In the past few days, some prominent Republicans have argued against impeachment as it would likely exacerbate national divisions and hinder healing. For example, House minority chairman Kevin McCarthy has argued that impeachment is a bad idea because “it would divide our country more”. Senator Lindsey Graham made similar statements. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is also calling for impeachment for this reason to be avoided, despite recognizing that Trump committed criminal acts.
Republican leaders who fear impeachment could exacerbate disagreement have an easy way to address this problem: you can support the impeachment yourself! For example, Kevin McCarthy could make a strong statement asking his House Caucus to vote for impeachment. Graham, an influential GOP Senator, might impose the same approach on his Senate colleagues. And so on. If impeachment has widespread support from Republican leaders, the process could actually promote national unity rather than diminish it.
Such moves could not reconcile Donald Trump’s hardcore supporters. But many Republicans would likely follow the leadership of party leaders, and the impeachment could quickly gain broad (if not universal) support from both parties. We could also achieve a broad (if not universal) consensus that Trump’s actions are unjustifiable and deserve severe sanctions, including a ban on taking over a federal office in the future.
Trump’s approval rating has plummeted since the Capitol attack, and a majority of Americans support the recall. GOP leaders could help expand and deepen this agreement, thereby contributing to national unity and healing.
A number of prominent Conservatives have already supported the impeachment, including Peggy Noonan, Ed Whelan and John Podhoretz. Republican leaders who are concerned about unity and healing would do well to join them.
It is also worth noting that failure to prosecute may itself add to the disagreement. If the GOP blocks the impeachment, it would deepen legitimate suspicions that they don’t really believe Trump did something seriously wrong and would oppose holding him accountable for his grave abuses of power. Many Democrats and Independents would even suggest that Republicans condone Trump’s actions, or at best view them as minor mistakes. Sending such a message is a bad way of promoting unity.
None of this applies to people who oppose impeachment because they believe it is unconstitutional, because they genuinely believe Trump did not commit a serious wrong, or a combination of the two. These types of arguments should be brought up on their own terms, and I have tried other scriptures (e.g. here and here).
I also believe that some causes are worth the risk of worsening conflict and divisions. This includes holding accountability for Trump’s serious abuse of power – and preventing future presidents from engaging in similar misconduct. Unity and healing are far from the only bourgeois values and by no means the most important.
But leaders who speak out against impeachment for fear of deepening disagreement should take a long look in the mirror and see if there is anything they can do to resolve the problem. You might find the source of the problem – and the possible solution – staring you in the face.