On Friday, the School of History, Philosophy and Religion at Oregon State University held a flash panel about the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The panelists included State Senator Sara Gelser and three professors from the university. Each panelist was given roughly ten minutes for a brief presentation before the discussion was opened to audience questions.
The first to speak was Dr. Rorie Solberg, professor of political science. Dr. Solberg gave an overview of the impeachment process, stating that it is not a legal process but a political one, as it deals with violations of public trust rather than violations of the law. She emphasized that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was “well within her rights to get the ball rolling” on the impeachment process, as the House has “the sole power of impeachment,” and does not require a vote to begin an investigation.
Dr. Steven Shay, professor of American history, then spoke about the trial of Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached. Dr. Shay used the trial to highlight that there are no formal standards for impeachment, and that Johnson avoided conviction due to a narrow, legalistic mindset.
Dr. Christopher McKnight Nichols, professor of history specializing in US – foreign relations, covered a breadth of topics in a short amount of time, starting with the origins of the process. Dr. Nichols posited that impeachment has been intended as a defense against foreign meddling from the beginning, pointing out that our current bipartisan system came about because American politicians were once as aligned with Britain or France, as much as anything else. He then covered the foreign relations context surrounding the current impeachment inquiry and the whistleblower’s transcript, calling it a “roadmap to impeachment.”
State Senator Gelser then gave a politician’s view of the situation, raising the questions House Republicans face: Who will you betray, how will the voters react, and how will you be seen in the future? She pointed out that to support impeachment is no small matter to congress, as it means invalidating the election process through which they themselves came to office. Gelser also highlighted foreign policy as one point on which voters are united, citing the recent uproar at the abandonment of the Kurds as an example.
The question and answer phase proved brief, due to time constraints, but provoked a lively discussion between the panelists on the accountability of the executive branch.
By Brandon Urey