Why impeachment might not achieve the goals intended

After my anger subsided, I was left with a feeling of great sadness that the country of my birth had degenerated to a level of incivility that threatened its future

House Intelligence Committee Holds Hearing On Impeachment Inquiry Of President Trump (photo credit: REUTERS/POOL NEW)
House Intelligence Committee Holds Hearing On Impeachment Inquiry Of President Trump
(photo credit: REUTERS/POOL NEW)
As a little boy, I was a baseball fanatic. Every day after school, I would turn on our 10-inch black-and-white TV and listen to Mel Allen do the play-by-play of my beloved New York Yankees. The ‘50s were wonder years for the Yankees and I reveled in their successes. Their local competition, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, were the source of endless hours of arguments related to which player was the best. In center field were Mays, Snider and Mantle, behind the plate were Berra, Campanella and Westrum, and at shortstop were Rizzuto, Reese and Dark. We each had our favorites but no one hated the competition.
In the last 60 to 70 seventy years, fundamental changes have taken place in America and throughout the World. The competition is now synonymous with the enemy. Fist fights at Little League games are commonplace, and more often than not involve parents of the two teams. Great players and coaches like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick now become the arch-devils. Sportsmanship is a hollow metaphor. Rather than supporting our team, favorite player or community leader, we are driven to denigrate, degrade and literally obliterate anyone who opposes our or our leaders’ points of few. Friends and families become torn apart by these intense times and controversies. The specter haunting the US is growing and is tragic.
Watching the developments at the US Capitol last Wednesday catalyzed a number of conflicting emotions. My blood boiled at the sight of thousands of Americans marching on the Capitol, hundreds storming the building and tens desecrating it after entry. After my anger subsided, I was left with a feeling of great sadness that the country of my birth had degenerated to a level of incivility that threatened its future. After nearly 60 years of academic training as a scientist, I was perplexed by the severe polarization permeating the United States.
Then it struck me, the insane desire to always be the winner, to always be right, to never be considered a frier (sucker) may be at the heart of the issue. Growing up, my Dad instilled in me the adage, “It is not important whether you win or lose but how you play the game.” Today, anyone espousing this view of Grantland Rice (a famous American writer of the early 20th century) is laughed at. Vince Lombardi’s credo “Winning isn’t the only thing, it’s everything” is the accepted doctrine
This perspective is fueled by the media, both in writing and voice, to the point that not being “The Champion” means being a loser. No wonder that President Trump could not accept his loss to Joe Biden. It was akin to being fired on The Apprentice. Unfortunately, his refusal to accept reality led to the promulgation of a “fake news” narrative that ultimately fueled his supporters to evolve into a mob. Mobs have a will of their own, and the result was five dead and dozens wounded or injured.
LISTENING TO the reporting of the storming of the Capitol on CNN was a chilling experience. Nearly every reporter used the occasion to castigate and attack President Trump and his followers. The CNN newscasters appeared gleeful after the event. After all, they had been proven correct about President Trump and his followers. Now these misanthropes deserved severe punishment. One wonders.
I am not a President Trump groupie. I do not particularly relate to his fundamental values. That said, more than 74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump in November of 2020. The elected officials of our country, and yes, the liberal media, need to consider this fact. Among these tens of millions are many honest hard-working people. They may not believe in abortion. They may not believe that marriage between a man and a man is the same as marriage between a man and a woman. They may not be atheists or enlightened agnostics. However, they represent nearly 47% of the electorate.
If America is to flourish, their positions must be considered, their voices must be heard. These citizens, living primarily in the heartland of the US, are not inherently evil, and they must not be written off. We should debate them, criticize their ideas and try to convince them that democracies require the acceptance of divergent ideas and a heterogeneous population. We should not look down at them.
The punitive spirit and desire for accountability now driving the Congress may, in the end, backfire and further estrange and polarize the United States. President Trump likely broke the law and is guilty of incitement. He bears responsibility for the havoc, chaos and violence on January 6, 2021. But punishing him by impeachment will likely inflame a large percentage of his 74 million supporters. The wise approach is to let him finish the last six days of his term and drift away. He will be a pariah with little support from the financial community and large segments of the political establishment.
Yes, Speaker Pelosi may be legally right. Congressman Rankin may win the debate. But as pointed out in his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin learned that winning debates by fervently arguing and alienating his foes did not achieve the goal of winning over adversaries to his side. We should heed the wisdom of this Founding Father.
My wife and I became new immigrants to Israel on December 23, 2020, and we are proud to live in the eternal home of the Jewish people. However, what is happening in America is in many ways mirrored in this wonderful land. Democracies exist at the will of their citizenry and by the strength of their legal systems. Failure of constituencies and stakeholders to communicate with and respect each other present an existential threat. I pray we learn from what has happened to our most important ally.
​The writer is a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and former provost at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, and a visiting scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot. He recently made aliyah with his wife, Anita.