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Party paralysis imperils nation

Plattsburgh Press-Republican

Dec. 21

The House of Representatives impeachment vote last week was very bad news for the legacy of President Donald Trump. It also seems as if political party affiliation has trampled individual conscience and thought as the steering wheel of our government.

All 197 Republicans voted against impeachment, and all 233 Democrats believed equally strongly the other way.

The issues were too sophisticated and nuanced and the membership too intelligent to lead to that conclusion.

This is what we, as American citizens, are stuck with: a government seemingly divided by party.

What are the chances that, without party affiliation, all of those members would settle into the opinions expressed in those votes?

ABC News had a feature the evening of the vote on a high-school classroom in which the teacher explained to the students the issues being “debated” in the impeachment hearing. She invited her pupils to take up the debate.

They did, and with reason replacing hostile stubbornness, independence of thought replacing party fawning, the topics were discussed. Some students changed their minds, but nobody got angry. Would America be better off relying on the decisions of those students than on those weathered politicians?

In the Capitol, party means everything.

Of the 430 current members of Congress, zero Republicans broke ranks, and only two Democrats voted against the abuse of power article and three voted against the obstruction of Congress charge. One independent, a former Republican, voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment on both counts.

Twenty years ago when former President Clinton was impeached, or in 1974 when Congress was close to impeaching Nixon, many more members voted with their conscience instead of their party.

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has called for term limits as a cure for such party domination. This newspaper has long opposed term limits, arguing that no other job punishes experience and embraces naivete. But now we’re wondering.

And, what is perhaps more important to our country’s future, is this just the beginning of stultifying gridlock?

Will every president henceforth face impeachment because politics calls for it? Donald Trump is the third president impeached. Will he represent the norm in this regard from now on?

Hopefully America can get past this chapter and move forward in a positive light.

The aisles in the Capitol Building are deeper even than the national divide they have created.

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