We saw our elected Republican leaders cowering in the days leading up to February 13, 2021. We saw their craven pandering to a demagogue’s false cries of foul play. We saw them caving in to fear—fear of losing their grip on power. Fear of the 74 million who voted for a corrupt, contemptible man who did everything to subvert the democratic norms of our nation. Only seven Republican senators exhibited courage in the face of an impregnable wall of deceit and cowardice. That Saturday was a sad day in America— the day our illusions died.
If we look for a silver lining on this otherwise bleak horizon. we might turn our eyes to the impeccable, if disturbing, presentation by the impeachment managers. Representative Jamie Raskin, the Lead Impeachment Manager, delivered an impassioned closing speech calling for the conviction of the former president after 2 days of explicit videos and searing testimony of the Capitol riot on January 6. Unfortunately, the compelling evidence of videos of the Capitol being trashed, 150 law enforcement officers being wounded, 5 dead, the destruction of federal and personal property, and the desecration of a citadel of democracy in our nation was not enough to sway the weak and compromised leadership of the GOP. The fix was in; the verdict unsurprising.
The fact remains that Donald J. Trump is the only president in US history to be impeached twice in one presidential term. And that the final vote on February 13, 2021 was the most bipartisan rebuke ever delivered in an impeachment process. Trump incited insurrection with his words and tweets preceding and then following the November 3, 2020 election, one of the most fair and successful elections in our nation’s history. The result of his rising incendiary rhetoric culminated in the bloody riots of January 6, 2021. Moreover, as demonstrated by the prosecution, this incitement of insurrection met the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard for conviction and disqualification from future federal elected office.
The vote would likely have been cast differently if the ballot had been secret, shielding those Republican senators who were afraid of political repercussions. The desire to appease the base, to avoid being defeated in upcoming primary elections was too strong a motivation to permit a principled stand. Cowardice, equivocation, and compromise won the day. Those who voted against conviction of the ex-president knew that history would judge them, but that was too far in the future to influence their decisions. They were content to hide in the crowd, to allow the demon of despotism and the threats of a bully to wash over them.
Courage is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. The nay- voters proved that they lacked both the courage and the will to stand against the crowd, they were too weak to buck the trend that fateful day in February. And, they will live with the consequences of this decision for a long time to come. The immortal words of JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” never rang truer. These words, however, did not make it into the consciousness of the weak and compromised leadership of the Republican party. The country, as a consequence, will suffer many more years of lies, deceit, plunder, and chaos at the hand of the Trump family and their witless enablers.
President, Woman’s National Democratic Club