© Provided by The Independent
President Donald Trump is not the only American leader to face impeachment. In my home state of Kentucky, a group of far-right activists last week filed a petition to impeach the governor, Democrat Andy Beshear, over his handling of the pandemic.
The State House of Representatives, acting under the requirements of state law, formed a bipartisan committee to investigate the claims made by the petitioners. Republicans hold a supermajority in both the House and the Senate, but Jason Nemes - the Republican chairing the committee - has promised "there will be no unfairness here."
The unfairness is that this petition even exists. It rests on spurious claims that Beshear has overstepped his authority in response to Covid-19 and that his measures to combat the spread of the virus violate the state Constitution. However, last year the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Beshear had acted wholly within the law, completely contradicting the petitioner's claims.
What is happening in Frankfort is the opposite of what we saw in Washington this week. Donald Trump was impeached - for the second time - because he failed to uphold his oath of office, abandoning his post during an armed insurrection which he himself instigated. Governor Beshear, on the other hand, faces impeachment simply for acting within his power to protect the lives of Kentuckians.
At issue here is not Beshear's actions, which the courts have upheld. Rather, this is about Republican outrage at a duly elected Democrat exercising the political power entrusted to him by the voters. Those same voters, polls show, overwhelmingly support the governor's handling of the pandemic. Yet Republicans, unable or unwilling to accept a Democratic official's electoral mandate, are attempting to hamstring Beshear as the Commonwealth continues to see record numbers of Covid-19 infections.
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Already they have advanced bills which would limit the Governor's emergency powers, and now they are using a blatantly partisan impeachment petition to further their grab for power. This contrasts sharply with yesterday's historic second impeachment of President Trump, who used the power and prestige of his office to threaten the very foundations of our democracy. "He is a clear and present danger to the nation we all love," US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as the articles of impeachment were debated.
It is impossible to argue with her. Trump instigated a violet attack on the heart of our Republic, leaving five people dead and scores wounded. When legislators, huddled and frightened in a besieged Capitol, pleaded with him to deploy the National Guard, he ignored their cries. Instead, Vice President Mike Pence took charge as the president wilfully neglected his duty to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Beshear, however, has only ever acted within his power, and then only to save lives. He has received praise from across the nation and from across the aisle for his handling of the pandemic. A University of Kentucky study released last April shows that Beshear's actions in combating the coronavirus had already saved at least 2,000 Kentuckian lives. There is no doubt that number is significantly higher nearly a year since the pandemic first began ravaging the Bluegrass State.
Now, however, Republicans in the General Assembly are seeking - through either legislative fiat in clear violation of the separation of powers or through impeachment - to tie the governor's hands and prevent him from doing his duty to the people of the Commonwealth. Senate Bill 1, which passed with overwhelming support from Republicans in the General Assembly, would restrict Beshear's ability to shut down businesses and schools in the event of out-of-control Covid rates. For his part, Beshear has vowed to veto the bill, seeing it for what it is: a political power grab by Republicans in the General Assembly, who now - thanks to the bogus charges in this petition - have impeachment as the ace up their sleeve.
It is a pitiful and utterly contemptible situation created by Republicans determined to play politics not only with the very legitimacy of our democracy, but with people's lives. "I don't understand how protecting lives of people during a pandemic has become a polarized, political issue," Democratic State Representative Tina Bojanowski said last week during a debate on the bill. Nor do I.
In one regard, at least, the attempt to impeach Andy Beshear is no different than the impeachment of Donald Trump: both are about doing nothing. The difference is Republicans want to prevent Beshear from acting to save lives, while Trump wants to sit on his hands, watching the carnage unfold on Fox News.
Unlike Trump, who did nothing as chaos unfolded in his own backyard, Governor Beshear has acted within the law to save as many Kentucky lives as possible. All while facing Republican opposition at every turn.