Five hundred years ago, the Italian writer and thinker Niccolo Machiavelli wrote “It is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both” in his classic work on politics and the pursuit of power, "The Prince."
I pondered this thought with the recent announcement that the House of Representatives has opened an impeachment inquiry in response to the revelation that President Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenesky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. At that time, Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
When the call took place, there had been a hold on $400 million of aid to the Ukraine.
The July 25 phone call came to light as part of a whistleblower complaint filed against President Trump. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that California Rep. Adam B. Schiff will lead the investigation into the whistleblower complaint.
Five other committees will assist Schiff in the gathering of information that will be funneled to the House Judiciary Committee for possible articles of impeachment. If the committee decides it can forward these along to the full House for a vote. If there is a majority vote on a single article of impeachment, the president is impeached.
Though the House did open impeachment inquiries for Presidents Nixon and Clinton, it did not go through this process with President Andrew Johnson. Though the Constitution does allow for the House to impeach the president, there is not much in the Constitution regard the formal impeachment process.
While I did not vote for President Trump and have been troubled by many of his statements and actions as president, I do think any act to impeach the president should be done conscientiously. Since he took office, most of the actions of President Trump have come under scrutiny.
I recall teaching a section of AP US Government and Politics in the very semester President Trump assumed office in 2017. Several of my students had earnest questions regarding what President Trump might do, given some of his campaign promises and pronouncements. Though it was certainly a teaching moment, too, I told them honestly that the United States had a system of governance with its checks and balances that had withstood a Civil War, Watergate and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
I think my confidence in the American system has been largely borne out. When actions of President Trump challenged conventions and the status quo, opponents to his policies went through the proper channels to attempt to challenge or overturn these policies.
The 2018 midterm elections served as another possible corrective as now the Democratic Party had a constitutional check as envisioned by our founders.
One of my only concerns has been the relative inaction of the other chamber of the Legislature, the Senate. As Machiavelli knew, the goal of politicians is often not to do what is best for their constituents or the nation at large, it is to stay in office. However, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s decision to not pass laws unless he had assurance that President Trump would support the laws is an abdication of his constitutional duty to check the power of the executive branch.
President Trump has been both feared and loved; the next few months may very well determine which of these two options are available to him.
Nicolas Shump is a longtime educator and writer in northeast Kansas. He can be reached at email@example.com.