Ought Implies Can, Impeachment Edition

A tourist holds a “Make America Great Again” hat outside the White House, August 2, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Two recurring themes of mine over the last few years have been a) that the removal of a president by Congress practically requires an extraordinary degree of public consensus and b) that a lot of arguments about impeachment and removal ignore that fact. A lot of the people who argue against impeachment and removal, for example, say that it would be horribly divisive; but if it were so divisive it would not succeed.

But it’s not just opponents of impeachment who make this mistake. Some proponents are saying that we can’t just let the electorate render a verdict on President Trump because he has shown that he is willing to abuse his power to win the election. (See here for the most recent example I’ve seen.)

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The thing is, though, that a world in which Trump can be removed from office is not a world in which he is close to having enough support to win re-election. If you’re an undecided senator trying to figure out whether to be the 67th vote for conviction, you don’t need to worry that voting no will allow him to abuse his way to a second term. In that case, he’d already be cooked.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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