Terry H. Schwadron
Feb. 16, 2021
Not only can’t we learn history, even history of the last weeks, we are unable to learn humility either.
It is as expected, of course, if troubling all over again, that even in the face of public disgrace, Donald Trump and fans want to celebrate the failure of the Senate to muster the two-thirds vote for conviction.
For all the talk of church-going and Law & Order, rather than seize a chance to seek forgiveness on any level or to acknowledge that things went awry and got out of control, they’re doubling-down anew with feisty talk about the next election and, should they win in Congress in 2022, threats to impeach Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris for supporting cash bail for Black Lives Matter protesters.
Watching state Republican parties slap at those GOP lawmakers who voted their conscience and challenging those who concluded despite their votes to pin incitement on Trump’s obsession with election fraud is plain old disgusting. There is no room for disagreement, and you either are on the Trump train or under it.
It’s not that I care whether Republican Party infrastructure collapses, it’s the death of reason, empathy and truth that I loathe.
Plus, it is all part of an attempt to cement the need to win elections — and fund-raising, endless campaigns and banner-waving — as the central and sole determinant of our cultural values. Hearing Republicans Lindsey Graham and Jim Jordan talk of kindling a continuing Trump movement leaves me disheartened; the impeachment trial has shown Trump to be thoroughly disqualified to participate in American democracy — and Trumpism has been shown to stand for nothing other than praying at the altar of Trump as cult personality.
Voters and Cash
The allure of appealing to Trump voters and to his perceived access to campaign cash remains too strong even after public disgrace.
There may have been only seven Senate GOP votes for conviction on the impeachment charge, but as the remarks of Senators Mitch McConnell, John Thune, John Cornyn and others shows, the desire to distance themselves from his behaviors is far wider. The fig leaf of hiding from conviction behind the limitations of what they saw as narrow impeachment authority did not hide disgust with Trump’s behavior.
So, Trump “won” acquittal from pre-determine Republican votes on the impeachment charge by threatening political harm to those who would oppose him. But he could not change what happened leading to and on Jan. 6.
The sad joke is now to hear Republicans like Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and more now say they’d like a 9/11-style commission to find the facts of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. That’s already going to happen, because Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced it yesterday.
What these Republicans really want is a chance to blame someone other than Trump for a months-long campaign that crescendoed to an attempted coup d’état. I’d be more open to listening to these Republican voices once they join McConnell’s call for a criminal trial or two for Trump on charges related to the attempted overthrow of the American government.
What they don’t want is more factual information about how Trump engineered the attack, coordinated with anti-government groups either directly or indirectly, how Trump money raised to fight actual election results with pretend fraud suggestions ended up in the hands of militias bent on kidnap and assassination, or how Trump sat on his hands and delayed the arrival of the National Guard to halt the attacks.
What they certainly don’t want is yet more testimony and documentation to show that Trump provoked a ruinous, anti-American coup attempt. They want control over a “bipartisan” process to decide on what facts should be considered important.
By contrast, a criminal trial against Trump would allow for depositions and testimony from the likes of Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, whose life was endangered, rioters saying they were following what they saw as presidential orders, and policing officials who suffered injury.
No Responsibility, No Condemnation
Even in his post-verdict statements, Trump eschewed any responsibility or condemnation or anything remotely empathetic. Even in their various censures and threats against the Senate seven, state GOP organizations set aside concerns for American democracy. This is all about Trump, the man they would make king.
Indeed, if you only started paying attention after the impeachment process, you might think that Trump was the victim ere, not the dead and injured police officers or participants who fell. You might not know that Trump’s troops are facing prison time while he is supposed to now sagely decide who is loyal enough to be a local Republican congressional candidate.
Because we have a pandemic emergency affecting public health and the nation’s jobs, congressional attention actually is where it belongs on Joe Biden’s proposals for coronavirus aid. Even then, the discussion is much more bipartisan in the country than in Congress, where Republican members still fawn for Trump’s blessing. That in itself is a hoary joke, since Trump created the problems by mostly failing to address a global pandemic and turning the whole of government response into a partisan campaign issue.
But shortly, we should be turning our attention to revisiting the need for a new set of voting rights bills, more needed than ever as at least 165 proposals are under consideration in 33 to enact different forms of suppression techniques.
The big lessons from the coup attempt should be to cement the basics of American democracy, to preserve and expand the right to vote in person, by mail or carrier pigeon, to flatten obstacles to fair counting of all votes and to stop would-be dictators who would threaten, intimidate and even kill to win.
Then Republican senators can talk to me about fact-finding commissions.