David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

The Trump Impeachment – What the Heck, America?

Brandon Sun, January 6, 2020 – David McConkey

History soon will be made in the U.S. Senate with the impeachment trial of President Trump. And it is a good time for us Canadians to ask: What the heck is happening in the U.S.?

Let’s start with the trial itself. In the words of their constitution, a U.S. president can be impeached on the grounds of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” In the case of Trump, the House of Representatives impeached him for two high crimes and misdemeanors: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“Impeached” is like being charged with an offense. Now Trump will be put on trial in the Senate and he will be found either guilty or not. If guilty, he will be removed from office. The “high” of “high crimes” refers to the high position of the officeholder and not to the severity of the crimes. And the “crimes” are actions that are not necessarily against the law. Impeachment could be compared to being fired from a job for misconduct. The behaviour might not be unlawful, but could be found to be improper for the position.

Besides Trump, only Andrew Johnson in the 1860s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s have been impeached by the House of Representatives. (In the 1970s, Richard Nixon resigned before the process could get that far.) But the impeachment is not the critical part of this saga. The most important question: why was Trump elected in the first place?

In recent years, the U.S. has been roiled by a multitude of forces: economic, technological, cultural, demographic. Of the present turmoil, Trump is both symptom and cause. Take political divisiveness. There have been three presidential impeachments in their 230-year history. But two have been in the last 20 years. Take demographics. Among American senior citizens, 70% are white Christians. Among young adults? 30%.

The key to Trump becoming president is the media. Well before he ran for office, Trump had become famous by mastering many media. He made cameo appearances in TV shows like “Sex and the City” and in movies like “Home Alone 2.”  He wrote bestselling books. He bragged about his extramarital affairs in New York City tabloid newspapers. He made tawdry remarks about women (including his daughter Ivanka) on radio’s “The Howard Stern Show.”

Two big ones were TV and social media. Trump made numerous guest appearances on TV talk shows and he had his own show, “The Apprentice.” Trump stormed social media, continuing into his presidency. As president, he inundates the citizenry with a blizzard of tweets, sometimes over 100 a day. 

Trump also promoted the falsehood of “birtherism,” which is an American conspiracy theory. By the way, these mass delusions stoked by characters like Trump have no Canadian equivalent.

“I play to people’s fantasies,” Trump said in his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal.” But Trump’s special power is his shameless craziness. Even in the 1980s, when he mused about running for president on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Trump cultivated an almost cartoon-like persona. Gaudy opulence! Cheating on his wives! Boorish comments! Outright lies! Small hands! Long ties! The colour orange! That hair!

Since the 1980s, Trump has been called a “short-fingered vulgarian.” Trump enthusiast, “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams, hails Trump as a “clown genius.”

Because Trump could not be elected in Canada, many of us here are baffled by his electoral success in the U.S. But Americans have known for decades the kind of man he was, and the kind of president he would be. So I think that Trump has a good chance of being re-elected this November.

The U.S. is different from Canada and becoming more different by the day. For one thing, Americans are more religious than Canadians. Millions of evangelical Christians almost worship Trump as a Messiah – another phenomenon that has no equivalent in our country. No Canadian politician could say, as Trump did, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.”

In the Senate, Trump likely will be found “not guilty.” He then could turn vindication from the impeachment trial into gold on the campaign trail.

The Trump era is already being described as “the new normal.” If he is re-elected, he could become one of their most consequential presidents ever. But whatever happens, Trump will continue to make history.

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See also: 

Reflections on Watergate, Nixon and Trump

Sometimes PMs, Presidents Can Make All The Difference

Is Donald Trump the New Joseph Smith?

We Must Resist the Trump Culture – Here's How

On Tyranny: Learning Lessons from History

Takeaways From Trump’s Unbelievable Victory



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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Extraordinary Canadians:
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The Greatest Show on Earth:
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