In polarised US, Trump still standing

With the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives voting to impeach President Donald Trump, the stage is set for his trial by the Republican-controlled Senate. Trump faced charges relating to abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. This makes him the third US President, after Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, to face the ignominy of impeachment. For Democrats and others fed-up with Trump’s scandal-ridden presidency, this is a breakthrough. They were unable to put Trump on trial in the seemingly endless list of misconduct and corruption charges that have defined his presidency. Even two years of investigation into Russia’s role in his 2016 election victory had failed to put him in the dock. It was only in August when a whistleblower complaint laid bare Trump’s abuse of power in pressuring the Ukraine government to malign his potential rival in the 2020 presidential race that the Democrat campaign against Trump gathered momentum and culminated in his impeachment by the House on Wednesday.  

However, the impeachment may not result in his removal from power. A two-thirds majority of the Senate is needed to remove Trump from office. Given the Republicans’ 53-seat majority in the 100-member Senate and voting expected to go on party lines again, Trump is likely to get acquitted and complete his full term as President. It is possible, too, that he will be re-elected in the 2020 presidential elections. The disgrace of an impeachment may not weaken his re-election chances as many of his supporters see the impeachment as a ‘left-wing conspiracy’ and will therefore rally behind him. Democrats may not benefit in the long run by impeaching Trump.

American views on the impeachment are deeply polarised. Speeches made by Representatives ahead of the impeachment motion were passionate, enraged, even vitriolic reflecting the public mood at rallies outside. It is evident that polarisation in the US, which is already serious, has worsened in recent months. This will deepen when Trump’s impeachment is debated by the Senate. It is not just differing political loyalties that are feeding this polarisation. Also fuelling the divide are fundamental differences on worldviews and principles on just about everything. As this polarisation grows, the room for compromise, the middle ground and moderation is narrowing. Debate and discussion will be discarded in favour of bullying and the politics of intimidation. All the more so as the country heads for presidential elections in less than a year.

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