Impeachment in perspective

  • 18 February 2020
  • NormanL

Now that the impeachment and trial proceedings against President Donald Trump are over, it's worth reviewing whether, as some predecited, the whole mess posed a grave threat to the function of government, and the republic itself.

As the Cato Institute's Gene Healy writes, we should know by now that government grinds on regardless of such events. And as for life outside of the political arena? Impeachments don't make much of a difference at all:

...after three serious presidential impeachment campaigns in the last five decades, we should know better by now. Putting a president on trial for his job has never been a national nightmare. None of the scare stories are true.

Whatever disruption impeachment causes, it’s clearly not the kind that spooks investors. The Clinton impeachment coincided with one of the biggest bull markets in history, and — despite Trump’s warning that “the Impeachment Hoax is hurting our Stock Market,” the Dow and S&P hit record highs the day after the House vote.

Nor, for better or worse, does impeachment paralyze government. It never has. During the alleged Watergate “nightmare,” Congress found time to time to pass landmark legislation like the Endangered Species Act, the War Powers Resolution and the Impoundment Control Act.

In the three weeks after the House authorized the Clinton impeachment inquiry, Congress passed four major bills.

The legislative onslaught that accompanied Trump’s impeachment included paid family leave for federal workers, hiking the minimum tobacco age to 21 and creating a Space Force. Depending on how you evaluate that record, you might find yourself wishing impeachment was more of a distraction.

And can we finally put to rest the notion that impeachment is so divisive it might lead to actual war? That particular scare story seems to have originated with former Trump consigliere Roger Stone, but it somehow got serious consideration in respectable publications like the New Yorker and Bloomberg News. The idea that impeachment would stoke red‐​on‐​blue violence was silly to begin with and looks even more absurd now. Judging by the Trump trial’s weak Nielsens, most Americans weren’t even mad enough to tune in.

All told, our third presidential impeachment didn’t do the country any visible harm.

It's another way of saying that individual liberty and free markets are still stronger than politcs. Our job is to make sure things stay that way.

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