In my last blog, I wrote that “the Republican Party will clearly be on trial” at Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing. With Saturday’s vote to acquit Trump, 43 Republican senators failed our democracy and the American people.
During the impeachment trial, the Democrats presented an overwhelmingly convincing case that Trump incited the insurrection against Congress. Earlier in the week, polls showed that 56% of the American people believed Trump should be found guilty, while only 44% thought he should be acquitted. At the same time, however, 69% of Republicans indicated they were less likely to support a senator who votes to convict Trump. That is why self-serving Republican senators voted to protect their re-election prospects rather than preserve American democracy.
On Friday, however, new evidence put that result in doubt. According to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, Trump knew in real time that Vice President Pence was in life-threatening danger from the mob attacking the Capitol. But Trump did nothing to protect his vice president or Congress because he was solely focused on halting the certification of the election.
Then, it came to light that Republican House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, called Trump while the rioters were trying to break into his office. McCarthy pleaded with Trump to call off the MAGA mob. Lawmakers later briefed by McCarthy indicated that Trump replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” When Trump refused to intervene to stop the riot, McCarthy yelled at him, “Who the f—k do you think you’re talking to?”
None of this mattered to those spineless 43 Republican senators. A great many of them actually believed Trump did incite the insurrection and probably would have voted to convict the former president in a secret ballot. Instead, they hung their vote on a technicality, thus condoning presidential treason in the final weeks in office. These senators claimed it was unconstitutional to try and convict a former president for impeachable offenses even though almost all legal scholars from across the political spectrum found it is constitutional.
So, where does that leave our country today? One of our two major political parties is controlled by Trump loyalists. Representing approximately three-quarters of the Republican Party, they are “enamored with authoritarianism and devoted to one Big Lie after another.” Their party is “antithetical to our Constitution, to fidelity to truth and to a multiracial democracy.”
As a result, the Republican Party is shrinking. In January, nearly 140,000 people in 25 states left the Party. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 37% of Americans now approve of the GOP, down from 43% in November. With the great majority of Senate Republicans voting to acquit Trump, the abandonment of the Party will only grow.
In fact, the anti-Trump wing of the Party is already laying the groundwork for possibly establishing a center-right, third party. Recently, over 120 Republicans met on Zoom “to discuss the breakaway party, including former elected Republicans and government officials who worked under both Bush administrations, Reagan’s administration and even Trump’s administration.” These Republicans are “unhappy with the party’s failure to stand up to Trump’s alleged attempts to undermine democracy.”
Still, the authoritarian wing of the Republican Party has been building for many years. Right-wing Republicans have been gerrymandering Congressional districts, suppressing voters’ rights and using other anti-democratic tactics for decades.
We must strengthen our resolve to defeat this spreading neo-fascism before it is too late. We must demand that Congress pass HB 1, the For the People Act, to protect and expand voter access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of Big Money in politics and other anti-corruption measures to fortify our democracy. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to reach your senators and (202) 225-3121 for your House members.
At the same time, we must amend the Constitution to ensure that another outgoing president who commits impeachable offenses can be tried and held accountable even after he or she has left office.
Honest and open-minded Americans of all stripes, Democrats, Independents and Republicans, must stand up for our democratic values. We must rise above party, come together and protect our democracy.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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