Impeachment is the mechanism that the Framers provided in the Constitution to address “the abuse or violation of some public trust,” as Alexander Hamilton put it in “Federalist No. 65.” Other countries might suffer unfit leaders without recourse, or oust them using extralegal violence, but not the United States. The coequal branch of Congress would check the presidency. The House would be lawfully empowered to impeach, and the Senate to conduct a trial. If two-thirds of senators voted to convict, the president would be removed.
That lawful and inherently political process is one of the reasons the United States has an unbroken record of peaceful transitions of power between presidents.
But that civic inheritance is being undermined by allies of President Donald Trump who are making constitutionally illiterate and otherwise wrongheaded arguments in an effort to cast plainly lawful impeachment proceedings as illegitimate.
Victor Davis Hanson of National Review is a prominent example. His new article, “Ten Reasons Impeachment Is Illegitimate,” does not merely argue that the House should vote against impeachment or the Senate against conviction. It asserts, “We are witnessing constitutional government dissipating before our very eyes,” declaring that “there are at least ten reasons why the Democratic impeachment ‘inquiry’ is a euphemism for an ongoing coup attempt.”