With less than two weeks left in the Trump administration, many in Congress, including Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi have called for the removal of President Donald Trump from office for inciting the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol building.
While many members of Congress hold reservations about calling for removal from office, necessary precedents for the future come from difficult decisions in the present.
Two common arguments often emerge against impeachment. Primarily, many who would otherwise be in favor of the matter feel that the gesture would be meaningless with so little time left in Trump’s term. Many also feel that healing the nation should be the current political focus, and that an impeachment would only divide the country further. Both arguments, however, are easily refuted.
As both houses of Congress were in session to affirm the results of the 2020 presidential election at the time of the riot, many members of Congress were personally affected. Therefore, bipartisan opposition to the insurrection would likely hasten a political process that would otherwise take a significant amount of time.
The vast majority of arguments against impeachment cite time constraints as a deterrent. However, with bipartisan support, the length of time required for an impeachment could be vastly shortened.
An impeachment and subsequent removal from office would mean that President Trump would be ineligible to run in any future elections. As such, Congress could ensure that Trump would not have the ability to incite such violence against the American democratic process again.
Furthermore, the political sphere in America has grown increasingly more divided throughout Trump’s presidency, and many Americans worry that an impeachment would only worsen the national divide. However, pushing for unity, rather than punishing those who have pursued violence only allows for violence without repercussions to become normalized.
It is difficult to argue for unity with people who would desecrate government buildings, many of whom bore flags and apparel representing various hate groups, several of which have opposed the United States in wars in the past.
Moreover, there is a historical precedent of lightly reprimanded insurrections leading to successful insurrections later. To prevent something similar from happening in the United States in the near future, our current government cannot act like the overthrown systems of the past.
Despite both of these arguments, the impeachment and removal of President Trump would prove that American democracy is willing to protect itself against violent insurrections. It would also prove that America is not willing to tolerate politicians spreading dangerous lies, especially after these claims have been disproven by courts across the country.
The semantics of punishing individual rioters can be addressed in due time. Many factors were at work in creating the environment surrounding the insurrection, including larger issues of white supremacy, antisemitism, and empowerment of hate groups in the United States. Congress cannot fix these issues immediately, but they can deplatform a powerful voice among these groups.
For the time being, the clearest action for the government to take is to ensure that the symbol around which the rioters rallied is punished. Therefore, Congress should perform its civic duty and remove President Trump from office before the events of January 6th can be remotely normalized.