Pardon me if I don’t see the 57-43 vote to acquit Trump as a moral victory because of the historically bipartisan nature of the vote. You can get your positive take from David Frum in The Atlantic. I concede that I am not in the mood to look on the bright side of Trump’s second impeachment — that seven Republicans joined 50 Democrats in finding Trump guilty when 17 Republicans were needed to get a conviction. It is impossible to get around the question Rep. Jamie Raskin asked in his stellar presentations as lead House manager of the impeachment: “If you think this is not impeachable, what is?”
And pardon me further for not accepting Mitch McConnell’s explanation for why he voted to acquit. This man — perhaps the worst of the whole Trumpian lot in Congress — said Trump provoked the attack on the Capitol on January 6, then voted against having a trial on the grounds that a former president could not be tried under the Constitution, a view that goes against the vast majority of legal scholarship on that question.
In fact, it was McConnell, while majority leader, who refused to convene the Senate for a trial while Trump was still an impeached sitting president. Claiming it was now too late to put him on trial is classic McConnell dishonesty.
One more thing about McConnell and this rationale: Once the Senate voted to proceed to trial, he and all other senators were bound to live up to their oaths to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.” They did not do that. They let Trump off. The Republicans endorsed Trump’s reckless and dangerous behavior and sent a very clear message to his extreme-right supporters: We are not done with you, you are a vital part of the Republican Party.
Once upon a time, I knew what the Republican Party stood for. I’ve been writing a newspaper column for more than 40 years, and I’ve heard it all — smaller government, less regulation, lower taxes, faith in the free market and the private sector, strong national defense, law and order, representative democracy as the ideal form of government around the world. I watched Republicans since Ronald Reagan try to repeal the New Deal, abandon cities and urban policy, push the racist war on drugs, then embrace the harsh, uncompromising rhetoric of Newt Gingrich that demonized Democrats and got us into an era of hateful politics and superpartisanship.
It became clear that all the GOP stood for was tax cuts for the rich, the trickle-down economic policy that led to greater income inequality and never did what conservatives claimed it would do — create new and better jobs. Republicans fought Obamacare tooth and nail, and they would still do away with it today if they could. They denied climate change. Once deficit hawks, they supported even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that created more federal deficits. They obssessively pushed more conservatives into the federal judiciary, figuring that was the only way to preserve a conservative agenda against the swelling tide of a progressive, diverse electorate. They embraced Trump and Trumpism — essentially, white supremacy, know-nothingness and the sabotage of effective government — and now they oppose President Biden’s big plan for disaster relief to get the country out of the mess Trump left us.
The polls indicate that Republicans are way out of step with the majority of Americans. A large and bipartisan majority supports Biden’s plan for dealing with the pandemic and the damaged economy. A majority wanted Trump held responsible for the sacking of the Capitol, too.
Republicans are on the way to irrelevancy, and by their own hands. The GOP is a wounded beast, and it will be a great thing for the country if Democrats, Independents and Disaffected Republicans worked together for a new era of progress, leaving the beast in the dust.