The Trial is ‘Political Theater,’ and What’s Wrong With That?


“Political theater” is how Donald Trump’s lawyers dismissed the impeachment process in a brief filed at the start of the former President’s Senate trial. They were right. But so what?

One could argue that the process is mere “theater” because most Republican Senators have known, without hearing a single fact or argument, that they will vote to acquit. Therefore, there’s little Democrats can do except put on a show for the American people and for posterity. That would be accurate. It would, however, ignore the fact that most Democratic Senators knew, without hearing a single new fact or argument, that they would vote to convict. Both parties have played their parts to create this charade of a real trial.

One could exclaim in mock horror: Political theater! In the U.S. Senate! Come on. That’s what the Senate does all the time. Hence the hearings at which each Senator gets a chance to posture at length for the media and the folks back home. I’d certainly be happy if the Dems’ performance convinced enough Republicans to give them a two-thirds majority against Trump. But I don’t expect it. Neither, I suspect, does anyone else. And yet why dismiss the Democrats’ case against Trump as mere theater? FDR’s fireside chats were performance. So was Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Theater? Bring it on.


  1. Agreed. But the problem is this: FDR had a broad national audience. In our situation, at least 40 percent of Americans are hearing a fundamentally different account — if any account at all. And nobody seems to know what to do about that. I certainly don’t. So I’m going to refill my glass and…. not think about it.


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