I don’t know know what happened today at the impeachment hearing in the U.S. Senate as to the conduct of President Donald J. Trump, but I suspect it was not good. I suspect the Republicans who control the Senate decided it was not necessary to have witnesses for a fair trial. That is because their minds are made up. They won’t convict not matter what, so why have a trial?
If I am wrong, and there will be witnesses, I suspect that won’t matter for the same reason. They have already decided to acquit no matter what evidence is produced against Trump.
I don’t really care about Donald Trump. Americans elected him. Americans can live with him. What I do care about is that it seems millions of Americans no longer believe in democracy. To think that in the self-proclaimed leader of the free world millions of people no longer care about whether they live in a democracy or not is deeply disturbing to me.
I never thought impeachment was a good idea, at least until Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of impeachment. I know lots of people despise her, particularly on the right. I don’t despise her; I respect her. She is a wily politician. She was largely responsible for getting Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) approved by Congress. She did that, if you recall, when many in the house of Representatives and Senate were violently opposed to it, but she promised Obama she would deliver the votes and she did. It was masterly. If now she thinks impeachment is necessary, I find it hard to disagree with her.
What we all have to remember is that democracy is more than giving people the right to vote and then saying the will of the majority as evidenced by votes, must prevail. This is part of democracy, but more is needed to have a genuine democracy. For example, the country must respect the rule of law. Moreover there must be reasonable limits on what the majority can do. Human rights must be respected even if the majority wants to get around them. This is important.
We need rights and freedoms that are entrenched in a constitution to be a democracy. That means these rights and freedoms are constitutionally protected. There are different kinds of constitutions and different kinds of human rights. So some democracies are more democratic than others.
As well, those rights and freedoms need not be absolute. In Canada the way our Charter puts it is that limits on the basic rights and freedoms must be such as can be justified in a free and democratic society.
This ensures that the leaders who are elected must obey the law and must honour and respect the fundamental constitutionally protected rights and freedoms. In a democracy we don’t elect absolute rulers. We don’t elect kings who are entitled to do as they please. Our leaders must be subject to the rule of law and basic rights and freedoms. This is sometimes called a Liberal democracy.
Even though I am not per se concerned about whether Donald Trump is found guilty of what the American Constitution calls “high crimes and misdemeanors.” If he is found guilty of that by the Senate he will be removed from office. I believe Trump richly deserves this, but that is not for me to decide. I am concerned however that more and more Americans don’t seem to care any more if they have a democracy or not. I am concerned that many Americans seem content to have an absolute ruler. It does seem to me that millions of Americans don’t care. That I think is very important.