Impeachment analysis: an empty gesture?

distribution of wealth

By David Sole

For only the third time in U.S. history the House of Representatives has drawn up and passed articles of impeachment against a president of the United States. On Tuesday, December 17, 2019 the House approved two articles of impeachment against Donald J. Trump charging him with “abuse of power” for “using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election.” The House further charged the President with “obstruction of Congress” because “Donald J. Trump has directed the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives.” The House actions will be conveyed to the Senate where a trial must be held on the charges. noted “There were many possible articles of impeachment considered, including for bribery …, obstruction of justice in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and more. Democrats chose to narrowly tailor these efforts to the Ukraine scandal that has been the main subject of investigation since September.” It should be noted that back in July 2019 Congressman Al Green of Texas introduced articles of impeachment against the President “citing Trump’s past comments and actions on race and immigration that included calling asylum seekers ‘invaders’ and saying there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ after the 2017 white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia [that ended in the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer].”

As expected the House vote brought forth violent ranting and raving from Trump and his Republican cronies. What is more important is to ask why the Democrats so narrowly confined the impeachment struggle. With all the vicious racism spewed by #45, why keep the fight to an area that most people in this country, even strong opponents of Trump, have very little interest in. The answer to this is to be found in the class character of the United States and the fear of the ruling class of a mass uprising against their power and domination.

The mass media (owned and controlled by the rich and powerful) never tire of pounding out the refrain “the United States is the greatest democracy.” But most people know that inequality has existed and is growing in income and race relations. When “Occupy Wall Street” began its protest on September 17, 2011 it swept across the country. The slogan “We are the 99%” was a popular, if inexact, expression of the relation of classes in the U.S. The truth is that most wealth is concentrated in less than 1% – closer to 0.1%.

The concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer ruling class hands leaves the working class more and more impoverished. This is a dangerous situation for the ruling elite if the poor unite and fight for reforms – or revolution. This is why the ruling class, their media and their politicians promote racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry hatred of immigrants and anything else they can think of to distract the working class and keep it divided.

The capitalist class (sometimes referred to as Wall Street or the bankers and bosses) knows that the broad working class (the vast majority of the population) can and will inevitably rise up. This is always on their minds.

While there are two main classes (the “middle class” has been shrinking over the past decades) there is actually only one party in the political arena. Or rather, there are two parties both controlled by the same, capitalist, class. Ever since the end of the Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877) the Republican Party has been openly the Wall Street representative. After the mass Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam War movement of the mid-twentieth century the Republicans needed to expand their electoral base or risk becoming a perpetual loser in U.S. elections. The Republicans became the open proponents of racism and bigotry, of religious fundamentalism and chauvinism. The election of Donald J. Trump in 2016 exposed this basic truth. Along with extending their base the Republican Party is also vigorously moving in local, state and national elections to slash the right to vote for the poor, working people and minorities.

But one might ask, “Why do the Democrats keep losing elections?” Of course, the Democratic Party has, at least since the 1930’s Great Depression put itself forward as the party of the workers, the unions, the poor and minorities. The electoral base of the Democrats is filled with the working class. But at the top of the Democratic Party, pulling most of the strings, is the Wall Street ruling class. The job of the Democratic Party is to keep the masses hoping that the system can work to advance their interests, while at the same time making sure that the banks, corporations and the Pentagon keep gathering in the bulk of the wealth produced by tens of millions of workers.

It would seem easy for the Democratic Party to win elections. Consider that over 40% of the eligible voters don’t vote in national elections and that a majority of these are poor, young and disillusioned people. How hard would it be to put forward a radical program and attractive candidates that would mobilize a mass movement to the polls. But this is precisely what the ruling class fears. Generating excitement and expectations among the vast working class could threaten the entire system of the 0.1% rule if the masses don’t get what was promised to them before the elections. And once people get on their feet to vote, there is momentum for them to get into the streets to raise and fight for demands that the ruling class has no desire to meet.

The narrowly defined impeachment articles against Donald Trump are another example of the ruling class trying to limit the struggle. Think how powerful a movement to impeach Trump for race hatred and crimes against immigrants would be. Such a movement would galvanize and mobilize the millions across the country in support. But such a movement might also get out of hand and become a revolutionary current that could not easily be contained.

Only building such a mass movement, free from the control of the ruling class, can reverse the backward direction of the standard of living and the reactionary attacks on the rights of the working class, including men and women, African Americans, Latinx, Native, Arab and other nationalities, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, unionists, unorganized and unemployed. This movement will not be led by the Democratic Party.

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