This article appeared in the September 26, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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How a Trump impeachment could look a lot like 1868

US Senate Historical Society/AP
The impeachment trial against President Andrew Johnson opens in the Senate chambers in the U.S. Senate Historical Society drawing. Johnson, who became president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, clashed with Congress over reconstruction policies after the Civil War and was impeached over a tenure of office dispute.

Today’s five hand-picked stories look at the “fog” of impeachment in the United States, how the Taliban see peace, new models of change emerging in Mexico’s feminist protests, a quirky portrait of China in Africa, and goodness on the silver screen.

First, an intriguing lesson from history.

For its first 222 years, America had one impeachment proceeding. Now, it is facing the prospect of a second in 21 years. Yet that first impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 is instructive.

The 1868 impeachment fight, the Smithsonian writes, “was a fight over the future direction of the United States; a fight with implications that reverberate to this day. Johnson’s real crime in the eyes of opponents was that he had used the power of the presidency to prevent Congress from giving aid to the four million African-Americans freed after the Civil War.”

In other words, that impeachment was less about the actual charges and more the product of a deep national divide in which the House and the president were on opposite and apparently irreconcilable sides – a political echo of the Civil War itself.

Tellingly, the American impeachment that never happened – the resignation of President Richard Nixon – also came at a time of tremendous national upheaval, in the echo of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.

The facts of the current case will come to light in due course, and the concern is not just on the Democratic side. But amid a time of partisanship unprecedented in modern history, the past offers insights, too.

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This article appeared in the September 26, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/26 edition