OXFORD — Reading aloud the newspaper headline, “House votes to impeach Trump,” my wife said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
“That’s in the Bible,” she added.
“I thought it was what Abraham Lincoln said,” I replied.
Of course, we were both right.
Jesus is quoted in Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and no city or house divided against itself will stand, and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand.”
The verse is part of a passage that records Christ healing a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. When people asked, “Could this be the son of David?”, the Pharisees claimed, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln, later to become U.S. president, was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate against Stephen A. Douglas.
In a speech in Illinois, Lincoln used the biblical analogy in addressing the growing national conflict over slavery as new territories were being settled.
He prophetically claimed: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the states, old as well as new — North as well as South.”
We know how that came out.
No question there’s a considerable amount of political division in the United States in the final few days of this decade, especially when it comes to the impeachment of President Trump. And it will carry over into the 2020 elections.
It doesn’t take anyone as smart as Abe Lincoln to predict that Trump won’t be kicked out of office before his present term concludes, barring something totally unforeseen.
Being impeached by a Democrat-controlled House is like being indicted by a grand jury. It isn’t a conviction.
The Republican-dominated Senate, which will serve as the jury for a trial of the president when and if the impeachment papers are delivered to that body, will not convict Trump.
Both the House and the Senate are divided along party lines, but within the parties there isn’t much division. The Democrats in Congress are nearly lock-step against Trump, and the Republicans are just as united in defending him.
Polls indicate that the public is divided, too, but probably not as obsessed with impeachment as the politicians and talking heads on television.
People are going on with their lives, and even the government is functioning. Almost overlooked in the political fights are some congressional and administration compromises. Trade deals with Canada and Mexico are on track, and there’s not going to be a federal shutdown over the budget this year.
True, there does seem to be more division and meanness in politics these days than in the past, much of it exacerbated by the president himself. But there always has been a certain amount of division in the country.
It seems that we come together more often during great danger and stress from without — remember Pearl Harbor and 9/11 — than when disputes arise from within.
Speaking of Pearl Harbor, Gov. Phil Bryant, one of Trump’s biggest fans, went overboard in paraphrasing what Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famously said after the Japanese attack: “a date which will live in infamy.”
Bryant tweeted a few hours after the impeachment vote, “This is a day that will be remembered in infamy.”
This month marks the 78th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War II. That was a dismal Christmas season for the families of those killed in the attack, as well as those who were to die later. Some still feel the effects of World War II.
Seventy-eight years from this December, I predict not as many people will reflect on what the history books will then record as the third American president in history to be impeached — none of whom were convicted by the Senate.
• Charles M. Dunagin is the retired editor and publisher of the Enterprise-Journal in McComb. He lives in Oxford.