Now that Congress is back in session, it is imperative that Members find within themselves the moral clarity to act on the release of the Mueller report and begin in earnest impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Not to do so is insulting to voters, destructive to our democratic institutions, and political self-sabotage of the most breathtaking kind. Most importantly, it is a gross abdication of responsibility and a moral failure.
Every day that the Congress does not begin such proceedings, Members fail to uphold their oaths of office and neglect their obligations to do the job they were sent to Washington to do. The Congressional Oath of Office, taken by all Members of the House of Representatives, includes the words “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and “I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
Members of Congress are elected by their districts to do the business of the government, to act in good faith and according to the law in the best interests of their constituents, and to adhere to the democratic institutions and norms of our democracy. The President of the United States has violated United States laws, institutional norms, democratic principles, and basic values of human decency since the moment he took office, and his misbehavior and mobster-style criminality is increasing by the day.
Let’s break down the reasons impeachment proceedings must begin immediately. First, anything less is an insult to voters. The American voting public deserve to make up their minds based on a full picture of the facts, with as much truth available as possible against the wall of lies erected by the Trump administration. To simply put the matter of blatant violations of American democratic values and norms on hold in order to wait for the next election is both supremely cynical and supremely disrespectful to the American people. It is also insulting and crass for Members of Congress to refuse to fulfill their duty in this matter and then ask to be re-elected.
Which leads us to the damage to democracy. Two elements of this damage are even now corroding the electorate’s faith in democratic processes. The more straightforward is the proven interference in the 2016 and 2018 elections by hostile foreign powers—interference that the Mueller report shows was welcomed and encouraged by the Trump campaign. For a candidate or his campaign to accept and participate in the undermining of American elections is patently anti-democratic and anti-American, and should be immediately disqualifying for holding elected office. Once these actions are revealed, the Congress has a duty to impeach to protect the integrity of future elections and assure the voting public that American elections are free of interference—otherwise, the logical conclusion is that voting is useless and futile.
The second element has to do with the trust and faith of the public in their Congressional representatives. Please recall the line in the oath of office: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Duly elected representatives who abstain from this process abdicate a solemn promise made to their constituents. The least of the negative consequences of breaking this promise is the risk to individual Members’ re-election prospects. Far worse is the loss of faith in the institution itself and in democratic processes writ large. If elected officials are not going to do the job they’ve been chosen to do—why vote?
Finally, there is an important political argument for impeachment. Many discussions about whether to impeach or not impeach in recent weeks have centered on the political argument against the process. Looked at from another angle, though, the political calculus can be figured differently. The “blue wave” of the 2018 elections demonstrated the hunger among voters for elected officials willing to stand up and call out corruption and lies in government. Voters are more engaged than ever—although the danger that they will abandon the political process if they perceive that it is irrevocably broken is all too real. People of all political persuasions are calling for an end to the lies, bullying, self-dealing, nepotism, and performative provocation that characterize this White House and the party leadership that supports it. House leadership should consider that these voters will welcome and reward good-faith efforts to restore the rule of law and accountability to the highest office in the land. Should the Republican-led Senate refuse to uphold its duty by responding to the charges, House members should trust that the electorate will recognize where the process broke down, and who is to blame for the continued undermining of American democracy.
Call it moral clarity, call it leadership. But be assured, if there is a shred of our constitution still functioning when this tumultuous time in American history is over, we will owe our thanks to those who had the wisdom to recognize the existential threat of rampant corruption and manipulation at the highest levels of our government, and the courage and patriotism to take bold, decisive action on behalf of the best ideals of the American experiment.
Maria Wood returned to academic life in 2014, after a two-decade career in the music business, earning a BA in American Studies and a Certificate in Ethnomusicology from Smith College in 2018. Most recently, she served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Jesse Colvin for Congress.