President Donald Trump has become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice. The second impeachment on Wednesday comes a week after rioters stormed the Capitol in Washington, D.C., leaving five people dead, including a police officer.
A majority of the U.S. House has voted to impeach Trump for a second time on Wednesday after charging the president with “incitement of insurrection,” laying the blame for the riots squarely at the president’s feet. (A Senate conviction could bar Trump from ever running for office again.)
The current political division in America is reverberating far beyond the halls of power. More than three-quarters – 77% – of Americans say the country is more divided than it was prior to the pandemic, according to a Pew Research Center November report. The overwhelming majority of Americans – 74% of voters – acknowledge that democracy is under threat, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.
Impeaching Trump is “probably not” the best way to unify America, Charles Wheelan, policy fellow at the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, told Yahoo Finance. “We’re in a real conundrum here because it might be the right thing to do,” he said. “Do we step back and try and repair the damage but perhaps leave President Trump’s culpable behavior on the table?”
Wheelan is the founder and co-chair of Unite America, an organization and movement made up of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who seek to bridge the country’s partisan divide. “One of the things we have done well as Americans over the last 200 years is...come up with a set of rules for civil discourse that we’ve adapted over time,” he said.
Keeping the peace is up to law enforcement, Wheelan said. “We [as Americans] are very liberal in the classic sense of the word, in terms of what we allow with speech, but we draw the line at violence,” he said. “With law enforcement, they’re specifically charged with keeping the peace. They are not allowed to act in an extra-official capacity to beat up innocent protestors and the like.”
‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’
Putting a stop to partisan politics as Democrats are set to gain control of the Senate next week would go a long way toward unifying the country, said Wheelan.
“As parents, we repeatedly tell our kids ‘two wrongs don’t make a right,’ and yet as a society, we’ve kind of lapsed into that mindset,” said Wheelan. “I think it is really important that the Democrats treat the Republicans better than the Republicans treated the Democrats. I would argue that some of Mitch McConnell’s actions – particularly around Merrick Garland and other kinds of things – were really abusive of the minority in the Senate, and not respectful of the majority in the House and in the country.”
Curtailing partisan gerrymandering is also a key focus of Unite America’s attempt to encourage politicians to govern through compromise.
Gerrymandering enables both Republicans and Democrats to draw legislative boundaries that benefit their parties during elections. “If you draw a safe district – so let’s say, it’s a Blue district. It’s 85% Democrats. There’s almost no chance a Republican will win it. The only way that Democratic candidate will lose is in a primary…[by] being challenged from the fringe,” said Wheelan.
“When [politicians] go to Congress, when they need to compromise, they won’t do it because that will merely invite a primary challenge. Gerrymander reform – which you can do with independent redistricting – would be one step towards changing the incentives so that those fringes don’t have more power than they deserve.”
The impact of privilege
Money both causes and serves to exacerbate the current division in America. “Any time you’ve got people of privilege using their privilege to build a wall for others, I think that’s a place from a policy standpoint we need to take a closer look,” he said.
Wheelan cited zoning laws as an example of troubling policy that doesn’t get enough attention.
“People should be allowed to live where they want to live. However, it’s not entirely clear that they should be able to vote to forbid certain kinds of housing, such as apartments or multi-unit dwellings in that neighborhood. It’s not property that they own,” he said. “The net effect of doing that is you create these enclaves of privilege where we then spend more on schooling, and it locks out – it shuts a door of opportunity for people who might want to move to those communities.”
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