I just arrived at Virginia Beach Double Tree after a four hour plus drive in the dead of night. This gave amble time to obsess to the point of madness on Facebook post I saw from a friend. This is a smart, educated person; published in fact. Yet the post was (I am paraphrasing):
“I don’t understand Republicans. They must prefer Pence to Trump: why won’t the join Democrats in impeaching the orange bastard? I don’t get it.”
This post garnered many likes in the Facebook echo chamber, and several theories.
Now, this is not just an uninformed opinion. It is a dangerous opinion. It misinforms everyone who reads it and who has reason to trust and respect the writer. It is written in complete ignorance of the Constitution, and an irresponsible misinterpretation of what American democracy is.
I shouldn’t have to explain this further, but what the hell: if the Founders intended for our system to be a modified parliamentary arrangement where the public can try to elect a President but if Congress decides it prefers someone else, like the Vice-President, it can veto the election with a sufficient majority, then Madison, Mason et al. would have made that clear. Instead they made it clear that an elected President can only be impeached upon a guilty verdict in a Senate trial for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which means unequivocal, serious and substantive wrongdoing, usually criminal. Yet a frightening number of progressives, driven to fantasy by listening to irresponsible and incompetent elected demagogues like Maxine Waters, actually embrace an imaginary version of our government that, if real, would render democracy a cruel fraud.
Incompetent, misleading and factually mistaken opinions are dangerous because they make our already perilously lazy and doltish public more doltish still. Eventually, as Madison, Adam Smith and others have written persuasively, democracy is only as viable as the public it serves is civically literate. Since the schools no longer do their job of making sure citizens understand our values, the duty falls to all citizens to identify really bad, illogical, undemocratic opinions, and be prepared to squash them like the virtual vermin they are. This is why free speech is vital. This is also why every citizen must accept the responsibility of actively working to keep the worst distortions of our values and principles from taking hold.
And what if this mean embarrassing a friend on social media? I didn’t enjoy telling this friend, in the mild and inoffensive manner frequent readers here are familiar with (I’m paraphrasing again),
“What the hell are you talking about? Republicans don’t just decide to impeach the President because they may like the Vice-President better because there is a law. It’s called the Constitution, and it specifies what will permit an impeachment, and “we like someone better” isn’t one of the criteria. Surely you know better than this, and if you don’t, why not? And why are you circulating incompetent opinions that undermine our constitutional democracy? See, the Senate can vote out a Senate leader, and the House can vote out a Speaker of the House. The entire nation’s people elect the President, however, and that’s what makes the office special The Founders used a lot of scholarship, debate and creativity to come up with our system, which has worked remarkably well. What threatens to kill it is widespread ignorance about how and why it works, fertilized by uninformed opinions like yours. “
My friend babbled back something about there being legal authorities who support the “elections don’t count” version of our government, which is only plausible in the sense that there are legal authorities right now who will pledge fealty to Satan if it means getting rid of Donald Trump, or if one regards Maxine Waters as a legal authority, rather than what she is, an idiot. My friend didn’t sound in possession a real argument accept the old “I have a right to my opinion!” to which my response is, “And since your opinion is misleading and irresponsible, I have an obligation as a responsible citizen to show you and everyone in danger of being confused by it that it’s crap.”
As do we all. This duty includes several others that have been discussed here, like the duty to confront, the duty to prevent harm, and the duty to fix the problem. If you are uncomfortable being ready to respond forcefully to all incompetent opinions, then start gradually, like when anyone says that hate speech is unprotected by the First Amendment. After you are comfortable with that, move on to being ready to strike when someone says that our borders should be open to all.
My progressive friends don’t realize it, but they are embarrassing themselves, and worse, planting rot in the foundation of our great nation. Real friends will do what they can to stop them.
Real friends of our nation, too.