TUESDAY, JANUARY 26, 2021
Best attempt we've seen: In its modern incarnation, Slate is perhaps best known for its examination of nagging life-style issues.
In just the past two days, the site has responded to "Help! I’ve Been Bitten by a Bat and Charged With Soliciting a Prostitute," but also to "Help! My Wife Spent Our Entire Life Savings in the Last Three Months." And that wasn't all! There's been more!
Readers are invited to guess if the inquiries come from actual people. Sometimes, the people who write these Slate advice columns allege that they aren't sure.
Today, Slate has augmented its "real world" fare with the best attempt we've seen so far at discussing the constitutional authority involved in the upcoming impeachment trial of the exiled commander. The author of the piece is Neil Kinkopf, a law professor at Georgia State.
Kinkopf cites legislative and legal history as he defends the claim that the Senate is authorized to try a former president. We can't judge his account of that history, but his logic is clearly in place.
Kinkopf pays less attention to that possible second Senate vote—the vote to disqualify Trump from seeking office again. You can see his analysis here:
KINKOPF (1/26/21): The Constitution’s structure also confirms the original understanding that former officers may be impeached. If the only punishment for impeachment and conviction were removal from office, that would strongly indicate that the power applies only to current officers, since it would be futile to convict someone who holds no office from which to be removed. But removal is not the only constitutionally sanctioned punishment. The Constitution also authorizes the Senate to disqualify a person convicted from ever holding federal office. An officer who is convicted of accepting bribes could avoid this disqualification by the simple expedient of resignation. The impeachment of Trump vividly illustrates the point. He stands impeached for inciting sedition and waging war on our democracy. Disqualifying him from ever holding office again would be anything but futile.
Again, Kinkopf's logic is firmly in place. He doesn't attempt to parse the fuzzy constitutional language concerning the alleged authorization "to disqualify a person convicted from ever holding federal office." He also doesn't discuss the alleged authorization to levy this penalty by a simple majority vote.
For our money, the largest problem remains the way these two Senate votes intersect. If fifty Democrats, all by themselves, can bar the popular Republican Trump from running again, this would seem to cement the likelihood that very few Republican senators are ever going to vote for conviction in the first place.
That means that Trump will be "acquitted." That's a bad talking point.
At any rate, Kinkopf has performed the most unusual modern journalistic service. He has lit the way toward a genuine discussion and debate, one which isn't mainly about being bitten by a bat.
On the down side, that discussion avoids the main question—how do we draw political support away from Galloping Trumpism?
In Our Town, we tend to focus on locking miscreants up (or in this case, out) in lieu of persuading the others. We don't know how to speak to others, and so we dream of locking their favorites out.