The sad truth is that under extremist political regimes, it unfortunately takes the death of an innocent victim to unearth a tangible sense of action and unrest from the electorate.
It’s been another difficult week in American politics, and without degenerating into a diatribe on far right extremism, Klansman and Nazis the bottom line is that a young girl has lost her life this week in an act of barbarism that, so far, has yet to be admonished by the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Trump’s right wing leanings are no secret: the manner in which he spoke about Mexico in his election campaign spoke volumes, in more ways than one, and the fact he is more vocal on Twitter than he is traditional media perhaps says a lot about his stage-managed persona than anything else.
Indeed, when Rupert Murdoch’s son James is taking the moral high ground against you, it might be time to re-evaluate your life strategy.
So what has Donald gone and done this time? His unwillingness to condemn the Charlottesville killing, in which a young protester was hit by a car driven by a far right activist during a series of acts of unrest, was the main reason for liberal America’s ire, with his ‘I think there is blame on both sides’ statement managing to somehow mitigate what was, in essence, an act of terrorism.
The fact that even his own Republican party has publicly distanced themselves from Trump’s comments is interesting. It poses the question of just how likely is he to see out his four-year stint as President? If he loses the backing of his own party, the bouffant-wearing one really is in big trouble.
There are a number of ways in which Trump could be forced from office. There is impeachment, conviction and, the old classic taken from the world of football management, the ‘forced resignation’.
The bookmakers, fairly sharp on all matters of political betting these days, are now offering odds as short as Even money that the President won’t make it to the end of his term, with odds of 7/2 available on him being convicted by the Senate and a lowly 4/5 on him being impeached – that is known as ‘odds on’ in the trade.
This latest debacle has weakened Trump’s already flaccid grasp on the presidency, and the sportsbooks suggest more turmoil in American politics can be expected.
What Does Impeachment Mean?
It’s remarkable that the idea of Donald Trump being impeached is treated as a statistical likelihood by the bookmakers, because in truth it is a last-ditch strategy that has very rarely been used through history.
In America, Congress – essentially the Houses of Commons in the UK – has the power to bring an elected figure to trial if they believe they are guilty of offences that contravene common law. Article 2 of the United States Constitution reads that official is charged with ‘treason, bribery or other such crimes and misdemeanours’.
The process is triggered by Congress, who must vote on impeachment action being brought.
Impeachment can remove an official from their post if more than 66% of the Senate approves the vote – as has happened twice to the incumbent President in history: Andrew Johnson in 1868, and in the modern era Bill Clinton in 1998. Interestingly, both were acquitted by the Senate. The Watergate scandal almost got Richard Nixon impeached, but he decided to fall on his sword and resigned instead.
If Trump was to be impeached, he would be replaced in the first instance by Mike Pence, his Vice President, unless he was impeached too, in which case Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s Speaker of the House, would take charge.
Will Donald Trump be Impeached?
On the face of it, it seems unlikely. Trump’s Republican Party controls both Congress and the Senate, so he would need an internal coup amongst his own party officials for the impeachment process to be discussed.On the other hand, the party’s long term stability is more important than anyone individual, and while the present incumbent hasn’t broken any laws as yet – merely acted in an inappropriate manner – you can be sure that the dissident Republicans will be ready to act should Trump infringe the law in some way.
That notion saved Clinton’s bacon in the late nineties. His impeachment papers were brought about due to his affair with Monica Lewinsky – specifically the furore that followed and his alleged ‘obstruction of justice’, but he was acquitted by the Senate.
So for the time being at least we are stuck with Trump, and that will continue until he breaks the law in some way. Let’s hope that happens sooner rather than later, before a new American civil war and World War III with North Korea become reality rather than fiction.