There’s a new impeachment strategy to oust President Donald Trump from office that’s floating about town and it’s one that goes like this: Vote. In. Secret.
Seriously? That’s the call from some in the Get Trump camp who see a behind-closed-door vote on impeachment in the Senate as something — what, in line with American values? The Constitution? Moral governance?
Robert Alexander, a professor of political science at Ohio Northern University, just penned a piece for CNN with this headline: “The case for letting senators vote secretly on Trump’s fate.” What’s worse, he’s not alone on that thought.
Wow. So much for that whole Sixth Amendment thang, the one that goes, in part, “the accused shall enjoy the right” “to be confronted with the witnesses against him” — and, as a nod to the left, yada yada. The clause applies to criminal prosecutions, but its real meat rests with the spirit of transparency and openness and accountability.
Without transparency, our democratic-republic will fall.
America’s already shot down the rights of the accused with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court system — you know, the one where lying intelligence agents and their lying intelligence bosses get to go behind closed doors and lie to obtain secret warrants to spy on U.S. citizens.
Now we have the anti-Trump factions floating the idea of voting to convict a president by secret ballot?
It’s enough to make a king of England proud.
Jeff Flake, the ex-senator who penned a book that was highly critical of Trump, and who’s been a consistent voice of anti-Trumpism for months, said at the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival that he believed “there would be at least 35” Republican senators who would vote to oust the president from office if they were allowed to vote in secret.
Flake made the remarks in response to ones made by Mike Murphy, a former senior adviser to Mitt Romney and John McCain, who said on MSNBC: “One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.”
Thirty, 35 — can I get a 40?
Juleanna Glover, a political adviser who’s worked for the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush and McCain, wrote in Politico in November: “By most everyone’s judgment, the Senate will not vote to remove President Donald Trump from office. … But what if senators could vote on impeachment by secret ballot? … A secret impeachment ballot might sound crazy, but it’s actually quite possible. In fact, it would take only three senators to allow for that possibility.”
Alexander, in his CNN op-ed, took a more nuanced route to argue essentially the same and wrote that Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist 65, regarded the Senate as the proper place to try the president on impeachment because it was a body that was more immune than the House to the emotionally charged passions of the people — that it was the Senate, and the Senate only, that could rise above the political fray and use logic and fact to decide a president’s fate.
But “the Senate of the Framers is not the Senate we have today,” political professor Alexander wrote. And because of that, as well as because of this president’s Twitter feed and penchant for fighting those who fight him — the idea of an “anonymous vote” in the Senate could make sense, he wrote.
It’s a weak argument, one that requires a mindset that says hey, times have changed on this, so it makes sense that times should change on that.
But times haven’t changed so much in America that secret votes, by politicians who are paid by taxpayers and supposedly put in office to serve the taxpayers’ wills, are acceptable forms of governance.
If senators can’t cast their votes in the light, they don’t deserve to serve the U.S. citizens. It’s as simple as that.
America doesn’t need any more damage done to the Constitution, the democratic-republic, the justice system, and to the basic and common understanding of right versus wrong. Americans don’t need any more cowards in political office.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
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