Donald Trump second impeachment trial revealed the profound imperfections of the sole legislative mechanism for keeping a president responsible for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Three Republican senators spent an hour meeting with the defendant’s attorneys about their plan. And if they were all subjects of the crime, the whole Senate acted as jurors. There were no witnesses called. And the conclusion has never been in doubt.
The trial packed an emotional punch. And it served as the first accounting of the January 6 protests on the US Capitol in history. Still, the inherently political mechanism never led to a genuine and objective attempt to decide how and whether Donald Trump was responsible for the rebellion.
Ultimately, the results were unsurprising- A swift indictment in the Democratic-led House, followed by an acquittal in the Senate. About 17 Republicans were supposed to convict there. Seven just voted guilty, an insignificant number but a benchmark for the votes of a minority group.
We have seen that the parties’ division has made it easier to get a plurality to impeach in the House at precisely the same moment. And also that it has made it more challenging to get a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
We have seen that the parties’ polarization has made it easier to get a majority to impeach in the House at the same time. Thus, it has made it more challenging to get a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
As such, it is now less useful for both parties as a tool to hold presidents accountable.