Thursday, January 16, 2020

On to the Senate

All persons are commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, president of the United States. Last evening, the newly appointed seven House Managers walked the Articles of Impeachment across the U.S. Capitol to the Senate Chamber. They were then invited to return at noon today for the above-mentioned ritual reading of the Articles, after which the Chief Justice will be escorted into the Chamber to take his Oath and then to swear-in the Senators as prescribed by the Constitution in Article 1, section 3.

It was mildly edifying to watch what, in my world, we might call a procession, as the Articles of Impeachment were silently carried across the Capitol. When they arrived at the destination, it was nice to see communication taking place in a human manner, not by cellphone, text message, email, or tweet! It was Congress visually expressing its institutional constitutional primacy in a rare ritual, which in the case of a president has been carried out only twice before in our history.

Now none of this formality and ritualized behavior is likely to alter the anticipated outcome. But it may perhaps serve as a reminder of things that are more substantial, more important, more expressive of value than the tribal screaming which in recent decades has increasingly replaced real politics - tribal screaming, of which the target of today's impeachment rituals has shown himself such an effective practitioner and exploiter. Perhaps the best to be hoped for from this process will be a dramatic ritual reminder of the aspirations enshrined in our fragile constitutional arrangements and a renewed interest, on the part of at least some, in valuing and repairing those fragile arrangements and the society they are intended to serve and may yet protect from the triumph of tribal screaming.

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