Impeachment And A GOP Schism
Throughout my lifetime, there has been a pattern to American politics and it basically goes like this: Republicans abuse the political and economic system in ways that are often unconstitutional; Democrats retake control of government and are forced to use their political capital restoring the economic and constitutional order, allowing the corrupt Republican party to rebuild and start the cycle all over again. And each time, it seems, that rebuilt Republican party becomes just a little more extreme, culminating, for now, in Trumpism.
It was Democrats who had to the heavy lifting of political and electoral reform as well as exposing the unconstitutional abuses of the intelligence services in the wake of Nixon’s corruption. Our “reward” was Reaganism, a more conservative and openly racist Republican party. It was Clinton who had to repair the economic damage of the Reagan/Bush recession to the exclusion of pursuing the Iran/Contra criminals whom Bush had already pardoned. Our “reward” was a GOP that presented itself as “compassionate conservatism” but gave us war crimes, economic collapse, the the belief it could “create its own reality”. It was Obama who again had to repair the economic damage of the Great Recession and decided to “look forward” rather than pursuing the torturers and Wall Street criminals. Our “reward” was Trump and the most corrupt administration in American history, supported and abetted by the totality of the now seditionist Republican party. And it will once again be up to Biden and the Democrats to use their political capital to repair a broken economy, overcome COVID with a mass vaccination program, and institute the political and electoral reforms to prevent another Trump, all while potentially fighting an armed insurrection.
Perhaps the best way to look at the Republican party’s consistent attacks on our constitutional order is a quick review of presidential pardons. Republicans love to talk about Clinton’s obscene pardon of Marc Rich, but Rich’s original crime was basic tax evasion, hardly a broadside against our Constitution. On the other hand, Ford pardoned Nixon, the greatest constitutional abuser until Trump; Bush pardoned all his Iran/Contra buddies who were violating Congressional law with their funding of the Contras while illegally selling arms to the Iranians; and Trump has pardoned Scooter Libby who outed a CIA agent and all his cronies in coordinating with Russia to attack our elections. All of those pardoned by Republicans had committed crimes against our Constitution.
Impeaching Trump now is an absolutely necessary step to ensure that he never has the ability to hold political office again and vastly diminish his political power. It must be done. But we need to recognize that, through impeachment, Democrats are unwittingly offering the Republican party a path to restore itself. If enough Republicans vote to convict in the Senate, the party will be rid of Trump, if not Trumpism, but it will be Democrats who will be largely responsible for doing that for Republicans. Liz Cheney, Mitch McConnell and a few others understand impeachment can be seen as an act of redemption for Republicans. Their hope is that voting to impeach and convict will be enough to allow them to move forward without the full stain of Trumpism and regain the corporate contributions that are currently being withheld. The reality, however, is that the majority of their party will not follow them. Instead, those Republicans who vote for impeachment will become a target for the Trumpers. Jim Jordan is already calling for Cheney’s ouster from the House GOP leadership.
The vote on impeachment is the initial skirmish in the split of the Republican party. The majority of Republicans, certainly in the House and probably within the Senate, will vote to acquit Trump. This majority will represent the Trump party. McConnell, Cheney, and others who vote to convict will lead what I will call the “Rump” party, representing a minority of Republicans. Despite what the Rump members think, the leaders of the GOP come 2024 will not be them, but Trumpers like Hawley and McCarthy.
Democrats have, by necessity, given a chance at some redemption for Republicans through impeachment. However, those Trumpers who refuse to vote for impeachment and conviction must then feel the full weight of accountability for their actions. At minimum, for those who directly fomented the insurrection, people like Hawley, Cruz, Gosar, Biggs, Brooks, and others not yet exposed, expulsion must be on the table. For those who voted against certifying Biden and attempted to overturn the election, censure and ensuring they hold no committee assignments must be the minimum punishment. And even for those who vote for impeachment and conviction, there must be some accountability for their complicity in Trumpism and their consistent refusal to do their constitutional duty.
Mitch McConnell is already doing his best to undermine the new Biden administration. For the first time in over half a century or more, the Senate has not held a single confirmation hearing for the cabinet nominees of the incoming President. For the first time in ten presidential transitions, the incoming President’s nominee for Secretary of State will not have had even a hearing before inauguration day. Perhaps one or two nominees might get a hearing when the Senate returns to business on January 19th. But no nominee will be confirmed before inauguration. When you combine that with the disintegration of the executive branch over the last few days and even weeks, the government in the initial days of the Biden administration will still be largely rudderless. In addition, there are worries McConnell may use impeachment as another tactic to delay the Biden’s administrations efforts to deal with the myriad of problems the country is facing.
The lesson is that even when the GOP breaks up into the Trump and Rump party, it is still a party that will never be a true partner in democratic government. It has illustrated that over the last half century. It is a party that simply does not believe in government itself or the Constitution, only power. It is irredeemable.