In response to Ramesh Ponnuru writing in Bloomberg View on May 8, 2018,
Maybe the Founders Got Impeachment Wrong
Ponnuru asks whether our Constitutional system makes it too difficult to impeach and convict a President.
The Founders set a high bar for removing a president. Thinking about the modern presidency, and not just this president, one might well wonder: Maybe too high?
Given the moves by current Resistance Democrats to remove the President for political reasons, one should really be asking the opposite question: is the bar set too low?
Under the Constitution as written, the guiding criterion is that there need to be “ high crimes and misdemeanors”, some truly horrible offenses or abuse of power, to warrant changing the chief executive without waiting at most four years till the next election. Only in egregious circumstances does the country need to have its elected leader removed out of schedule. However, the Resistance Democrats have been in effect arguing for impeachment as means to overturn the results of an election. If Ponnuru’s advice is followed and impeachment was made easier, it would be easier to use as a blatant political tool. Were that to happen, the people who had voted for the President would regard the impeachment as an illegitimate power grab. It would set the stage for instability and civil war. By making impeachment and conviction difficult, the Constitution effectively requires that a good portion of those who voted the President into office will agree the President should be removed. This allows the country to move forward with some sense of unity. Other democratic systems, those that make it too easy to remove leaders, are too often beset with division, paralysis, and weak leaders.
The survival of the Constitutional system for over 225 years is one indication that a high bar to impeachment is a wise provision, one that firmly establishes regular elections as the process determining the transfer of power in all but the most extreme cases.