How does a bill become a law? You can’t hear the question and not hum a few bars from Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill.” The groovy cartoon civics lesson was for millions the first they learned about the legislative process. Ask another question, however, like “how does impeachment work,” and you may hear more crickets than 70’s educational TV jingles.
Surely we took something from Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial besides cigars, stained blue dresses, and the spectacle of morally compromised politicians wagging their fingers at a morally compromised politician? Surely we’ve all read the Watergate transcripts, and can quote more from that history than Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” (muttered before he resigned instead of facing the charges)?
Maybe not. Despite the talk of closed-door hearings and conflicted jurors, many of us have not paid close attention to the particulars of the process, given that impeachment trials can make for such compellingly broad political theater. And we never got our Schoolhouse Rock impeachment episode. Until now.
Seeing as how the president faces public, televised impeachment hearings next week, there may be no more opportune time to get caught up on some details with Jonathan Coulton’s Schoolhouse Rock-inspired “The Good Fight.” Its animation style and catchy tune recalls the 70s educational series, but Coulton doesn’t address the kids at home as his primary audience.
“Your tiny hands may scratch and claw,” sings Coulton, “but nobody’s above the law.” You won’t win any prizes for guessing who this means—a person in need of a childlike explainer on basic government, it seems. More verbal jabs are thrown, and the alleged crimes enumerated, ending with treason (and a misplaced, anachronistic hammer and sickle by animators Head Gear Animation). The video finally gets into the impeachment process over a minute in, past the halfway mark.
Viewers might find the first half emotionally satisfying, with its characterization of impeached presidents as wayward children in need of correction by a swaggering Constitution and a sassy band of founders. It’s cute but leaves precious little time for learning how this accountability process is supposed to work. Coulton rushes through the explanation, and you may find yourself skipping back to hear it several times.
Never fear: Google—or the search engine of your choice—is here to ferry you to thousands of guides to the impeachment process. “The Good Fight” isn’t, after all, actually a Schoolhouse Rock ad, but a fun civic-minded reminder to everyone that the president is not above the law, and that Congress is entitled by the Constitution to hold the holder of that office, whomever they may be, accountable. An explainer by Vox appears below: