House Democratic leaders yesterday formally called for President Donald Trump’s removal from office, arguing that he “ignored and injured the interests of the nation” in two articles of impeachment that accused him of abusing his power and obstructing Congress. But what do young people—for most, the first impeachment in their lifetime—think about it? We asked Student Nation contributors to share their thoughts, answering the question: How does the current effort to impeach President Trump affect your day-to-day life? How does it inform your view of the future?
My home district in Tennessee hasn’t elected a Democrat to Congress since before the light bulb was invented. Yet, since 2016, many of my neighbors have been inspired like never before. I see them, rain or shine, grinning and holding signs that say, “Honk for impeachment.” Since protest signs were mostly banned in our state legislature, they instead stand on street corners or by stop signs. Many are standing alone.
As shocking as are the accusations of election tampering, or digging up dirt on political rivals, or the countless other times Trump seems to have his finger on the scale, more surprising to me is the fact that so many of us are finally speaking up.
Election tampering is endemic in the South, and much of it is arguably worse than anything of which Trump has been accused. Jim Crow was hatched in a backroom deal brokering the 1876 presidential election. It took almost a century to regain what the South lost that night, and just in my lifetime we’ve lost much of the Voting Rights Act. Even if it’s true that the Russians were responsible for purging voter rolls, it would have been another instance of something our own government already does. The practice of illegally digging up dirt on political rivals didn’t begin with a call to Ukraine. And while voter suppression has certainly accelerated in recent years, it’s not entirely true that this is “not normal.”
It’s so hard to vote in Tennessee that even experts can’t figure it out. We’re at the bottom in voter turnout not just because of bots or bad algorithms, but ultimately because of ourselves. We turn away or tune it out, because we believe we’re powerless.
Our elections, like our legal system as a whole, have power because people believe in them. In the words of Mimi Rocah, one of my law professors, “People need to see the rule of law vindicated in some way. Seeing the lawlessness and corruption of this presidency go unaddressed makes people lose faith in the institutions that we as a society need to function.”
The mindset that says there’s no point in charging Trump if he’s never convicted is the same mindset that says the South is already a lost cause. But you shouldn’t stand for something because it’s popular. You should be willing to stand for what you believe in, even if you’re standing alone, by a stop sign, or in the rain.
—Robin Happel, Pace University
In many ways, the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives has been a long time coming. From the time Trump was elected, he has shown an open contempt for the laws and systems designed to check presidential power. Congress has seemed willing to tolerate any number of flagrant ethical and legal violations, seemingly in an attempt to maintain “business as usual.”
For many young voters, the delay in initiating a formal inquiry signaled an increasing lack of moral clarity among congressional Democratic leaders. Many of us wondered what more the Democrats needed to see: Trump was making his abject bigotry and inability to perform the duties of the office clear before he was even elected.
Still, the day-to-day problems of many Americans are exactly the same as they were before the formal impeachment inquiry was announced. I fully support impeachment and believe Donald Trump is entirely unfit for office—but I also believe that impeachment alone will not motivate voters, including young voters, in 2020. Democrats won’t be able to ride impeachment to victory. They will need to stand for something more.
Moving to impeach a president is certainly a bold move. But we will need to be even bolder to combat income inequality, address gun violence (including by police), fix the housing crisis, and tackle climate change, to name only a few key issues of our time. In his brief time in office, Trump has already made these battles more difficult; removing him from office won’t undo that damage. The truth is that congressional Democrats should have moved to impeach earlier: Our windows of opportunity are closing, especially on curbing our carbon emissions, and Trump has cost us valuable time. Impeachment proceedings are necessary—not because we’ll get that time back, but because we can’t afford to lose any more.
—Nathan Carpenter, Oberlin College
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump in September, I was worried.
As in past investigations, I thought Trump would weasel his way out of the crosshairs, all the while leveraging the inquiry to expand his outlandish vitriol and hatred toward Democrats and the press.
If the public hearings started earlier this month are any indication of the outcome of Trump’s impeachment, I think I was right to worry.
While I think the evidence is overwhelming—as is Trump’s incompetence—a quid pro quo is not. I’m doubtful House Democrats have the widespread support of the public, nor of their counterparts across the aisle, necessary to convict Trump of articles of impeachment.
As all of this unfolds, I find myself wondering: Does Trump’s impeachment deserve the amount of attention it continues to receive? And if Trump is impeached, is that necessarily the best outcome for our country?
Trump loves being the center of public attention. His interactions with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky are only further fueling his media-centric ego. As of November 14, he’s tweeted about fake news 623 times and Russian collusion 959 times.
As a journalism student and an instructor’s assistant at Syracuse University, I’ve seen the impeachment inquiry become part of my day-to-day life, driving my class discussions and news consumption. But as the 2020 election is rapidly approaching, Trump’s possible impeachment is secondary to other issues.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration began its withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty, solidifying its position that makes rolling back environmental regulations a top priority. After five years, residents in Flint, Michigan, still don’t have clean water; the future of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients is in question as Supreme Court hearings about the program’s future are underway; nine states have passed laws effectively banning abortion.
My view of America post-Trump already looked grim, and with the way this impeachment inquiry has started, I’m sure the divide and bitterness among politicians and the public will only deepen. Our next president will have his or her hands full repairing the many relationships soiled by Trump and reinstating valuable policies protecting the environment, immigrants and women’s rights.
That is, if he loses.
With so many Democratic candidates vying for the nomination, I fear their quarreling could lead to four more beleaguered years of Trump.
As I prepare to vote in only my second presidential election, it’s not the impeachment inquiry driving my vote. It’s a hope that my vote will make a difference, electing a candidate who’ll bring positive change and correction, not another charlatan full of empty promises.
—Max Kalnitz, Syracuse University
Trump is like a weed. We can pick a weed from the garden, but unless we tear its root from the ground, another one will pop up in its place. We can impeach Trump, but if we do not uproot the racism, misogyny, and classism that our country was founded on, then another wealthy white man will pop up in his place.
And we will continue to suffer. Indigenous women will continue to be abducted and murdered. Another black parent will die of heartbreak after the police kill their child for being black. Another synagogue will be burned down. And Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg will continue to make more money. We need to overhaul the country.
Once we’ve pulled up the roots, we need to continue to tend the garden. We need to revamp the education system to teach critical thinking, not memorization and regurgitation. We need to provide a universal basic income, free health care and higher education. We need to increase taxes for the wealthy. Pay reparations to indigenous peoples and those of enslaved African descent. Make going to the bathroom of your preference an inalienable constitutional right. Make slave rebellions a common type of historic reenactment. Stop referring to languages other than English as “foreign languages.” Allow Arab actors to play more than just terrorists.
And we can start with asking questions. Question the way you think: Why is what I know the truth? Question your agency: Do I exercise my agency as much as I could? Question the way you interact with others: Do I end up harming other people? Question those in power: What makes them better than me?
We can choose to wait and hope for the best, or we can take action and work for the best. The best for our families, our friends, our neighbors, ourselves.
—Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Donald Trump deserves to be impeached.
He has been flagrantly and unremittingly corrupt since the first day of his administration, and he’s only gotten more corrupt as Congress has failed to hold him accountable.
Unless we are willing to resign ourselves to living in a country in which the president is above the law— and I am not—then Trump must be removed from office.
In some ways, it is remarkable that we have finally reached this point. Impeachment was the last thing that the milquetoast Democratic House leadership wanted, but even they looked at Trump’s conduct with regard to Ukraine and realized that they risked making a mockery of themselves if they failed to act.
That they’re acting now is fine and necessary. Decent people with respect for the idea that government should be about serving regular people rather than elected officials’ enriching themselves should support the impeachment proceeding.
At the same time, it is important that Americans—especially older and wealthier Americans—not be consumed by it.
It may be therapeutic for a certain segment of the population to watch Trump and his henchmen get their due in front of a national television audience. The spectacle may drive ratings on MSNBC and traffic at The New York Times.
But impeaching Donald Trump is not going to save the planet. It’s not going to get clean water and clean air to marginalized communities. It’s not going to save the lives of the thousands of Americans who die each year because they don’t have health care.
Removing Trump from office will do precious little to change the material realities of people’s lives that are shaped by structural forces far bigger and far more menacing than a single contemptible leader.
Many younger and poorer Americans, struggling with things like student debt, and many people in other countries, struggling against American imperialism, understand this and understand it intimately.
The bar for resistance against the currents in American life that Trump represents must be higher than simply expelling Trump from office—just as the bar for Democratic presidential candidates must be higher than “Two elections, zero criminal convictions.”
Support progressives in Washington, yes. But it is even more important to support the less visible, less privileged people engaging struggles for justice in their cities and towns every day. The future of the country depends on their success.
