Impeachment is not enough

November 6, 2019

There are so many reasons to get Donald Trump out of the White House that it is not surprising at all that a movement has begun in the House of Representatives to impeach him. At this point, it is a wholly partisan effort, with almost all the Democrats for impeachment and almost all the Republicans against it.

So many people have been deeply injured by this administration that they are cheered by the possibility that Trump might be forced out of office, even before the next presidential election. Most of them want to see the Democratic Party prevail.

Of course, impeachment would leave Mike Pence, not the Democrats, in charge of the government.

Impeachment of public officials in the U.S. has occurred rarely. It has generally succeeded only in such cases as getting rid of judges who were visibly drunk while presiding over trials.

While anyone who is halfway progressive would rejoice at getting Trump out of office one way or another, it is important to take note of how and why he might be toppled.  Is it because of all his super-reactionary moves that have done terrible damage to millions of people in this country, especially the most oppressed?

Trump has greenlighted racism and attacks on immigrants, emboldening the most violent far-right elements. This has led to the most painful and even lethal conditions on the U.S. border with Mexico — and in the hell-houses for migrants called “detention centers,” where children, even babies, have been separated from their parents.

Trump has undercut social programs aimed at alleviating poverty. He has ignored — and even ridiculed environmental pollution — while siding with multibillionaire energy companies responsible for the climate crisis.

But is this why Trump faces possible impeachment? Or is it because he has been deemed by the real rulers of this country and the government to be ineffective in protecting their interests — to the point of buffoonery?  The issue they have chosen to attack him on is his attempt to get help from politicians in Ukraine to discredit a possible political rival, Joe Biden. Surely, that is the least of Donald Trump’s crimes.

Is it just Trump’s erratic and grandiose personality that would be on trial? That would leave Pence, who low-keys it while pursuing his own right-wing agenda, sitting in the catbird seat. Even if Trump were forced out before the 2020 election — which is not too likely — right-wing politicians and the multibillionaire class he represents would still be running the show.

In other countries, in more revolutionary times, the people have come up with procedures to immediately oust officials who betrayed them. A prime example is the Paris Commune, which decreed that elected representatives were subject to recall at any time.

In 1871, a war was raging between France and Prussia (Germany). While Paris was under siege by Prussian troops, and the French army was both preoccupied and rebellious, the people of Paris rose up and established their own government – a people’s republican government that became known as the Paris Commune.  For a brief time the workers of Paris took charge of their own destiny.

Among the many steps taken by the Commune to shift political power to the working class was the direct election of those who would represent them in the Commune — and the ability to immediately recall from office anyone who didn’t carry out the will of the people.

There was no waiting for six years (a U.S. senator’s term), four years (a U.S. president’s term) or even two years (a U.S. representative’s term) to get rid of elected figures who betrayed their promises. Once the people of the Commune decided these “representatives” didn’t represent them, they were out.

The Paris Commune was one of the most democratic political bodies the world had yet seen. Now, 148 years later, in a country where both capitalist parties claim to champion democracy — but in fact serve the interests of the multibillionaire plutocrats — we need to fight for nothing less than the rule of the majority: workers’ power.