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Dr. Bass addresses ‘loose talk’ about impeachment

Dr. Patrick Bass

Dr. Patrick Bass

by Christina Vazquez–Impeachment in America has, historically, not been about actually removing someone from office, but rather to send a message.  History professor Dr. Patrick Bass delivered a lecture Tuesday (10.24) about the historical precedents impeachment has in America.

“Loose talk does not equal real action,” Dr. Bass told a crowd of about 40, made up of mingled students, faculty, and community members.  He went on to tell several stories of impeachment—or rather, almost impeachment, as only in one of the cases he spoke about was the indicted actually removed from office.  The majority of the time, when impeachment is attempted, it is more of a power play than anything else.

The sheer number of conditions needed to be met to remove a high-ranking official from office are immense.  On paper the conditions are great enough, but in practicality, when no politician wants to vote him or herself out of a job, they become even more strict.  According to Bass, these conditions include: an indictable offense for a crime that has constitutional ramifications, a divided government, popular public support for the person’s removal from office, and a viable replacement for the individual.

“The institutional barriers to the removal of the president are so immense,” Bass says, “I can’t see it ever happening.”  But why is there so much talk about impeachment when it is so unlikely to happen?  The answer comes down to political parties.  It is hard to craft a political group to be entirely for something, but it is easy to find a common cause that they are against.  Talk of impeachment stirs up the proponents of the party crying out for it, and as Bass says, “all that really matters is making sure the base stays in line.”

“The Historical Background to Impeachment: Presidential and Judicial Precedents” was presented by the Col. Bud Day Center for Civic Engagement in conjunction with the Morningside College History Department.  The director of the Center, Dr. Valerie Hennings, says that as the event series is in collaboration with the History Department, History faculty are often asked to present, and that “the faculty choose their own topic.”  Bass says he chose his topic precisely because there is so much loose talk about impeachment, and he wished to address it.

Among the crowd of attendees was second-year History major Jordan Yawn.  Like many students, she received extra credit for attending, but “I was planning on coming anyway,” says Yawn.  “I like learning and absorbing knowledge.”  She said she was glad to learn more about the impeachment in America, being deeply interested in history and the interweaving storylines it creates.