. The impeachment process becomes the movie version of the book that is the Mueller report.

Even if Mueller simply sits and reads from his report, that will be enough to destroy the trajectory that could become the second term of
Donald Trump.

There are not enough votes in the Senate, as of yet, to find Trump guilty and throw him out of office. Bill Clinton's trial was over in a heartbeat and he was out on the White House lawn soon after, holding a press conference in triumph. But this time might be different.

Trump's tweets alone, particularly one rapidly deleted after Mueller's press conference in which he implied that he knew that Russian interference was on his behalf, could doom him.

But this will only happen if Pelosi takes a risk on impeachment and shows the world that no one in America is above the law.

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