The Exigencies of the American Experience

Removing a bad leader under the best of circumstances is difficult enough. But removing a bad leader under other than the best of circumstances is a hurdle almost impossible to climb.

This post is not about the American president. It is about the American political process which threatens to be so biased against hard evidence as to violate every American norm relating to the rule of law. To be sure, the story of President Donald Trump’s impeachment is not yet over. Moreover, almost 70% percent of Americans surveyed – a very large majority – say they want witnesses to be heard at his trial. However, the fact that the Republican Senate majority leader can try with a reasonable expectation of success to turn a legal or, if you prefer, political, process into a sham tells you something about the state of the Republic.    

Explanations for how we got to this moment in American history abound. They range from the personal, such as the persona of this particular incumbent; to the political, such as the inordinate divisiveness of the body politic; to the economic, such as the measurable decline in well-being of the working class.

However, one explanation so far has been absent entirely from the discussion: the 21st century paucity of civic education in the nation’s schools. Suffice to say here that at a time when only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of government – how shocking a finding is that?! – and when the increased focus on math and reading has meant pushing civics out of the K through 12 curriculum, we should not be surprised when bad things happen. When members of America’s political elite try beating the system to keep a very bad leader in a very high place.

Though the American people strongly support calling witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, they are by and large passive observers of the political process, not active participants in the political process. For example, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell can be virtually 100 percent certain that if he manages to railroad the impeachment trial, turn the Senate into, in effect, a kangaroo court, there will be no immediate political price to pay. He is betting on the American people screaming and yelling on line, but not taking to the streets in sufficient numbers, and maybe not even turning out to vote in sufficient numbers, mortally to wound either him or his Republican majority. The fact that the American people are inadequately socialized to the American experience, the American experiment, means they do not understand, we cannot understand, how precious is our liberal ideology, how singular is our political history.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *