The senate dismisses the minority call for witnesses
The silencing of minority voices in the impeachment trial has been on full display in recent weeks, coming into sharp focus during the recent senate voting. The senators voted almost entirely along the political party divide to not call for additional witnesses or documentation. Such actions give the minority perspective (Democrats) little recourse to salvage their case.
Is justice being served? Is the nation?
Impeachment highlights the political divide
There is severe tension and frustration swirling among the senate members. Some are eager to simply get beyond this moment while others see this time – this trial – as critical for our nation’s future. Questions of legitimacy, fairness, and constitutional integrity hang in the air, much as the swinging scales of justice. The political divide widens as senators defend their positions.
Nicholas Fandos and Michael D. Shear of The New York Times noted that Senator Murkowski justified her denial of witnesses by saying:
Congress has failed. … I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process.
Republican Senator Alexander noted that convicting Mr. Trump and barring him from future office would inflame the country, saying:
The Senate reflects the country, and the country is as divided as it has been for a long time. For the Senate to tear up the ballots in this election and say President Trump couldn’t be on it, the country probably wouldn’t accept that. It would just pour gasoline on cultural fires that are burning out there.
Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times reported 5 Takeaways From the Trump Impeachment Trial. The article highlights key perspectives brought forth in the waning hours of the trial as the minority party was stifled. She quotes Senator Schumer:
To not allow a witness, a document — no witnesses, no documents — in an impeachment trial is a perfidy. America will remember this day, unfortunately, where the Senate did not live up to its responsibilities.
Silencing the minority is a departure from trial history
It should be noted that the U.S. Senate has conducted 15 other impeachment trials (judges and presidents) in its history, always with witnesses and documentation. In fact, these trials averaged 33 witnesses each. This trial will be the first that such inquiry, requested by the minority, is denied. It is a severe choice, orchestrated by Senator McConnell, to deny the minority’s call.
Denying testimony is especially significant as John F. Kelly, Trump’s former Chief of Staff advised:
If I was advising the United States Senate, I would say, ‘If you don’t respond to 75 percent of the American voters and have witnesses, it’s a job only half-done. You open yourself up forever as a Senate that shirks its responsibilities.”
Silencing the minority delivers historical lessons
What happens now?
The congressional actions taken ignite a burst of questions, some of which will endure far into our future. While the focus is on the trial, expected to end this coming Wednesday, what occurs beyond this moment? Is this a moment that will pass and from which the country will recover in the upcoming election? Or is this trial a moment signifying impending doom as the congressional institution further erodes? Questions bubble forth and national unease ferments.
Exercising such rebuke and silencing of the senate minority is not healthy. When has such treatment of minority voices ever been otherwise? History tells us that we fail – never win – when majorities force their way. Our nation risks its future, just as it has in the past, when minority perspectives are nullified. Have we not learned from history’s persistent lessons?
Minority voices will be silenced in November
Next November we will exercise our patriotic duty and vote in our presidential election. While the election is not an institution comparable to the U.S. Congress, it remains a keystone of this nation’s seat of power, the voice of its citizenry. Sadly, we will be acting in concert with the current U.S. Senate as we ignore the voting minorities of each state, granting them no Electoral College representation. It’s a travesty, and political risk, we exercise in each presidential election.
Equal Voice Voting (EVV) waits in the wings to remedy the abuse of our presidential election process. Typically, we set aside 46% of the ballots cast (63+ million votes in 2016) in each election. Such silencing need not be the norm.
As the impeachment trial continues, with its expected acquittal, will our future months and years point to this moment and again deliver history’s lesson: Heed the minority voice? If so, will we be politically healed enough, astute enough, curious and courageous enough to permit minority perspectives to have sway in our elections? Will we be mature enough to acknowledge past mistakes and strive to do what is required of a healthy representative democracy?
Current congressional antics do not bode much promise. As philosopher, Joseph de Maistre, once observed: In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.
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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team