Movin’ On To The Next Demagogue
Like a bad dream, America’s political class appears to want to act as though the nearly successful insurrection on January 6th never really happened. For entirely different reasons, both Democrats and Republicans now appear to want to get impeachment behind them as quickly as possible. The media invites those who supported and abetted the insurrection on the Sunday shows as though everything is normal, allowing them to continue to spew their lies about the election and the insurrection. And once again the lessons of history will have been forgotten, paving the way for an even bolder kleptocratic autocrat in the future.
According to current media reports, Democrats do not intend to call any witnesses in Trump’s latest impeachment trial. Apparently, Democrats feel that, since Trump’s acquittal is virtually certain, spending weeks on a long, drawn out trial would simply be taking time away from other Democratic legislative priorities. Worse, according to the New York Times, “Several people familiar with the preparations said the managers were wary of saying anything that might implicate Republican lawmakers who echoed or entertained the president’s baseless claims of election fraud. To have any chance of making an effective case, the managers believe, they must make clear it is Mr. Trump who is on trial, not his party”.
What this means is that many of the questions about just how deep the conspiracy to foment the insurrection was and who was involved will remain unanswered. We may never know just how closely the Trump campaign staffers who moved over to the Stop the Steal rally continued to work with the White House. We may never know just how closely certain House Republicans worked to organize the insurrection rally. We may never know how much of the program at the insurrection rally was dictated by Trump and the White House. We may never know why the Department of Defense, where Trump had only recently installed the Acting Secretary and two of his political cronies, required a sign off from senior Pentagon leadership in order to deploy the National Guard. We may never know whether Trump’s social media guru, Dan Scavino, let Trump know just how determined many of his supporters were to attack the Capitol. We may never know just how much influence Roger Stone had in controlling the actions of the Proud Boys during the insurrection and whether he working on behest of Trump. We may never know what was actually discussed at the meeting in the Trump Hotel the night before the insurrection or even if the meeting actually occurred. We may never know if Trump was indeed delighted with the storming of the Capitol as he watched it occur. And we may never know just how many GOP officials Trump bribed or extorted to continue to push his Big Lie about winning the election. Perhaps some House or Senate committees or even Merrick Garland, Biden’s Attorney General if he ever gets confirmed, may pursue those lines of inquiry but that seem less and less likely as time goes on.
Yes, the House impeachment managers can and will still present an airtight case that Trump fomented the insurrection without that missing information. Even before the incredibly powerful presentation by the impeachment managers yesterday, 56% of Americans believed Trump should be convicted in his Senate trial and that number is likely to grow as the case continues. But everyone involved in the proceeding already knows what the outcome will be – acquittal – simply because Trump IS the Republican party at this point.
The Constitution explicitly states, “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments”. The 44 Republicans who voted against the constitutionality of the trial yesterday were not only defying the oath they took to the Constitution but years of lip-service to constitutional textualism. In addition, most of them cast their votes secure in the knowledge that the insurrectionists within their party had not sent the mob to the Capitol to kill them but rather Democratic leaders and those handful of Republicans who dared to defy Trump. Others may have voted with a real fear that they will be a target if the defy the Dear Leader. Meanwhile, the survivors who were targeted have to live with the daily trauma of knowing that their peers had no problem with seeing them killed.
Trump’s lawyers know the outcome is preordained as well, barely even trying to mount a defense at this point. As Brian Beutler noted, “The entire point is to make senators vote for the most laughable argument that will fly. It’s how to show the world he [Trump] owns them”. Perhaps a guest on Ari Melber’s show said it best, comparing Castor and Schoen to mafia lawyers who make a mockery of a trial with the full knowledge that the jury is already in their pocket.
Meanwhile, the beltway media still treats the traitors within our midst with the same deference and respect as though the January 6th coup never happened. All the Sunday shows brought on Republican Senators who had spread the Big Lie about the election that helped spark the insurrection. None of those Senators were confronted about their prior lies and most were given platforms to spread even more disinformation. Ron Johnson declared Pelosi was to blame for the Capitol riot. Mark Meadows echoed Johnson, saying, “The Capitol police do a tremendous job…Some…decisions weren’t made appropriately, in my opinion, and those decisions did not come from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It came from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue”. Again, neither were really challenged on their patently absurd allegations.
Media memory-holing and impeachment myopia on Trump only serve to obscure not only the Republican party’s complicity but also its increasing reliance on violence to achieve its political ends. Spurred on by the Big Lie of a stolen election, militia groups in Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina began coordinating their actions and training with a focus on preparing for the attempted coup on January 6th. That kind of coordination is now continuing in the wake of the failed insurrection, with the leader of one of the militia groups in Georgia that provided “security” for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Kelly Loeffler creating alliances with other militia groups with the goal of overthrowing the existing system. As one militia member declared, “Things are different now. Everything has changed. We’ve seen our last Republican president in American history. The ballot box — we tried as hard as we could try. It’s not working”. In Michigan, the state Republican party is now openly allied with the militia groups in that state. The newly elected chair of the state Republican party “helped fill 19 buses to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally and defended the April armed intrusion into the Michigan Capitol”, according to the New York Times. A Republican legislator and organizer of that invasion of the Michigan Capitol is now running for Governor and openly mused, “Becoming too closely aligned with militias — is that a bad thing?”. And the Republican State Senate majority leader appeared on stage at a rally before the invasion with a militia member who would subsequently be accused of conspiring to kidnap and execute Governor Gretchen Whitmer. At that event, the majority leader spoke to the militia members, telling them, “Stand up and test that assertion of authority by the government. We need you now more than ever”.
Increasingly, the Republican party looks like a political party with a paramilitary wing. One Georgia militia member made that comparison explicit, describing an “IRA/Sinn Féin type scenario”. A former GOP operative in Michigan and opponent of Trump noted the same thing, declaring, “It is like the Republican Party has its own domestic army”. David Lurie at the Daily Beast writes, “the GOP has fully integrated those same violence-prone conspiracists and neo-fascists into the heart of the party structure. That integration is now so advanced that state and federal party leaders, many of them holding elected office, are not merely cynically exploiting anti-government extremists for political gain, but are themselves full-blown members of the extremists’ ranks. Likewise, there is increasing evidence that the party’s funding and organizational structures are now integrally connected to extremists and their supporters”.
Republicans in the Senate will not hold Trump accountable and Democrats will rightly focus on recovery from the pandemic and rebuilding the country and the institutions that Trump has gutted. But we have seen this movie where we move on without accountability too many times. Ford’s pardon of Nixon never provided a real reckoning not just for Watergate but also for his sabotage of Johnson’s peace talks with North Vietnam and his illegal war in Cambodia. That lack of accountability led to Reagan/Bush and their game of footsie with the Iranians and Iran/Contra. The lack of accountability for Bush I led to Bush II and the lies to get us into war with Iraq, the resulting crimes against humanity, and the greatest financial disaster since the Great Depression. And the lack of accountability for Bush II and Wall Street gave us Trump, the most criminal president the country has ever seen, multiple efforts to subvert our electoral process to his advantage, and an attempted coup that came within seconds and feet of being successful. At each step along the way, the crimes are committed with greater impunity until now we are faced with the real threat of a permanent armed insurgency allied with a political party.