‘Clearly grounds to impeach’: 8 WU political scientists sign open letter calling for Trump’s removal, condemn Hawley

| Senior Editor

Political Science associate professor Jacob Montgomery doesn’t sign many political letters. As someone who studies politics, he said he doesn’t see it as his place to convince others of his beliefs.

“Political scientists in particular are often very cautious about jumping too hard into the political fray, because we view our job as to analyze and understand the political system, not necessarily to try and tell people how political outcomes should be,” Montgomery said.

But Montgomery went against that personal norm when he and seven other Washington University political scientists signed an open letter calling for the removal of President Donald Trump either through impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment due to his refusal to accept legitimate election results and incitement of violence at the United States Capitol last week.

“What we have here is a situation where, not only was actual violence leading to actual deaths, caused by the words and actions of the president of the United States, but we’ve undermined one of the most important institutions for having a steady democracy that you can imagine,” he said. “So, in my view, the president has totally violated his oath of office to protect the Constitution of the United States.”

Beyond partisanship

Dartmouth College professors of Government Brendan Nyhan and John Carey published the letter on Thursday, Jan. 7. It has now been signed by more than 2,000 political scientists across the country. Carey taught at Washington University from 1997 to 2003 before joining the Dartmouth faculty.

Many of Montgomery’s colleagues and fellow signatories told Student Life that they often try to keep their personal opinions separate from their academic obligations to avoid their own biases affecting their work in the classroom.

The letter itself acknowledges this separation, stating that, “Our profession seeks to understand politics, not engage in it.” However, the letter also emphasizes that political scientists still “share a commitment to democratic values.” To Law School professor Andrea Katz, condemning Trump’s actions is more than a matter of partisan politics.

“Protecting the integrity of our democratic processes is not something that we as professors should be neutral about, no matter what your discipline and your methodology and your own inclinations,” she said.

Possible outcomes of impeachment

232 members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on Wednesday, Jan. 13, making him the first president in United States history to be impeached twice. Still, International and Area Studies Director and Political Science Professor Andrew Sobel said he doesn’t foresee the process ending in a conviction.

“Whether the Senate would actually vote to convict––that’s sort of hard to believe,” he said. “They’re going to need 17 Republicans to cross over to vote for the Democrats, and the Democrats can’t lose anybody. So, that’s a pretty high threshold.”

While Trump’s removal from office by impeachment is unlikely, especially with less than two weeks left in his term, the Washington University political scientists with whom Student Life spoke all stressed the necessity of impeachment.

“This was an astonishing instance of treasonous behavior––incitement of a violent mob,” Clarissa Hayward, professor of Political Science and co-lead editor of the American Political Science Review, said. “And I think it’s just very clearly grounds to impeach. It’s very important to not normalize that kind of behavior and to not let it be reframed in the public discourse.”

Missouri senator under fire

Trump wasn’t the only elected official whom faculty members accused of violating his oath of office. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has also been widely criticized for his role in inciting the attack on the Capitol. A photo of the senator raising his fist to the mob has been circulated on social media to symbolize his support for the violence that took place.

“I think [Hawley’s] behavior was and continues to be reprehensible,” Hayward said. “He continues to publicly and unabashedly undermine the peaceful transition of power between administrations and to very disingenuously make statements that try to call into doubt the legitimacy of our democratic elections…I don’t think he will resign. I think he should.”

Many Washington University students are also joining the calls for Hawley’s resignation. The College Democrats released a statement endorsing Missouri Representative Cori Bush’s resolution calling for Hawley’s resignation and the expulsion of other officials who spread false claims about election fraud.

College Democrats Internal Vice President sophomore Ranen Miao also signed a similar statement by the College Democrats of Missouri, where Miao serves as LGBTQIAP+ Caucus Chair. Miao noted that much of the attack’s danger came from not only the mob’s violence or rejection of democratic processes but from the white supremacist ideology its members expressed.

“We need to condem what happened at the Capitol specifically because of the ideology that it tries to espouse,” Miao said. “And I think that we need to agree that our political discourse should strongly condemn the alt-right, fascist belief that we can overturn democratic elections if we disagree with them, because I think the precedent it sets is incredibly, incredibly dangerous.”

Miao encouraged fellow students to fight against those alt-right, white supremacist beliefs by not only casting ballots but also investing their time and money into their communities through donating to mutual aid funds, attending protests and engaging with local government.

The University’s response

When asked for the University’s comment on Trump and Hawley’s role in inciting the violence at the Capitol, Interim Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Julie Flory told Student Life that Chancellor Andrew Martin’s statement from Jan. 6 would “serve as the University’s response.”

“I denounce the violence taking place in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the country and call on our elected leaders and every American to uphold our constitutional principles, honor the rule of law and respect the truth,” Martin wrote. “What we are seeing today shall not define who we are as a nation.”

The statement did not mention any specific elected leaders or ideologies promoted by the mob. Miao urged the University to more strongly condemn and fight against the hateful messaging involved in last week’s attack.

“The University can always do more to not just criticize the specific instance of violence but criticize the structural violence of racism and white supremacy and facism and anti-Semitism that was just on grotesque and explicit display on Wednesday,” Miao said. “…I think the University has that moral obligation. I think they should take further steps to make sure that we’re fighting against white supremacy as an institution and that we don’t tip-toe around the issue as if it’s controversial.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.

Subscribe