OPIN­ION

Repub­li­cans are likely to use the threat to im­peach Trump to gal­vanise peo­ple to vote in Novem­ber

DNA (Delhi) - - FRONT PAGE - HARSH V PANT The writer is Pro­fes­sor of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, King’s Col­lege Lon­don, and a Distin­guished Fel­low at Ob­server Re­search Foun­da­tion. Views are per­sonal.

Repub­li­cans are likely to use the threat to im­peach Trump to gal­vanise peo­ple to vote in Novem­ber, writes Harsh V Pant

The death of John McCain, a dec­o­rated Viet­nam war vet­eran and long-serv­ing US Se­na­tor from Ari­zona has once again un­der­lined the grow­ing po­lit­i­cal di­vide in Amer­ica un­der the Trump Pres­i­dency. In­stead of bring­ing the na­tion to­gether, McCain’s death and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­ac­tion to it have brought to the fore the chal­lenges Amer­ica faces as it nav­i­gates through th­ese dif­fi­cult times.

At the end of last year, McCain, who strongly be­lieved in the post Sec­ond World War global or­der and Amer­ica’s key role in main­tain­ing it, had writ­ten about the need to de­fend the “lib­eral world or­der.” For him, the rise of Don­ald Trump was a sign that all was not well in the lib­eral global space. Tar­get­ing the pop­ulists in the western world, McCain had be­moaned that “they have turned in­ward eco­nom­i­cally and pri­ori­tised pro­tec­tion­ism over in­te­gra­tion,” and “seem to have given up on the very idea of lib­er­al­ism it­self, be­tray­ing the un­der­ly­ing will that is nec­es­sary to main­tain any world or­der.”

McCain was anti-Trump all along and the sit­ting US Pres­i­dent has not been in­vited to his fu­neral while McCain’s other po­lit­i­cal ri­vals, Ge­orge W Bush and Barack Obama, will be eu­lo­gis­ing the late war vet­eran. Trump has re­cip­ro­cated in kind. De­spite be­ing pushed by his aides to re­lease a state­ment in hon­our of the late Se­na­tor, he only tweeted a per­func­tory con­do­lence mes­sage on McCain. Low­er­ing the na­tional flag at half mast was also ap­par­ently a big deal.

McCain’s death draws a line un­der an Amer­i­can ap­proach to the world which touted Amer­i­can pri­macy and de­fended the lib­eral in­ter­na­tional or­der. There is lit­tle love lost for th­ese pri­or­i­ties to­day amongst the or­di­nary Amer­i­cans. De­spite do­ing his best to shred the global lib­eral or­der to bits, Trump’s pop­u­lar­ity among his base re­mains high. The more be­sieged Trump seems, the more sym­pa­thetic he seems to his base. Talk of his im­peach­ment in the belt­way has gained salience af­ter fresh ac­cu­sa­tions of him pass­ing hush money to women for his al­leged af­fairs.

Spec­u­la­tion that Don­ald Trump may be im­peached has been rekin­dled by fresh ac­cu­sa­tions that he paid hush money to women with whom he al­legedly had af­fairs. Last week, Michael Co­hen, Trump’s former lawyer im­pli­cated the Pres­i­dent in off-the-books hush money paid to a porn star in his guilty plea. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former cam­paign man­ager, has also been found guilty of bank and tax-fraud charges. And then there is the Rus­sia in­quiry which hangs like a Damo­cles sword over Trump. While Trump can­not be pros­e­cuted dur­ing his pres­i­dency, the only way re­main­ing for his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents to re­move him from of­fice is by im­peach­ment.

The process of im­peach­ment is a cum­ber­some one and has to be started by the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, need­ing only a sim­ple ma­jor­ity to pass. The trial is held in the Se­nate where a twothirds vote is nec­es­sary for the Pres­i­dent’s re­moval. This has not yet hap­pened in the US his­tory. Bill Clin­ton’s case is a re­minder that im­peach­ment can take a po­lit­i­cal toll on those try­ing to re­move the Pres­i­dent.

Given the in­her­ently po­lit­i­cal na­ture of the process of im­peach­ment, the Democrats re­main coy about declar­ing their in­ten­tions. They are only promis­ing a se­ri­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Trump’s af­fairs if they take con­trol of the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the midterm elec­tions. They don’t want to jeop­ar­dise their chances to get a ma­jor­ity in the House in Novem­ber elec­tions. They need 23 more seats to win con­trol of the House. So they con­tinue to un­der­line that im­peach­ing the Pres­i­dent is not a pri­or­ity for them. They are wary of en­er­gis­ing the Repub­li­can base be­fore the midterm.

But Repub­li­cans have seized upon this chance and are likely to use the threat of Trump’s im­peach­ment to bring their vot­ers out to vote in Novem­ber, ex­hort­ing them to keep the Repub­li­cans in power to save Trump and his agenda. Rudy Gi­u­liani, Trump’s lawyer and close aide has made it clear: “This elec­tion is go­ing to be about im­peach­ment or no im­peach­ment.” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strate­gist ad­viser, has warned that im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings would be launched against Don­ald Trump in Jan­uary if he fails to hold onto the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The in­sti­tu­tion of the US Pres­i­dency, one of the most po­tent of po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions any­where in the world, to­day faces a cri­sis of cred­i­bil­ity as it has been weak­ened con­sid­er­ably by Trump. Amer­i­can polity, mean­while, is dys­func­tional with the na­tion’s much-touted checks and bal­ances barely manag­ing to ei­ther check or bal­ance.

In his fi­nal mes­sage to the Amer­i­cans, the late Se­na­tor McCain sug­gested that the na­tion’s great­ness is weak­ened, “when we hide be­hind walls, rather than tear them down; when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have al­ways been.” It is not hard to de­ci­pher the tar­get of this mes­sage – Don­ald Trump – who is chal­leng­ing the foun­da­tions of the con­sen­sus on which Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy was based. By rolling back eco­nomic glob­al­i­sa­tion and mak­ing it starkly clear that his Amer­ica is not keen on sus­tain­ing Pax Amer­i­cana, Trump has man­aged to dis­rupt not only the global or­der but also in his own way the Amer­i­can do­mes­tic polity. It is not read­ily ev­i­dent if Amer­i­can polity will be able to re­gain its equi­lib­rium even af­ter Trump has left the cen­tre stage.

The in­sti­tu­tion of the US Pres­i­dency, one of the most po­tent of po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions any­where in the world, to­day faces a cri­sis of cred­i­bil­ity

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