Students, faculty weigh in on impeachment proceedings
Andrew Cameron | Sunday, February 2, 2020
As the Senate trial to remove President Donald Trump from office comes to a close, student leaders and faculty weighed in on the historic proceedings. Following the decision by the U.S. House of Representatives to impeach Trump on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, the Senate will vote whether to convict the president — requiring a two-thirds vote in favor — to result in removal from office.
Senior Sheila Gregory, president of the College Democrats of Notre Dame, said that she has been following the trial through the New York Times, as well as television broadcasts and Twitter. Gregory said it has been difficult for her and her fellow students to keep up with the proceedings, despite the strength of the charges brought against Trump.
“As a student, it’s been hard to follow I would say because everything is happening during the day, and we’re busy, we’re not tuning in. I doubt, even anyone has a large capacity to watch the proceedings,” she said. “I’d say that is kind of a disappointment to start off because from what I’ve been able to watch, which isn’t as much as I would have liked, there is an extraordinarily strong case being presented at least by the Democrats followed by, honestly, a laughable legal argument from Trump’s attorneys.”
Gregory said the Notre Dame student body often avoids contentious political discussion. Even in her political science classes, she said, students often go silent at the mention of Trump.
“I think we have tendency on Notre Dame’s campus to shy away from anything controversial when it comes to politics,” Gregory said. “When that’s kind of the overwhelming campus attitude — ‘Oh, I don’t want to rock the boat, I don’t want to voice an unpopular opinion or something’ — I think that can cause people to stop paying attention as closely to what’s going on, because when you start paying attention you realize how egregious everything that’s going on is, and you’re mad about it.
She encouraged students to engage in dialogue with their peers — including those with whom they disagree.
Gregory said she was not optimistic about enough Republicans ultimately crossing the partisan divide to vote for removal.
“At the end of the day, I think their allegiance to party is stronger than their allegiance to country, and I think Trump has poisoned what used to be a decent party to be something that is a cult of personality,” she said.
Senior Dom Ferrante, president of the College Republicans of Notre Dame, said he was skeptical of the allegations from the beginning, due both to the timing and to the disposition of Democrats in Congress.
“I always thought that it was kind of convenient timing on in terms of when they decided to go forward with this,” he said. “Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi had been holding out on doing it for a while, despite pressure from her party members even in wake of the Mueller report when some were thinking that she should have gone forward with impeachment.”
Ferrante said he expected most Democrats to vote for removal with a few exceptions, but he is “100% certain” that President Trump will not be removed from office.
“If the president were to be removed, it would be quite detrimental to our democratic institutions in this country,” he said. “I think the impeachment itself already has done a bit of damage along those lines and I just hope that, should the President be acquitted, some of that damage can be reversed.”
David Campbell, a professor of political science and chair of the political science department, said he has been closely following the impeachment proceedings through multiple media channels, as well as following how students have been reacting.
“Interestingly, at least in my conversation with students, I don’t get the sense that our students feel like they’re in the middle of a historical drama,” Campbell said.
Campbell said this impeachment trial feels very different than the 1998 trial to impeach President Bill Clinton, in part due to the abundance of media options making it easier to “tune out” news. He also suggested that students may not be paying close attention due to the way people consume news media.
“I think we’re all naturally inclined to focus on highly salient stories that have a fairly short window. … In the case of something like impeachment, it unfolds over a very long stretch of time, and in this administration, it’s not as though impeachment is the first time we’re hearing about scandals and whatnot and accusations leveled against the administration,” Campbell said. “I think for a lot of people, this just feels like background noise, because it doesn’t feel like this is anything new.”
He encouraged Notre Dame students to remain politically engaged and to also recognize the strangeness of this political moment.
“I would put a plea out to Notre Dame students that they should be paying at least enough attention to know what’s going on in Washington and not just simply assume that this is business as usual. This is not,” he said. “There are many things about this administration that have been unusual, and I do fear that we have undergraduates who are now going through this very important period in their lives of political socialization where they think that what we’ve seen in Washington over the last three years is the way things always are. That’s not the case. It’s not the way that things normally are and likely it will not be the case in the future.”