The impeachment proceedings show what makes America great

A fixer-upper.
A fixer-upper.
Image: Ephrat Livni
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It was a big week for the rule of law in America. Donald Trump was impeached in the House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Wherever you are in the world and whatever you think of the proceedings, it was a victory for civilization. The fact that all of this happened is a testament to checks and balances, and the US Constitution’s framers probably would have been pleased to see them working so well. 

The day of debates in the House was a marvel to behold. It was a 10-hour public showdown governed by rules of procedure, featuring learned, well-dressed, amply fed representatives in all their glory—people of many colors and creeds who all spoke as Americans and whose only weapons were words.

Though politicians on the left and right universally called it a sad day, to this firsthand observer it seemed a celebratory occasion.

First, and perhaps most importantly, because no shots were fired. It’s all just talk, thankfully, despite the right to bear arms. While that may seem dull to some who are accustomed to living in a peaceful and orderly society, where they can watch live-streams of their politicians droning on about ideals, it’s actually a real triumph for America and fans of democracy worldwide.

The whole point of the Constitution is to provide a set of basic principles and rules, a guide to be applied over centuries in a changing society. And here it is, working, slowly, as the law does.

The system laid out in the Constitution is designed—unlike a Silicon Valley startup—to disrupt disruption. Justice mulls. She does not move fast and break things.

Often, she seems to get nothing at all done, but as long as the process is happening, she’s actually doing her thing. That is checks and balances. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have and it seems to be working, ensuring that neither the president nor the people’s representatives act too fast.

Now, the Senate will determine how the next set of proceedings goes. We think we know the outcome. We surmise that Trump won’t be convicted because Republican politicians will all toe the party line and they have most of the votes.

But we don’t exactly know. Minds could change. Maybe some senators really are waiting for a trial to decide on guilt, which is what they are supposed to do. Or, as is more likely, there will be much speechifying and debate, all live-streamed and ignored by a privileged public that can afford to be bored by the law and order.

A version of this essay was originally published in the weekend edition of the Quartz Daily Brief newsletter. Sign up for it here.