Rider of the Storm: An Impeachment Recap

The Bad and Good of the Senate Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump

It’s not surprising and yet it is.

The second trial of Donald Trump, following his second impeachment ended on Saturday with his acquittal with a vote of the Senate, 57–43, ten votes short of the two-thirds vote needed to convict the former President. None of this was a surprise, but it was still frustrating to hear that yet again, Donald Trump escapes punishment.

There are a few observations on a number of actors that I want to talk about, so let’s start with the Dear Leader himself.

Donald Trump: In the movie Despicable Me 3, the big bad is Balthazar Bratt, a washed-up 80s kid star. His catchphrase on the show was “I’ve been a bad boy!” He would always say this in a faux bashful way after doing something that was incredibly wrong. Donald Trump is a lot like Balthazar Bratt in that he can do things that shock the conscience and yet can look like the aggrieved innocent. He’s able to incite a crowd and yet make it look like he never said a threatening word.

Trump somehow never seems to face the consequences of his actions. He is always able to find a way to not only get off, but also look like the victim. He could have gone on a shooting spree with bodies and blood-splattered walls everywhere and holding an AR-15 and flash his baby blues in with a bashful look and say, “I don’t know how this happened!”

From November 3 to January 6, he kept claiming that the election was stolen from him. He encouraged his supporters to protest, each time upping the temperature until we got the Insurrection. It’s pretty clear he incited the crowds and when the leaders of Congress and his Vice President were in trouble, refused to help. But he was still able to cow a number of Republican legislators.

There is still a groundswell of support for Trump and I will not be surprised that he will run again in 2024 and could very well win the Presidency again.

Mitch McConnell: “Cocaine” Mitch has always been a crafty politician. So, I am left wondering what is his game with his speech today. It was strong in condemning President Trump, coming across as another House Manager.

And yet.

Why in the world did he express his feelings in such strong terms and yet vote to convict? Was he trying to satisfy the pro-Trump forces? Is he planning on voting for a censure resolution? He wasn’t lying in how he felt. But it seemed like a severe lack of courage. He had the feeling, but he couldn’t turn that into conviction.

His choice was maddening because he came across as a poor leader. As Senate Minority Leader, he should have given that speech and then vote to convict, letting the chips fall where they may. But he couldn’t do that. Maybe he wants to hold on to his position. But he has to know that Trump’s people will still hate him for not totally bending the knee.

Senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are terrible for their supporting the insurrectionists. But McConnell is terrible for a loss of nerve. I don’t know which one is worse.

The Democrats: Their sins are not as great as others, but they do come in for criticism on two points. The first is that they should have chosen one Republican to be a House Manager. Would it have changed enough votes to convict the President? Probably not. But having all Democratic House Managers set this up as a partisan exercise. This played into the hands of Trump and his enablers. If he can set this up as the innocent Republican placed in front of Democratic wolves and he can win. It’s harder to do that if the team was even nominally bipartisan. My guess is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders wanted to stick it to the GOP. This was seen in partisan ways instead of seeing it for what it was, an issue that was of national importance. It was a lost opportunity.

The second problem was the caving on witnesses. The House Managers shocked everyone with a desire to call GOP Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler to testify. But Trump’s lawyers threatened to call every Democrat as a witness and backed up. Trump and his minions tend to bluff, but more often than not the “good side” backs down thinking that Trump’s side is going to make good on his threat. Again, maybe the calling of witnesses wouldn’t change votes, but it might have painted a fuller picture of who Trump really is.

The House Managers: They did a good job in helping people relive that day all over again through the use of video and by painting a mental picture through their speeches. While they didn’t win the day, they did paint the Republicans who voted to acquit look like the cowards that they are. While I think the choice of not choosing a dissenting Republican as a manager was a mistake, the team that prosecuted the case did a good job.

The Republicans: What more can be said? This party is tied to Donald Trump even though under his rule they have lost both Houses of Congress, the White House and thousands of voters. You have to wonder what if anything is a bridge too far when it comes to Trump. They show fealty to a man that will never show fealty to them. When they were hiding for their lives, he was basically in the White House doing the equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns. He didn’t care about them, but they were willing to sacrifice their reputations for him. They might have spared themselves from being censured by their state and local parties, but sooner or later they will pay for their lack of courage.

The Seven (and the Ten): There was a Remnant of Republicans who did stand on principle; the seven Republican Senators who voted to convict. During the first impeachment it was just Mitt Romney; but today he was joined by six others who saw the evidence and believed the former President was guilty. They along with the ten in the House that voted to impeach are the few lawmakers that refused to bow to Trump and they are heroes. Among the seven I want to highlight two: Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Both will retire in 2022 and realized they didn’t need to worry about their voters. It was good to see that after others like Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who is also retiring next year still couldn’t gather any courage to vote to convict. He is a coward, but Burr and Toomey are the good guys.

American Democracy: I don’t think we are going to see tanks in the streets tomorrow, but I do wonder where we are headed as a nation. Majorities of Republicans are seeing violence as an acceptable tool. Was the Insurrection just a one-off or a dress rehearsal for something darker and deadlier? There were a number of near misses where Senators, the Speaker or the Vice President could have been injured or killed. We may not be so lucky in the future.

In 1792, Alexander Hamilton wrote a letter where he was fending off the charge that he was a monarchist. In this quote he talks about what and who can subvert the democratic system:

The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion. Tired at length of anarchy, or want of government, they may take shelter in the arms of monarchy for repose and security.

Those then, who resist a confirmation of public order, are the true Artificers of monarchy — not that this is the intention of the generality of them. Yet it would not be difficult to lay the finger upon some of their party who may justly be suspected. When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits — despotic in his ordinary demeanor — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the nonsense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”

On January 6 we saw a President that sought to throw things into confusion. His acquittal might allow for him or another demagogue to “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”

We can’t say we weren’t warned.

A middle-aged pastor living in Minneapolis. I write about politics, religion, sexuality, and autism. https://www.dennislsanders.net/

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