In the past few days, some prominent Republicans have argued against impeachment, as it could 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 also urges that impeachment should be avoided for this reason, despite recognizing that Trump committed criminal acts.
Republican leaders who fear impeachment could exacerbate disagreement have an easy way to address this issue: 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, could impose the same approach on his Senate colleagues. And so on. If impeachment has widespread support from Republican leaders, the process may 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 widespread (though 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 assuming federal office in the future.
Since the attack on the Capitol, Trump’s approval rating has dropped significantly, 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 Trump was not really seriously wrong and would argue against 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 that Trump did not commit a serious wrong, or a combination of both. 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 exacerbating conflict and divisions. This includes holding accountability for Trump’s serious abuse of power – and preventing similar misconduct by future presidents. 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.