President Trump has called the commencement of an impeachment inquiry a “coup.” This sentiment has been echoed—actually, it was road-tested for Trump—by some of his more loyal apologists. This line of argument is as foolish as it is irresponsible.
The constitutionally-defined process of impeachment and a “coup” have one thing in common: They are attempts to replace a sitting president. All similarity ends there.
A “coup” is not a gauzy, ill-defined term, like “beauty” or “perfect.” It has a very specific meaning pertaining to government. A coup—short for coup d’état, literally “a blow of state”—is a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power, usually performed by the military, though sometimes carried out by armed forces outside of the government’s chain of command.
Here is one thing the leaders of coups do not do: Give the sitting president a heads up during a nationally televised press conference, which is what Speaker Nancy Pelosi has done.
Here is a second thing the leaders of coups do not do: Give the president’s party a voting stake in the question of whether or not the president shall be forced to step down.
Here is a third thing the leaders of coups do not do: Agree beforehand to allow the president to remain in office if he satisfies pre-arranged conditions transparently laid out in a 230-year-old document.
We could keep going on and on. And on. But you get the point.
There is no universe—none—in which impeachment could reasonably be construed as a “coup.”
But we could go further. It isn’t just that impeachment is not a coup—it’s the very opposite of a coup. A coup is, by definition, illegal. Impeachment is as legal as it comes. It is—literally—written into the founding document of American jurisprudence. And it requires no preconditions other than the judgment of the Congress.
Impeachment is neither violent, nor sudden, nor carried out by an armed force. It is a formal, litigative process carried out by a Congress comprised of duly-elected representatives.
By calling the impeachment inquiry—not even the actual conviction of a president on articles of impeachment, but merely the initial inquiry into proposing articles of impeachment—a “coup,” the president of the United States and his enablers are delegitimizing the Constitution itself.
And for what?
If Congress were to remove Trump from the office, Mike Pence would become president. A former congressman and governor and a rock-solid conservative. For those Republicans who have insisted that they “like the policies and the judges, but not Trump’s character and tweets,” President Pence would be a major upgrade.
But the Hugh Hewitts of the world would rather cast aside such a victory and delegitimize the Constitution at the same time.
Why is that?
Irving Kristol once said that conservatives are divided between those who are anti-state and those who are simply anti-left. It is now clear that MAGA world is not “conservative” because it has deeply rooted principles. It is a movement that exists only to own the libs. It isn’t that they accept Trump’s bad character and the tweets because they get the policies they like.
They are here for the tweets.
Any policies and the judges they wind up liking are just a garnish.