WASON: Public must be wary of political theatre

Column: Disputed Territory

The politico-media complex took note long ago that investigations and hearings were far sexier than the slow-and-steady progress needed for productive legislation, and have thus enjoyed the fortunes of a smooth transition from coverage of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election to the current impeachment fiasco.

As a result, the public can again expect to be provided with a single, major news narrative to follow that will overwhelm all other considerations for coverage of events that go beyond political theatre. In some ways, I feel the chaos that has defined this administration to an extent dilutes the real tragedy and seriousness of potentially putting President Donald J. Trump on trial. 

There is an awkward sense of normality to these procedures that I cannot help but feel is misplaced. This is in no way meant to trivialize Trump’s behavior in the nation’s highest office or the obvious importance of the news in covering something as historic as potential impeachment proceedings. Instead, it is to suggest that a narrow-minded focus on impeachment will do just that while taking the focus away from other important issues. 

Now that the Democratic Party has decided that Trump’s disregard for the rule of law is important enough to warrant impeachment hearings, after nearly three years of his blatant disregard for any such norms, the nation’s psyche will no doubt be flooded by coverage of the events. 

It is as sad as it is predictable. The impeachment process will either be described as a pursuit for the truth or as a political witch hunt. But make no mistake about it: The principles in holding the rule of law as sacrosanct are not being represented by these impeachment hearings. 

Trump’s decision to dangle Congressionally-approved military aid over an ally in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens and a visit to the White House are not entirely out-of-character for the image he seeks to paint of himself, nor that which Democrats seek to portray him as. 

In fact, his political identity as president can be largely defined by evading the norms adhered to by his predecessors. His blatant attempt to coerce Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky into doing his political dirty work could, and should, have been the latest in a long list of charges. 

Due to this unfortunate reality, those who had hoped to see politicians on either side of the aisle step forward and call for impeachment on the grounds of their own moral integrity ought to withhold too much praise for the current proceedings. 

That the Democratic Party was largely silent until evidence was produced that Trump was pushing for a politically-motivated investigation into the Bidens seems to indicate the difference between breaking the rule of law and breaking the rule of law while going after the current face of the party establishment more so than any exhibition of political righteousness. 

It is important that we take the proceedings for what they are — largely political theatre — and prepare ourselves for the dire consequences that await regardless of their outcome. Whether you are praying for Trump’s removal from office or wish to see him reelected, we will all be a part of the fractured society that awaits us — a society that will be even more prone to its most serious issues being politicized in a divisive manner. 

Unfortunately, for as long as the impeachment process continues, we will have to constantly remind ourselves that there is more taking place around the country and around the world than the constant bickering in Washington, D.C. 

We should be focusing on our responsibilities as citizens to stay informed outside of the narrow focus of the mainstream news that we are likely to be confronted with in the coming months, not paying more attention to the circus in Washington, D.C., because the play has moved to a bigger stage. 

Amar Wason is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science. His column, “Disputed Territory,” runs on alternate Wednesdays. 


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