—Abraham Asher, Macalester College
In the early days of Trump’s presidency, I used to fantasize about both the Senate and the House voting to impeach him by a wide margin. There would be photos of him moving out of the White House and soon after, Mike Pence would be impeached somehow and the world would return to “normal.” At the time, I could not wrap my mind around how little progress America has made.
When rumors of an impeachment inquiry began, it felt like another wave of false hope. Congress had been pushing separate agendas and Nancy Pelosi seemed to have other priorities. But when coverage ramped up and the Ukraine dilemma reached a head, I almost wondered if the effort was intentionally more symbolic than actual. I interpret their impeachment efforts as a signal to the GOP that their party has become corrupted by Trump’s ideologies and will remain that way unless they pursue change.
As the election year approaches, democratic candidates are fighting for a blue wave. The impeachment hearings, more recently those with Bill Taylor and George Kent, have proven interesting but I fear it’s not enough.
While I tune in online, I don’t see many of my peers taking the inquiries seriously. I, myself, am not hanging on the edge of my seat waiting for new information because I know that regardless of the outcome, his supporters will still feel empowered. I’m very upset and crave justice, but I am also tired and losing trust in our government.
I still value the work our representatives are doing to prosecute Trump. The proceedings undermine the integrity of the Republican party as they excuse his behavior that is evidently being presented as treasonous. Representative Adam Schiff has made powerful opening statements in which he expresses his strong will to put an end to Trump’s governance. He has also been keen to point out Trump’s intimidation of former US ambassador and witness Marie Yovanovitch. As more people testify, there will be more revelations about the president, and I hope the faith our government has in him will sink even lower.
In the future, I hope the impeachment proceedings serve as an important history lesson in pointing out our government’s inefficiencies. The chances of President Trump’s being impeached seem slim in my eyes, but the inquiry feels like a step towards limiting Trump’s influence.
—Sophie Steinberg, Occidental College
Three years after the election of Donald Trump, the country sits by as the impeachment process unfolds. No matter which side you stand on, it’s difficult to feel a sense of control over the political future. “Sitting by” is the best way to describe the public’s involvement in the impeachment: most people simply don’t have a say in what happens. Our role seems to be generally passive—we’re a democracy in name only.
While the idea of Donald Trump’s being removed from office is something I support, the impeachment, especially the focus, has been concerning. The president forcing foreign nations to investigate political rivals is an objectively bad thing, but how does it compare to concentration camps at the border? What does it compare to allegations of rape? In other words, which crimes are acceptable for a president and which aren’t?
Whether these questions can be answered isn’t important. For the vast majority of us, we will be forced to deal with the consequences of impeachment, much like the policies of the current administration. Even though it has been made a public spectacle, the developments that occur will not dramatically change our lives. Our focus should remain, as it has been before this, on those most affected by the wrongdoings of the current administration.
—Cole Martin Joshua Stallone, New York University
In college, you can exist in a politics-free bubble, where you can choose to move in and out of politically driven spaces. My generation is becoming more attentive and concerned with keeping up-to-date with the news, whether traditional news sources or unconventional methods, like Twitter and Instagram. This impeachment inquiry allows those who weren’t as politically involved to learn more about what’s happening in the world around them—and I think this is a good thing. With knowledge, people are able to make better informed decisions. In the past months, I’ve sat down with my friends to watch the debates, and through this I’ve noticed a shift in our mindsets. We realize we can no longer be sheltered from what’s happening. Our voices are as important—or even more important—because these issues are being handed down to us. We are participating in the dialogue, regardless of our political leanings. The impeachment effort has motivated people on both sides to participate in the change they would like to see in 2020.
However, I don’t think the actual impeachment is as monumental as the wider societal change happening at the same time. Impeachment is less about Trump and more about the repercussions of one’s actions. It makes me hopeful for the future. Not because of who the next president will be, but because my generation isn’t ignorant about issues that affect the people around them. We see how the lack of consequences has emboldened racist behavior, and this has forced underprivileged groups to take a stand. I know the impeachment proceedings have changed the way my university has reacted to racially charged incidents in just the past weeks. It has allowed people to participate firsthand in the issues that affect their lives and those they love. The impeachment effort creates an atmosphere that doesn’t allow people with power and privilege to continue to skate by. It is an epoch-making event, that I believe will, and has, changed the way people react to broader issues that affect their livelihood.
In terms of importance, there are other, more important issues we should focus on. However, it is still significant this is happening. It sets an example—a standard—for how the president of the United States should act.
—Blessing Emole, Syracuse University