While I admire the prosecutorial brilliance of the House managers of the Trump impeachment trial, I still think impeachment 2.0 was a mistake. Not that Trump does not deserve such a disgrace and such a historical branding-for-life, but I fear the unintended and uncontrollable consequences of the sorry saga.
A first concern is how much the reliving, in vivid video, of the insurrection is a recruitment film for the radical right. The managers chose to emphasize how close the insurrection came to succeeding and how feckless are the government’s defenses. Even if Trump gets off, as was foreordained, his martyrdom to the forces of the political order will be enhanced. It would appear that March 4 is when the new rendezvous with insurrection will take place (that day being the historic day for presidential inaugurations), goaded by the near miss of January 6. And mass radicalization now can take place rapidly, given this new fuel.
My second worry is that the highlighting of Trump’s last days and his pathetic retreat to fantasy and lethal apathy will, like Watergate, add a vivid, social-media-catnip chapter to governmental distrust. True, the main immediate victims will be the Republican Party, radicalized and shameless for all to see. True, the Democrats under Rep. Jamie Raskin, showed great skill and coordination in pressing the attack.
But why didn’t Congress know enough to harden its target? Is the Senate now exposed as dysfunctional, as Ezra Klein contends? And, to cite Peggy Noonan, why didn’t Trump supporters in the GOP actually face down the crowd and tell them to STOP? It’s a huge governmental fail, disguised as a short-term Democratic gain.
Lastly, why did the whole trial have to deploy tactical nuclear weapons, thus further deepening the partisan divide and driving the Republicans’ backs to the wall or into loyalty tests to declare fealty to the battered Trump? The Democrats had two de-escalatory options — censure or invoking the 14th Amendment to prevent Trump from seeking office but without impeachment. But no Republicans would support such half-loaves and Democrats retreated into an “impeachment or nothing” mode.
The result is “nothing.” No, worse than nothing: a panicky retreat to open warfare.
Thanks David for the thoughtful piece. I had hoped Trump would simply retreat to Florida to bask in the adoration of his fringe followers; assuming most of the 74M who voted for him were really voting against the perceived Biden-Bernie- Socialist Squad cabal. Hoping that Trump would fade into the Perot, Buchanan sunset background-es-sphere. But no, while Joe Biden calls for unity his democratic brethren in Congress attempt a Trump take down that was destined to fail – all captured on national TV. What were they thinking? The sad part of the story is how Republican Senators capitulate to Trump’s fundraising racket, regardless of his behavior, language and related outrages
Hi, David: I don’t agree that impeachment has been worse than nothing. First, the Republican Party has been deeply wounded, driving responsible conservatives and independents into the center, forming either a) a new centrist party or b) attracting moderate democrats and left-leaning independent forcing the Democrats toward the pragmatic middle and away from grasp of radical “progressives”. Secondly, the Senate has been dysfunctional for a long time; this does not make it any less so. It may provide moderates of both sides to coalesce in a middle of enough weight to control what passes, a very nice result. As to increasing the radical right and militias and the like, Jan 6th will have put local, state and national officials on alert as never before. We may see isolated, single terrorist attacks but never in the foreseeable future, I predict, another mass gathering of armed insurgents and rebellious mobs — at least on the right. The public will not stand for it again. And the same attitude, I hope, constrains violent protesters on the left. So, I am more inclined to view Jan 6 and impeachment prosecution as a calling to attention Americans of good common sense, as the House Managers noted, who make up the majority of the public though only a minority of the Senate. That’s better than if no impeachment or merely a censure.