The Corner

Politics & Policy

How Not to Argue for Conviction

Dahlia Lithwick writes for Slate:

ABC polling released on Sunday shows 56 percent of Americans saying that Trump should be convicted and barred from holding office again. Only 43 percent say he should not be. That means that most Americans watching any part of the impeachment trial could reasonably ask themselves why, um, yet again, 56 percent of the country is held hostage to a 43 percent minority. This is not representative democracy working well.

Representative democracy does not, in fact, require that simple majorities in polls always prevail in order to work well; if it did, we could cut out the representatives and have a plebiscitary democracy. Leaving that aside, the Constitution requires a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate to convict. If the Senate represented public opinion, as gauged by ABC, perfectly, 56 senators would vote to convict and Trump would be acquitted. She calls the supermajority requirement an “archaic constitutional stricture,” but surely this is too timid. If a majority in the polls is enough to justify conviction — enough to make a failure to convict tantamount to holding that majority hostage — then why have a Senate trial at all?

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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