I’m constantly drawn to a quote from former Republican strategist Stuart Stevens: “In the Trump years, Republicans have sent a message that lying is useful and productive, racism is acceptable, the press is the enemy, and a strong-man authoritarian head of government is ideal.” (“It Was All A Lie — How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump,” 2020). For the second time, Republican senators failed to protect the country, uphold the rule of law and preserve the U.S. Constitution by holding former President Donald Trump accountable for his insidious rhetoric that (incited) his supporters to attack the Capitol. Despite a plethora of evidence that clearly demonstrated that Trump incited an insurrection that cost seven Americans their lives, Republican senators placed political ambitions ahead of everything else.
Trump took an oath to protect and defend all Americans. Trump failed to call for the immediate cessation of violence and immediately deploy the National Guard to support the Capitol Police to ensure the peaceful transition of power. Police were injured protecting senators, congressmen and congresswomen as the crowd stormed the Capitol.
In a vote of 57-43, Senate Republicans placed party before country and their own ambitions for political power and money ahead of our democracy, acquitting Trump of any responsibility in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Today it seems no one is responsible for anything regardless of what the law says or what is common decency. Although President Joe Biden pledged to unify the country, I fear that our country will remain hopelessly divided for the foreseeable future; thus, threatening law and order, the survival of our democracy and the lives of many Americans.
Democracies such as ours are severely weakened when the norms of acceptable political behavior are eroded as has happened under the Trump presidency. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point out, “Trump’s deviance has been tolerated by the Republican Party, which has helped make it [his behavior] acceptable to much of the Republican Electorate.” (“How Democracies Die,” 2018).
Jenna Ryan, a Texas real estate agent who traveled to the Capitol on a private jet, is now charged in connection with the deadly Jan. 6 riot. Ryan said, “I bought into a lie” from then-President Trump.
Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page wrote, “Economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” (American Political Science Association, 2014.) The Republican elite led by Trump have sought to erode the norms of our democracy, sowing discourse among the “have and have nots,” creating a polarized society ripe for exploitation.
It’s the very polarized society former President Trump sought to exploit when he incited the mob of his supporters to disrupt the certification of electoral votes and therefore the 2020 presidential election. In the second impeachment trial of Trump, his lawyers argued that it’s unconstitutional for the Senate to try him now that he’s no longer in office. Their argument ignores the fact that the House of Representatives impeached Trump while he held office. The trial began after Trump left office solely because then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the start of the trial. Forty-five Republican senators voted in favor of Sen. Rand Paul’s motion challenging the Senate’s jurisdiction to try Trump despite arguments made by conservative members of the Federalist Society and conservative lawyer Charles Cooper to the contrary. Cooper wrote in the Feb. 8 Wall Street Journal, “Removal from office is best understood as akin to a mandatory minimum sentence for a crime. … If removal were the only punishment that could be imposed, the argument against trying former officers would be compelling. But it isn’t.”
Cooper concludes, “The senators who supported Mr Paul’s motion should reconsider their view and judge the former president’s misconduct on the merits.” (“Constitution Doesn’t Bar Trump’s Trial.”)
To view and judge Trump’s misconduct on the evidence presented to the Senate by the House impeachment managers is one thing. Having the courage to vote your conscience is quite another.
President John F. Kennedy wrote, “the stories of past courage can define that ingredient [of courage] — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul (“Profiles In Courage,” 1956.). In Donald Trump V. The United States, Michael S. Schmidt wrote, “During (James) Comey’s time in government, he had been struck by the reality that the conduct of the institutions — which can seem from the outside to be massive and monolithic — was actually entirely dependent on the conduct and character of individuals. There was a president, his top few aides, and the leaders of Congress. If they went along with something, good or bad, that was it; their acts would be the acts of the United States. The direction of the country really turned much more on what those few leaders were like as people than he had ever imagined.”
Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Mike Garcia, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and numerous other Republicans have gone along with something bad that will ultimately destroy our democracy unless we act.
The only reasonable solution to this insanity is to vote for decent, honest, respectful, honorable people, men and women of courage who will put the country and their constituents first. Show the courage many of today’s political leaders fail to exhibit. Cast evil out at the ballot box in 2022, 2024 and beyond. Disavow Trump’s despotism. Eradicate Trumpism! Take responsibility and stand up for decency and the rule of law. Have the courage to vote your conscience. Don’t allow another Jan. 6 to happen again.