The House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry on September 24, essentially investigating Donald Trump’s fitness to be President of the United States. On October 22, the top American diplomat in Ukraine testified before Congress. According to the New York Times, his testimony suggested an equal exchange between the $391 million the U.S. promised in military aid to Ukraine and Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. With this information, it seems likely that the House of Representatives will impeach our president.
For many high schoolers, the impeachment inquiry may just seem like another polarizing, red versus blue issue. It feels like every twist and turn in the Trump presidency warrants our undivided attention. This one is different. No matter your place on the political spectrum, you should feel the significance of this moment. It’s democracy at work. We should be paying attention.
Impeachment is rare. The Constitution gives Congress the authority to impeach and remove “the President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States” upon determining that they have committed treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. However, only nineteen federal officials have been impeached by the House in this country’s 243 year history. Out of those nineteen, fifteen were federal court judges, one was a U.S. Senator, one was a cabinet member, and only two were U.S. presidents, making presidential impeachment an extremely rare occurrence. This moment is the history of our democracy unfolding before us, and as the people inheriting it soon, we should care. This could be, and probably already is, our generation’s Watergate. We should be paying attention.
Although it is still unclear whether Trump will be convicted and removed by the Senate even if the House does impeach him (it’s never happened to a president before), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is exercising a vital constitutional check on the Presidency by opening up an impeachment inquiry. It is also important to note that Pelosi was against bringing impeachment proceedings to the floor of the House until the Ukraine scandal broke. She sees this as the last straw.
This action by a body of 435 elected representatives is the most important one taken to ensure we aren’t overrun by a tyrant. As high schoolers, we need to recognize this act as revolutionary. It’s a reminder that we live in a country where responsibility is enforced. We have a duty to hold our public officials accountable. Whether or not Trump is impeached will set a precedent in our country about government officials colluding with a foreign power. Young people can have a voice in deciding the precedent that will be set by impeachment. We should be paying attention.
This extraordinary moment is going to affect the 2020 election, the first chance we will have to vote for a president. Now is the time to listen to the news and decide for ourselves how our country will proceed. For the past two presidential elections, only about fifty percent of eligible voters ages 18-29 voted. Now, it is more important than ever to actively exercise our democratic right to vote based on informed opinions.
A president only gets impeached every 120 years, and this president could be the next. As young voters, a lot is riding on our ability to watch the news, keep up with the House’s inquiry, and inform ourselves. We have been desensitized to the dysfunctionality of politics, but we cannot afford to glaze over this moment. High schoolers should be paying attention.