A College Student’s Guide to the Senate Trials

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A College Student’s Guide to the Senate Trials

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As I am writing this, the closing statements have been made in the Senate. As I am writing, the final arguments for and against Trump have been made. The world (or at least America) holds its breath as we wait for the final vote on whether the Senate will remove Trump from office or not. Finally, after months of debate, we have the results.  For those who have lost track of what is happening, here is a quick recap.

  • Starting in Sept. 2019, the House of Representatives began to investigate Trump to see if he had committed impeachable offenses. What qualifies for impeachment in the Constitution is treason, bribery or any other “high” crime or misdemeanor such as abusing his power.
  • He was accused of  abusing his power to gain a political advantage, and obstructing Congress. Both are high crimes viable for impeachment
  • The House impeached him. In January, the Senate started their debates over whether to remove Trump from office.

For those not aware, the House is comprised of a majority of Democrats. The Senate, however, is majority Republican. Typical ofpartisan politics, the Democrats want to remove Trump from office, while the Republicans do not want this. From this knowledge, it makes sense that the House would impeach him, and the Senate would be harder to convince. This proved true when the Democrats requested to bring in new witnesses for the trials. The senate voted and with a vote of 51 to 49, it was declined. It is important to note that the Democrats had around 17 new witnesses or pieces of evidence, while the Republicans had none. The final vote occurred on Wednesday, and to remove him from office, the Democrats need a vote of at least 67 out of 100 (two-thirds majority). The final vote followed party lines, for the first offense the final vote was 52 to 48, and the second was 53 to 47. Therefore, neither of the charges stuck and he was not removed from office.

No matter what your stance on Trump is, whether you like him or not, believe him or not, this trial has illuminated a bigger issue. While a good portion of  the arguments and discussions surrounding this event are about whether Trump is guilty or not, nearly every article, subtly or blatantly, has discussed the partisan politics at play. Whether Trump is actually guilty or not starts to take a  back seat as people pick their party and side. 

There are far less shades of gray as you are either a Republican or Democrat. The senators will likely vote for their own party, whether that is right or not. Party loyalty is starting to take the place of individual beliefs. Sure, you can disagree on the small things, but you better agree with your party on the important votes. Political scientist Howard Levine discusses the psychology of it, saying, “What many people are doing is identifying with a party first… more and more, people are sticking with the team. Their higher priority becomes ‘beating’ the other team, which is the other party.” It is important to know whether Trump was planning on using Ukraine against Biden, but there is a greater underlying war at play. The Democrats wish to remove Trump from office to try to take back power.  The Republicans want the exact opposite. 

This struggle will go on, each group vying for a little more power, a little more control. But neither group can win, and eventually everyone will lose. Thinking that there are only two options, and forcing that opinion on others, denies people the complexity of politics. The true loss will come when we have to choose yes or no, instead of discussing the case, considering alternatives and listening to other points of views. Without discussion and polite debates, we will grow more and more close minded, convinced that our party’s beliefs are the truth and therefore the other side must be wrong. By being defined by one group or the other, we lose the the gift that democracy gives usthe ability to stand by our own opinions, independent of those in power, and to disagree with someone but still debate civilly. 

Whether you agree with Trump or not, as the Senate trials come to a close and the 2020 elections draw closer, I urge everyone to engage in a civil conversation about this with someone that may have different views than you. We can learn from this event. We can learn about party and international politics. We can learn the dangers of choosing a party over a policy. As we watch Trump and the trials, we can use this for voting in the 2020 elections.

Discuss the impeachment with people different from you and your perspective and understanding will grow. Learn from them, and perhaps they can learn from you. It will no longer appear as a black or white issue to you, but it never truly was. Grow, learn and make an intelligent informed decision in this year’s presidential election.