Alan Zendell, February 11, 2021
Whether or not House Democrats intended it, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump is really an attestation before the entire world of what America stands for. The nativist, America First aspect of Trumpism which rapidly evolved into a cult that mesmerized millions of his supporters is what got us here. The truth is that Trumpism was only ever about the megalomaniacal lust for power of its founder and the right-wing extremists he pandered to. America First is a dangerously naïve fiction that may in fact put America last.
In the manner of all wannabe dictators, the former president cultivated a fanatical army of armed supporters comprised of loosely aligned pseudo-militias. Such movements invariably depend on a charismatic leader’s ability to sell a Big Lie. The twentieth century saw several – Vladimir Lenin’s dictatorship of the proletariat, followed decades later by the Maoist philosophy of disinformation and insurgency. Benito Mussolini’s fascism was an attempt to create a new Roman empire with himself as Emperor, the Nazi vision was of a superior Aryan race whose destiny was to rule the world, and the Japanese Empire was driven by the belief that its godlike Emperor was meant to rule the inferior masses of mainland Asia. More recently a call to Jihad swept the Muslim world resulting in the ISIS Caliphate and the radicalized version of Islam that rules Iran.
These movements had two things in common. They were all attempts to overthrow the established order of the time, and they were all condemned by the United States. Emerging as the dominant world power after WW2, America took on the mantle of moral leadership, criticizing other nations’ indiscretions and holding its own values out as an ideal for the world to emulate. How righteous we were as we struggled to ignore the scars of our own history of oppression and genocide!
We railed against the Holocaust, the oppression of Joseph Stalin, Soviet troops occupying the capitals of Eastern Europe, and the killing fields of Southeast Asia. Criticizing the human rights violations of adversary nations became an essential element of our foreign policy. Castro’s Cuba, Ortega in Nicaragua, Tienanmen Square, Tibet, Maduro in Venezuela, Kim in North Korea, Mayanmar – the list of instances in which we held ourselves to be morally superior is endless. Today, it is we who are on display for the world to see, and what we are showing them is nothing to be proud of.
The case being made by the House impeachment managers is powerful and convincing. There is no doubt in the minds of most Americans that Donald Trump deliberately sparked an insurrection and attempted to subvert a presidential election. There is also no doubt that he recklessly loosed a mob on the Capitol that included people willing and able to murder members of Congress and the Vice President, and made no attempt to stop it when it got out of control. Our law-and-order former president, who was sworn to defend the Constitution, watched the horror show he created on television along with a billion people around the world and cheered the rioters on, resulting in five deaths and more than a hundred Capitol police officers injured and brutalized.
The peaceful transfer of power which is the cornerstone of our democracy had to be conducted behind three fenced perimeters guarded by almost 20,000 national guard troops and police. That spectacle was also viewed by the entire world, and now comes the final act, the trial mandated by our Constitution to determine whether Donald Trump committed the treasonous act of insurrection. One hundred Senators swore oaths of impartiality, to serve as a jury that considers all the evidence and renders a fair, reasoned judgment. We criticize the show trials of the Russians and Chinese governments. We attack the Saudi Monarchy and the North Korean regime for sanctioning murder and torture. Now it’s our turn.
It is the prestige and honor of the United States that is on trial before the world. The very Senators who must serve as unbiased jurors have among their ranks people like Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX) who supported the Big Lie that started all this, and arrogant partisans like Marco Rubio (FL), Ron Johnson (WI), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Rick Scott (FL), who brazenly, in full view of the television cameras, ignored the evidence, instead staring into their laps or doodling.
The trial of Donald Trump is not an esoteric exercise couched in legalese that only the principals can follow. It’s all out there in terms that everyone can see and understand. Sometime in the next few days, the world will watch as one hundred Senators vote as jurors. What is at stake is nothing less than our status as the leader of what we used to call the Free World.