The Rhetoric of Impeachment

At the Bulwark, Bryan Garsten makes a powerful case for how to persuade Republicans at Trump’s Senate impeachment trial:“To have a chance at conviction, the managers will have to . . . focus on the audience they want to persuade. They will have to put themselves in the ‘weak’ Republicans’ shoes and imagine what would allow them to vote for conviction.” This is good advice and likely the best way forward. 

I want to believe there are 17 Republicans who would vote for removal. And I think the impeachment managers should attempt to persuade them along these lines. It would be shrewd if Speaker Pelosi would add a few Republicans to the group, which she still can. At the very least, add Representative Jaime Lynn Herrera Beutler who voted to impeach. She spoke powerfully about Trump’s effort to interrupt a constitutional process, as well as his failure to protect Congress.  

Yet I remain skeptical. I think it is the proper remedy. I’m just worried that getting to 17 Republican Senators is not just elusive, but impossible. With Garsten, Tulis, and others, I think it is probably worth the effort. But even now, many Republicans are either lining up against conviction, or simply saying an impeachment trial is now unconstitutional because Trump is no longer president. Given this reality, I can see why Jeffrey Isaac, Sue McWilliams, and Brian Kalt are skeptical of proceeding. Their essays in the symposium, from different perspectives, give us powerful reasons to be skeptical. Failure to remove is likely to have the costs they point to. Maybe censure is the best option actually on the table. That’s the reality we’re looking at.

Can rhetoric and persuasion alter that reality? That’s the hope of those who want to proceed.

3 thoughts on “The Rhetoric of Impeachment

  1. Obviously Trump can no longer be removed, all that is left is conviction followed by prohibition against holding future office. So why proceed? Perhaps because we need to shut all of the doors that allow him to re-enter the national stage. By doing so it is possible that some on the far right will do everything possible to derail Mr Biden’s legislative agenda. And that may be the impetus needed for the Dems to increase their majority in the House and get to a clear majority in the Senate.

  2. I think you point to some of the risks of continuing with an impeachment trial. But beyond disqualification, Congress could also set a precedent in defending itself and rejecting the sort of behavior Trump engaged in post election. Disqualification would not just prohibit Trump from occupying public office, but as several of us argued in the symposium set a precedent for future presidents going forward.

  3. Be careful for which you wish.

    As Senator Tom Cotton indicated, this impeachment process of the sitting president and now a trial in the Senate can establish a precedent of continual impeachments and trials. This will even set a precedent of trials of other past presidents once there is a power shift in Congress.

    Articles of impeachment have already been filed against President Biden.

    Where will this end?

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