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A clash between two giants, each carving their name in history

Posted December 5, 2019 11:12 p.m. EST

— At the center of the US impeachment imbroglio is a clash between two giants, each carving their name in history.

On one end of Pennsylvania Avenue is the highest-ranking woman in the history of American politics: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, standing as the guardian of the US Constitution. At the other is the world's most powerful man: President Donald Trump, accused of conduct so destructive to America's political system that critics say he should be ejected from office.

"Our democracy is what is at stake," Pelosi said Thursday as she formally ordered her subordinates to draw up articles of impeachment — effectively the charges on which the House of Representatives will vote before Christmas.

Pelosi is an institutionalist. The first female speaker of the House is a master of the nuts and bolts of traditional constitutional politics: She wins elections, builds coalitions, counts votes, passes bills and checks Republican presidents. The daughter of a Baltimore mayor, she's served in Congress longer than AOC has been alive, and is the epitome of the Washington establishment that Trump's supporters despise.

Trump, accused of demolishing bedrock American constitutional principles, never saw an institution he didn't want to destroy. He came to politics late, has little patience for governing, flouts convention and is more interested in what one senior aide once called "the deconstruction of the administrative state."

Their fight reflects the fact that what's unfolding on Capitol Hill is about far more than Trump's alleged abuses of power in Ukraine. It's about the future shape of American governance itself.

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