During his campaign, President Joe Biden promised to end costly wars in the Middle East, a promise he made good on when he decided to end the two-decades long conflict in Afghanistan.
However, it was a decision easier said than done. Service member deaths, Americans and Afghan allies left behind and the general chaos of the exit have caused many to criticize Biden. Some Republicans, though, have gone further, calling for impeachment, a move that looks politically motivated with 2022 midterms coming up.
Congress should not impeach Biden over Afghanistan because it would set a dangerous standard of politically motivated impeachment that would have severe political consequences in the future.
When former President Donald Trump was impeached the first time, Senate Republicans rejected the open-ended charges of power abuse proposed by House Democrats. Regardless of the validity of the charges, many people felt that impeachment against Trump was politically motivated in nature.
Many Trump supporters voiced their frustrations online, saying that the impeachment was “a hate-fueled vendetta to punish President Trump because he won the election,” and “the reason he has been impeached (by the House) is to hurt his ability to win a second term.” There was an understanding from voters and members of congress that presidents should not be removed from office based on the political motivations of one party.
Republicans’ accusations of Biden are clearly politically motivated. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham stated, “it’s dereliction of duty to leave hundreds of Americans behind enemy lines, turn them into hostages, to abandon thousands of Afghans who fought honorably along our side [and] to create conditions for another 9/11 that are now through the roof,” and that the president should be impeached for it.
However, disagreeing with how a president handles an action does not meet the standard for impeachment. This threat of impeachment seems rooted more in policy disagreement than any high crime committed by President Biden. With the 2022 midterms coming up, Republicans need to find a way to stand out and give their voters something to fight for. It appears that some Republicans want to use impeachment to appeal to voters unhappy with the 2021 presidential outcome and boost their chances of electoral success.
When Democrats wanted to impeach Trump based on political motivations, Republicans stood by their president. As The Hill writer Adam Dershowitz wrote, “Now the shoe is on the other foot, and some Republicans want to broaden the criteria for impeachment while Democrats want to narrow it. Welcome to Washington, where constitutional — and other — principles are generally invoked and then ignored, depending on whose political ox is being gored.” To go through with Biden’s impeachment wouldn’t just make Republicans who stood up for President Trump hypocrites: it would have long-standing consequences for our democracy.
When our founding fathers came together to create our government, they set a high bar for presidential removal. A president can only face removal from office if they commit a high crime like treason or bribery. By normalizing impeachment, using it against every president our party disagrees with, we take away its seriousness. If a future president commits a high crime, will their impeachment seem like a partisan stunt? Will it hold the same political weight?
When either side can ignore the results of a presidential election by brandishing impeachment trials toward a president they didn’t want, our elections lose their legitimacy. A Biden impeachment creates a harmful narrative as it would validate voters who believe Trump won in 2020.
Elections are one of our most fundamental processes and their legitimacy needs to be protected. When someone enters the oval office fairly, the opposing party shouldn’t try to remove them out of spite or because they disagree with their handling of a decision. That holds true for President Biden as much as it held true for President Trump.
Republicans who stood by Trump through his impeachment should defend Biden just as fiercely now. They should defend the process of presidential elections and their outcomes. They should work to make sure impeachment does not become a regular tool used against presidents that one party disagrees with.
Many Republican congress members have been open about the pressure to impeach Biden from their constituents. Many Americans would have their representatives impeach the president, especially those who felt cheated by the 2020 election.
However, members of Congress have a responsibility to protect the legitimacy of our democratic systems. When it comes to impeachment, our Republican Congress members have a choice between short-term political victory or the longevity of our electoral system. Even if it means losing support from some constituents, I know what I would want them to choose. I know what would make me support a politician in the future and it isn’t political virtue signaling.
Presidents should be impeachable. If President Biden commits a high crime, our Congress should carry out an impeachment trial. However, if our Congress impeaches Biden based on policy disagreements about Afghanistan, it will show how little they care about the legitimacy of our institutions.