Lessons from the second Trump impeachment

Trump supporter in Washington on Jan. 6 – (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

America missed an opportunity to deal a blow to right-wing extremism

Despite a mountain of irrefutable evidence that Donald Trump was guilty of inciting an insurrection, the U.S. Senate acquitted him.

History will record this vote as a shameful abdication on the part of Republican senators. Only seven of them had the decency and the respect for our democracy to vote to convict: Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

In a singular act of cowardice, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump and then proceeded to excoriate him for his “disgraceful dereliction of duty.” McConnell knew Trump was guilty as hell but hid behind a legal fig leaf to acquit him. If McConnell had the courage of his convictions, he might have been able to bring enough of his colleagues around not only to give Trump what he deserved and to spare the country the possibility that Trump will ever be able to run for office again but also to send a message, loud and clear, to any future president that assaulting our democracy will not be tolerated.

This urgent message has now not been sent. That is the most tragic lesson of this impeachment trial.

Let us not divert our eyes from how grave the assault on our democracy was on Jan. 6, and from the character of that assault.

I don’t use the term “insurrection” to refer to what happened on Jan. 6. As my friend Allen Ruff has noted, “insurrection” is a value-neutral term. In our history, there were slave insurrections, for instance.

This wasn’t so much an insurrection as it was a putsch — a fascist coup attempt. We should not lose sight of the fact that this was a far right, white supremacist crowd that stormed the Capitol. The stormtroopers were flying the Confederate flag and using the “N” word and one was wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” shirt.

Convicting Trump would have dealt a blow to this fascist movement in America. But now that movement will probably claim vindication and keep growing. That is the scariest lesson of this impeachment trial. Read more