Opinion: Inciting Hatred Ought to Be an Impeachable Offense

[Where indicated, this article includes opinion by Tobias J. Grant, legal analyst at PoliticusUSA]

If a president incites one group of Americans to hate another group of Americans, it ought to be an impeachable offense. No matter what your views on the size of government may be, surely we can agree that a President must be duty bound to protect all Americans – not just the ones he likes.

When Beto O’Rourke expressed his outrage, he spoke for me. There are few times in my life when I’m willing to defer to someone else on matters close to the heart – like how we treat each other. It was Beto’s finest moment. Anyone still wondering what to say about Trump the white nationalist, domestic terrorist, should listen to Beto and take detailed notes.

But O’Rourke’s outrage conveyed emotions that have been building in me since the day Donald Trump announced his campaign with disgustingly racist comments, and with Melania Trump standing by his side.

I’m tired of skirting the issue. Donald Trump has been inciting hatred and violence against a long list of people he doesn’t like ever since. He won the Republican nomination and the Electoral College vote fanning the flames of racism and white supremacy. He intends to do it again for the 2020 election.

The fact that he can win enough votes to win the Electoral College not only disgusts anyone with any sense of decency, it is frightening if you are on that long list of people who are targeted daily by Trump and by people in his base.

We are not talking about “political correctness”. We’re talking about being able to go shopping for school supplies without getting shot by some crazed Trump supporter with a weapon of war. We’re talking about being free to worship in a church, a mosque or a synagogue without being gunned down – even though security means having armed guards in your place of worship. Armed guards, people.

Armed guards in schools, in malls, on airplanes.

Does anyone feel safer? More importantly, does anyone feel free anymore? When was the last time going to any public place didn’t involve having the requisite I.D. or an examination to make sure you aren’t carrying something that will set off the metal detector?

When was the last time you could kiss your child good-bye as they go to school without you thinking, even for a moment, this might be the last time I see my baby alive.

When was the last time you could assume your spouse would arrive home alive and well from work?

The guns are roaming free while the human beings are in prison.

So when Donald Trump spoke on the horrors that happened in El Paso and Dayton this weekend, I wasn’t expecting a healer in chief. I wasn’t expecting a statesmen who would recognize that you shouldn’t need to do a risk analysis before going to the movies or eating at a restaurant.

I was expecting the Donald Trump we got. He blamed the epidemic of mass murder on the internet, on video games, on the media and on anything but the hate for which he has been turning up the temperature for weeks.

He said some things that few would argue with, like the fact that white supremacy is an evil ideology. The thing is, Donald Trump is a white supremacist who panders to white supremacists, who support him because he’s a white supremacist. This is where I say that the logic leads to the conclusion that Donald Trump is evil.

Ok, I can hear the outrage. You can’t say that about the President! Yes, I can and more importantly, yes we must.

If we’re ever going to find our way out from this dystopian nightmare, we have to admit some basic truths and we need to do something!

Yes, of course the Senate should pass gun safety bills sent there by the House of Representatives. And yes, Trump should sign those bills into law.

But it doesn’t end there. We’re nowhere near finished doing the work that needs to be done. For as important as gun safety measures are, it is also important to admit that we have a white supremacist domestic terrorism problem. We need to designate white supremacist groups as terrorist organizations.

We must also acknowledge the man sitting in the White House is to white supremacy what Osama Bin Laden was to radical Islam! The man in the White House has given that ideology legitimacy and a voice more powerful than any other. We have to call Trump’s ideology by its name. It’s white supremacy based domestic terrorism.

Every time Donald Trump uses the office of President to attack and demonize people he doesn’t perceive as American, he is inciting domestic terrorists. If you’re on the long list of people Trump doesn’t like, you have a target on your back.

He is encouraging white terrorists to act as one of them did this past weekend. That man took his war weapon and drove 10 hours to gun down people he thought, because Donald Trump said so, are an “infestation”, an “invasion,” and come from “sh*thole countries.” He said it in tweets, speeches and even in Facebook ads.

This leads me to a question that has been on my mind since the El Paso massacre. If we can impeach a President for having a blow job and lying about it, why the hell can’t we impeach a President who incites one group of Americans to harm other groups of Americans?

Tobias J. Grant and I had a long discussion about this, knowing it was a thought exercise. The Trump campaign’s willingness to accept Russia’s help in the 2016 election and the numerous times Trump obstructed justice have been the focus of investigations that could lead to an impeachment.

But of the presidents who faced impeachment charges, none of them incited one group of Americans to hate other groups of Americans, repeatedly and leaving nothing to the imagination.

It should go without saying that when a President incites violence against any citizen, there must be more of a response than a tweet, or even a well thought out opinion piece.

So this is where I turn it over to Tobias J. Grant.

We propose that Trump’s incitement of violence is an impeachable offense. Officials, the President included, can be impeached and convicted and removed from office for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The men who wrote the Constitution didn’t say much about what exactly that means. Regardless, we can be pretty sure that if something is an ordinary crime, there’s a good chance it is impeachable. Inciting violence is a crime, but is Trump’s incitement serious enough to make him unfit to stay in office?

The answer is yes. Trump being who he is, provoking mass shootings is not ordinary incitement. For starters, his incitement falls short of his duty to faithfully execute his office. That duty includes taking care that our laws, too, are faithfully executed. Also, his crypto-white supremacy is repugnant to the principle of equality, a principle firmly and rightly ingrained in the Constitution and American political culture. Besides, heads of state are supposed to be moral leaders, to lead by example. Recent mass shooters follow Trump’s many bad examples. In Trump, faithful execution of our laws, making equality real, and moral leadership are sorely lacking. So lacking that for him, the ordinary crime of incitement to violence rises to the level of being “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Even though he doesn’t stand at the head of a mob rioting and lynching, he provides impetus for the vicious mindset that festers and festers until it finds the fatal outlet of mass shootings. For that, he deserves to be thrown out of the Oval Office.

Both of Tobias and I agree on that, and perhaps we’re the only ones who do.

I realize there are holes you can drive a Mac truck through. Without question, Republicans will object, as will anyone who considers the political reality that Mitch McConnell’s Senate is never going to convict this President.

I also know that Donald Trump’s words are inspiring to killers – too many killers. They’re gunning down synagogues. They’re sending bombs to newsrooms and to high profile Democrats,  because they criticize Donald Trump. And now they’re driving for hours to stop what Donald Trump says is an “infestation.”

Americans cannot let this stand. Maybe impeachment isn’t the answer. Maybe the answer is censure. Maybe the answer is the House merely saying it impeaches the President and doesn’t send the articles to Senate for trial. Maybe it’s something Toby and I haven’t thought of. But I know with every fiber of my being that doing nothing makes every one of us complicit in the next mass shooting.