Mitt Romney made history last week. He is the only senator in U.S. history to vote against party lines to convict an impeached president. Which brings us to an issue that is possibly more significant than the impeachment proceedings themselves. Impeachment power was granted to the Congress as a guard rail against would-be dictators or idiots. But if the senators always, or virtually always, vote to protect presidents from their party, it’s clearly useless.
This is a point on which we should all be able to agree. No matter which side of the aisle gets our support, we want the senate to be able to remove a president who has become a danger to the country. We need a judgment that comes from the facts and not from party affiliations. The founding fathers didn’t get everything right. And they knew when they were writing the Constitution that they weren’t creating an ultimate document. The world would change, and the document would have to change with it. In the words of noted historian Joseph J. Ellis, writing in Time Magazine, the Constitution was recognized by the Founders as a living document.
Adaptations have been necessary along the way. For example, for a long time, slavery was legal. Native Americans and blacks did not have the rights of citizens. And we are currently celebrating the 100thanniversary of women’s right to vote. It took a while to get there.
The Electoral College creates a condition in which the election is decided not by a popular vote, but by the distribution of votes. Consequently a candidate can lose the popular vote by millions and still win the election. Eventually, we’ll have to fix that. Let’s hope we do it before we cause too much damage.
On the topic of the impeachment issue, we don’t really know what alternative system would work. We only know this one doesn’t. Maybe with something this important, we should keep politicians out of it. The smart action might be to pass it to the Supreme Court. They might not be an improvement. But they couldn’t be worse.