And so it begins: the impeachment of Donald John Trump. As Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said to Bill Maher on Saturday, whatever happens next, “You are impeached forever. No matter what the Senate does, it can never be erased.”
As we go to press this week, all 50 United States Senators have spent the entire day in the same room together, something that almost never happens. In fact during lulls when they are not voting on anything, Senators can go for days or weeks without fully convening; Senate speeches are given to a mostly empty chamber; and a Senate vote, if you have ever watched one, consists of a lot of milling around. The clerk calls out their names, and Senators shout out, “Aye,” “No” or “Present.” Occasionally something interesting happens, as it did on July 28, 2017, when John McCain not only joined Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to save Obamacare, but marched up to the clerk’s desk where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was glowering and flipped his thumb downward, to the cheers of several Democrats — who were quickly shushed by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Of the Senators clustered in the Chamber listening to the House managers, four Democrats are running for president and have come off the campaign trail to do their Constitutional duty. Two, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, in an unprecedented move, were jointly endorsed for the nomination this week by The New York Times; and a third, Bernie Sanders, was not endorsed by the Times, but is strongly supported by a grassroots movement that has once again brought him within shooting distance of the nomination. A fourth, Michael Bennet, who is in the very low single digits in Iowa, may be secretly glad to not be trudging around in the snow for a few days.
To honor impeachment, we begin this week with a cluster of articles about Democracy. Leading us off is an essay by historian Kristopher Burrell, adapted from his Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech, about the role of Coretta Scott King in her husband’s activism. Next, journalist Jesse Singal explores the online war waged by Bernie Sanders’s most zealous, and often noxious, partisans; David Williams explores impeachment through the lens of Rousseau’s theory of the private and general will; and political scientist Jo Freeman brings us a photo essay on last weekend’s Women’s March in Washington.
In our second cluster, Capitalism, we lead with historian Tosh Warwick’s close examination of Great Britain’s troubled steel industry and the reverberating effects of industrial decline on working-class communities. In an interview by Dennis Ohm and Jochen Schmon interview literature and cultural studies professor Joseph Vogl about the danger of central banks; and we revive a review essay from 2014 that has been consistently popular in which historian Julia Ott explains why enslaved people were, themselves, the “capital” that powered capitalism.
In our final cluster, we are pleased to see the return of our Psyche seminar under the direction of Daniel Gatzambide, a visiting faculty member in the psychology department at The New School for Social Research. We lead with an excerpt from a new book by literature scholar Sheldon George that points “to the need to understand race not strictly as an embodied fact but as a projected reality, the contours of which are drawn in our minds but experienced in the real world.” After this excerpt, you can read Gatzambide’s interview with George, and end with Amanda Garcia Torres’s account of a therapeutic technique that pairs the Chicana traditions of healing and activism.
We at Public Seminar do not, and cannot, endorse candidates: it violates tax law for us to engage in political campaign activity. But we do have eyes that can see, ears that can hear, and minds that can think. And we can tell the Democrats we are proud of them, and of their trial strategy: in what will surely be a losing effort, the House managers have prepared numerous motions that allow them to introduce the evidence for impeachment to the American people on national television. For reasons that are mysterious to us, this was a move the President’s lawyers seemed unprepared for. And we are also proud of the journalists. The dogged Freedom of Information Act requests they have filed have produced much of the evidence that is being presented to the Senate and the American people, material that the White House, in violation of House subpoenas, has refused to provide. Mostly, we are proud of our Constitution: it is bent, but not broken. Not yet.
All right then. Bring it on.
Claire Potter is co-executive editor of Public Seminar and Professor of History at The new School for Social Research. You can tweet with her @TenuredRadical.