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As many Americans continue to go about their busy lives, those who are living near the Gulf Coast are continuing to experience the harm that the BP oil spill has caused to their livelihood. Although it has been three months since the oil rig explosion and massive leak in the the ocean waters of the Gulf, BP politics have not changed very much in the effort to get things cleaned up. While the world watches the trouble being caused by the largest environmental disaster ever faced, it seems as though the political aspect in Washington is at a stand still as neither side can agree on the best course of action. It seems as though BP oil politics will never change, even after the disaster we are seeing happen right before our eyes. Although plans are always in the works to keep trying new ways to get the Gulf coast cleaned up and prevent a future oil spill, it takes more time than what seems to be available to get anything passed. With neither side willing to agree on what to do, one might have to wonder how anyone in America will be able to survive with the largest environmental disaster is happening right on the doorstep.

To Madison, the president would become "improperly dependent" upon the Senate, which might hold the possibility of removal over his head to extract concessions. But much had changed in the months between the two debates. The final compromise found senators acting as jurors and the chief justice of the United States as judge. To remove, the Constitution required the high bar of a two-thirds guilty vote. Yet the inclusion of this extra safeguard did not erase concern about the potential abuse of executive power, and those favoring ratification of the Constitution had to explain why impeachment was an adequate check on the executive. In Federalist No. 66, Alexander Hamilton argued that impeachment fit within the system of checks and balances. In reality, the system of checks and balances played out in an America starkly different from the one envisioned by the Founders. The factional differences so bemoaned by Madison in Federalist No. 10 worsened during the 19th century.

By the late 1820s, political parties became an entrenched feature of American politics, warping debates in part thanks to each side wielding its own media megaphone through print newspapers. The result was partisan disagreements splashed across front pages, including during the first case of presidential impeachment in 1868. As early as 1866, radical Republican newspapers called on Congress to impeach President Johnson. When Congress finally did so in 1868, Northern and Southern newspapers offered different interpretations about the realities of the situation, echoing the divisions that riddled the nation before the Civil War. The radical Northern press prevailed, with its views becoming mainstream (perhaps unsurprising given that the Republicans controlled Congress). Over the next century, technology dramatically changed the media. But simultaneously, the partisan press of the 19th century gave way to a norm of objectivity. So it was that Americans experienced the debate over the fate of Richard Nixon in 1974 in real time, but with relatively neutral media coverage.

This environment helped explain why the impeachment process prompted Nixon’s resignation. Even so, the markers of partisanship were present, and, to a great extent, Nixon exited office only because of the White House taping system, which vividly exposed his crimes. Rather than being an example of how well the impeachment process worked, Nixon’s situation showed just how hard it was for partisans to abandon an ethically challenged president. It only became harder thanks to changes in the media and intensifying partisanship in the late 20th century. The launch of CNN in 1980 led to a 24/7 news cycle, and the rise of the first conservative talk radio in the late 1980s and then Fox News, which launched in 1996, paved the way for new partisan media. By the time of Clinton’s impeachment, Americans experienced the proceedings through saturation coverage, which precipitated deep divisions and a partisan slugfest. In the Republican-controlled House, the 1998 vote fell with few exceptions along strict party lines. In the Senate trial, not a single Democrat voted in favor of removal, which effectively doomed the effort. Since the Clinton impeachment, partisanship has only intensified further, in part because ideological media has proliferated, placing increasing pressure on politicians to hew to the party line and fueling very different understandings of even the biggest political happenings. The prospect of securing 67 votes to remove Trump or any subsequent president from office has become almost unthinkable. The America the Founders envisioned, one without media-fueled partisanship, may have made impeachment a more usable tool to contain abuses of executive power. But it did not develop, and now removing a president via this cumbersome process is virtually impossible, absent the sort of irrefutable smoking gun that felled Nixon. Even that might not be sufficient today thanks to the rise of ideological broadcast media that leaves Americans willing to disbelieve anything.