Alan Zendell, February 8, 2021
It’s going to be ugly and unpleasant. At times it will be infuriating and frustrating. And there will doubtless be moments when we feel shame exposing our darkest, seamiest aspects to the entire world. They’ll all be watching, and that’s no small thing.
Many Americans have a “who cares” attitude toward the rest of the world, but it really does matter. President Biden is trying to re-establish normal relations with our allies, normalize trade and undo the damage done by Trump’s tariffs (though he may keep some of them) and reassert America’s moral authority with our adversaries. That won’t be easy when all the sordid details of the former president’s actions are made public.
Here at home, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump has far greater significance than whether he is punished for his crimes. More than half the country is angry as hell and wants to see him pay for fomenting insurrection and threatening the stability of our nation. But his trial is about much more than that.
I strongly opposed the first impeachment. It was an emotional overreach that was doomed to fail from the start, and warnings that a pre-ordained acquittal on purely political grounds would only embolden Trump’s disregard for law and the Constitution were borne out. As re-election time neared, his desperation to remain in office might have played out exactly as it did even if the first impeachment hadn’t happened, but there is no doubt that it awakened the sleeping monster of the militant extremists who comprise a significant fraction of his base.
If we didn’t before, we now know how dangerous they are. We’ve learned that unfettered access to social platforms and extremist websites must no longer be permitted. Our notion of free speech and what constitutes responsible journalism will also be on trial, as will the survival of the Republican Party.
I opposed the first impeachment because I couldn’t see anything positive coming from it, but this one is different. The sixty-seven votes needed to convict (fewer if some Senators choose to be absent) may or may not be there, but a meaningless vote to remove a president who is no longer in office isn’t what this trial is about. It’s about rooting out what Mitch McConnell called the cancer of Trumpism and excising it. It’s about waking up to the reality that our country has reached a critical crossroad, and the path we choose will determine whether it continues to exist as a constitutional republic.
It’s critically important to tarnish the Trump brand so that it can no longer pose an existential threat to our nation. We already see an upheaval in Republican circles as major donors rethink where to invest their capital, voters reconsider whether they want to be affiliated with either party, and elected officials figure out whether their responsibility to their oaths of office takes precedence over their self-interest.
We may be better than most of the world, but the real America has never lived up to its ideals. Our history has been stained with racism and genocide, misogyny and elitism, greed and indolence, ugly truths that we’d rather not expose for everyone to see, but we have no choice. Trumpism has shined a painfully bright light on all of that, and the American family needs a serious intervention if it is to survive intact.
Interventions are painful. They’re not pretty, and they leave people on all sides battered and feeling raw. But it’s time to take a good, close look at who we are, and the upcoming Senate trial will do that.
There must be no procedural barriers to getting at the truth. We need complete transparency, which means hearing from witnesses, accessing private policy emails, and reviewing the hundreds of hours of documentation available from news media. Americans must clear their minds of preconceived notions and opinions and just pay attention. Both sides will have ample opportunity to present their cases. Watch and listen. Discern the truth.
The only substantive thing the Senate can accomplish is assuring that Trump never holds federal office again. Whether he deserves other forms of punishment will be determined by the courts and the marketplace. Federal, state, and local courts seem prepared to indict and prosecute the former president and his family, and the business world has already begun the process of starving the Trump empire and the Trump wing of the Republican Party of the thing they most crave – money. If you hate what Trump stands for, boycott his businesses and email your Senators about the need to follow their consciences.
The Senate may or may not convict – we’ll see. But it can determine the future of Trumpism, and that will be critical to our survival as a nation.