Impeachment is a Ruling-Class Spectacle

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Donald Trump with Bill Clinton at Trump Tower in 2000 (Wikimedia Commons)

It is unquestionably good for American democracy and the well-being of common people to rid ourselves of the Trump administration. Donald Trump is a xenophobic, racist, sexist, nationalistic con man and a pathological liar. He is corrupt to his very bones and should never have been afforded a position of power over a single individual. His administration has perpetrated grave crimes, including child separation policies, operating concentration camps, arming the genocidal Saudi regime, giving the wealthy a trillion-dollar tax cut, implementing a “Muslim ban,” and empowering white supremacists and domestic terrorists.

However, he was not impeached for these crimes. The recent House of Representatives impeachment proceedings primarily revolved around allegations that Trump leveraged military aid to Ukraine in attempt to open politically motivated investigations (never mind that some of this “aid” has reached the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion).

Now let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Like Trump, former president Bill Clinton was impeached in the House of Representatives. As a teenager at the time, I recall being quite enthralled while perusing the salacious details of the Starr Report in my local newspaper. To be frank, Clinton was impeached primarily over an extramarital affair. Not for killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Iraq through economic sanctions. Not for bombing a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, likely leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths. Not for his expansion of the racist War on Drugs and mass incarceration. Not for deregulating Wall Street with his repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.

William Jefferson Clinton was impeached for lying about a blow job.

Why weren't presidents like Clinton and Trump impeached for their most monstrous offenses? Why aren’t presidents impeached for their austerity measures and assaults on the working class? Simply put, these flagrant crimes are part of the bipartisan consensus. They are a continuation of the policies of previous administrations — policies that were designed by and for the ruling class. Impeachment proceedings result from superficial feuds between the two major ruling class political organizations — the Democrats and the Republicans.

In the Land of the Free®, politics is a spectator sport. A 2014 study from Cambridge even found that “majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” Whether it’s the popular Russiagate conspiracy theory or the recent impeachment proceedings, the elite want you to feel like you’re watching “Game of Thrones” or “House of Cards.” They want you to feel that rush of dopamine, like when your favorite sports team prevails, even though your material conditions remain static and insufficient.

It is certainly reasonable to celebrate this historic event. Trump is only the third American president to be successfully impeached in the House. But it’s also important to see the bigger picture. Even in the unlikely event that impeachment passes in the Senate, we’d still be left with the rotten neoliberal system that created Trump in the first place. True “resistance” should seek to replace this barbaric system and create a government that works for all of us — not just the 1%.

Socialist. Herbivore. Husband. I usually write about politics, current events, and history. My work has also been published by The Hampton Institute.

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