Last week, 43 U.S. Senators voted to condone the January 6 violent and deadly insurrection against American democracy. They were presented a powerful and compelling case against everything that happened that day and the central role of then-president Trump as its instigator. Even some among them, including former majority leader Mitch McConnell, in their own words described the heinous and treacherous events and Trump’s central role in them.
But perhaps the saddest indictment to come out of the second trial for impeachment of Trump is against these 43 elected U.S. Senators, all Republicans. They voted seeming to think they were simply defending their partisan party interests. But they vastly underestimated the gravity of their votes. They were actually voting to condone the insurrection.
They have no excuse to plead otherwise, because of the thorough evidence that was set before them by the team of Democratic leaders assigned to make the case. They voted with their eyes wide open.
It could be argued that the 74 million people who voted for Trump in November, bringing him within seven million votes of winning, should not be confused with the thousands of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6 armed with lethal weapons and flags of the nation’s and democracy’s enemies.
When it came down to it, the core Trump constituency after his four years in the White House was those few thousand violent fanatics.
Those few thousand plus 43 U.S. Senators, that is, and however many House members who earlier cast votes on his behalf in a failed effort to block the latest impeachment.
Count me among those who were disappointed by the decision of the Democratic leadership not to call witnesses to the impeachment last Saturday when they had the chance.
In this case we were dealing with politics on an entirely different plane than the level where usual rules of the game apply. The Democrats were worried that calling witnesses would extend the impeachment trial such that key elements of President Biden’s aggressive recovery agenda might need be paused.
But this impeachment trial was dealing with one of the most important issues ever facing this republic. It was not a routine case, not in the least.
The entire world needed to be brought in on the drama of witness testimony, examinations and cross examinations on live TV cameras beamed around the whole world.
It should have extended to include many other damning elements, including Trump’s criminal insistence in a phone call recorded and played publicly that the Georgia secretary of state “find” 10,000 or so votes to reverse the outcome in that state.
It would have been important to establish the extent to which this madman president went to trample under the U.S. Constitution and the very notion of free and fair elections to advance his zealous effort to stay in power.
Some of what may not have been introduced into evidence at last week’s impeachment trial may still wind up in criminal courts in Georgia, New York and Washington, D.C. We fully expect that it will, and that Mr. Trump is going to have a very difficult time being confronted by the criminal and civil legal actions coming down the pike at him for an extended period.
But they will lack the dramatic effect, undertaken for the purpose of providing the American population with a sorely needed lesson in the laws of a democracy and why they matter.
Whenever the United States is described as “a nation of laws,” a very central tenet is being referenced that in recent years, at least on the Republican side, has been eroded and even dismissed.
A very sinister current has festered in the Republican Party for the last 40 years that is explicitly anti-democratic and, actually, inhumane. It has drawn from a sordid pro-fascist social and cultural model which asserts that truth, itself, is a matter of subjective choice. In the philosophical sphere it comes under the general category of post-modernism.
In its thinking, truth is subordinate to power, and the Trump administration demonstrated and exercised it to a tee.
Its core fallacy must be rooted out for democracy to flourish.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]