We are in the third day of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial. It will probably end tomorrow. It is a peculiar “trial” because everyone involved, including his staunch Republican defenders, knows that Trump is in someway guilty. The Democratic Senators who are exactly half of the “jurors” in the trial, and who are united in assuming his guilt, have to anticipate that he will be found not guilty. The standard explanation is that Republican Senators terrified by the loyalty of Trump’s voters, will find a way to rationalize exonerating him.
The details of the debate and the video of the January 6th invasion of the Capitol are widely available. The whole series of events leading to the trial have been fully covered by the media. The outcome does not seem to be in doubt. If the requisite seventeen Republican votes to impeach should materialize tomorrow it will create a sensation. With Republican Senators, who to this point have never seemed to have been profiles in courage, the probability is that the impeachment will fail.
What can we learn from all this? Neither the Capitol nor the White House nor any major federal building has been violently stormed by citizens or by external invaders since 1814 during the War of 1812. It is unlikely that, at least since the Civil War in the 1860’s that anybody has even thought about it.
It happened this time because one of the major parties nominated a candidate who has all the characteristics of a narcissistic character disorder. Donald Trump’s unnaturally doubt-free self centeredness gave him the kind of forcefulness that attracted men looking for an authoritarian leader.
That kind of hero worship was all that Donald Trump really seems to have cared about. He never campaigned to anyone else. The vast majority of Republicans who voted for him in 2016 probably voted for him because he was the Republican candidate!
And, once he got a response from those authority loving people who turned out for his rallies he never seems to have given any serious thought to wooing any other voters.
Those people were looking for a symbol and once they locked on to Trump that was it. From then on, for them he could do no wrong. The fact that he did almost nothing as President (and certainly nothing for them) simply has not mattered. The fact that he constantly lies does not matter. He fills a need for them that will cause them to rationalize away any flaw.
Donald Trump is on trial in the Senate. The reports are that he is apoplectic between golf games about the way his newly hired lawyers are defending him on the floor of the Senate. There doesn’t seem to be much recognition that they are having such a hard time because he is clearly responsible for the Capitol invasion, that it is all his fault (certainly without him it would never have happened). Donald Trump, narcissist that he is, simply does not have the capacity to feel guilt.
There is a strong possibility that Donald Trump will never be in a position to run for office again. He is going to be so entangled in so many legal and business problems that he simply may not have the time to run again. The irony is that if in 2024 if he should be somehow free to run and would want to run again, he would have a good chance of getting the nomination.
Not because the majority of Republicans would want to face the ordeal of having him run again. Not because he would have a real chance of winning. He could get the nomination because of the primaries. Those people who have locked on to Trump the symbolic leader could turn out for those presidential primaries and it wouldn’t take many voters to get him nominated once again. Then, he would lose.
The Republican Party is in deep trouble. The Republicans in the House and the Senate face real problems. They deserve a least some small bit of sympathy. Those who vote to impeach may reasonably fear for their lives and the lives of their families. Many of those true believers out there have real guns. And, even if the worst never happens those Senators are going to be haunted by fear.
For those who vote to exonerate Trump, many (including themselves) will know that they violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution. They may be marginally safer back home. They will still have to defend their decision in the future with what will become a more critical public. And, they will still risk alienating some of the lethally angry men still among the faithful.
The Republicans have had problems with ordinary voters long before Donald Trump lost his television show and decided to run as a Republican. After World War II, they ran as protectors against communism. After the end of communism in Russia back in 1991 they managed to keep winning with the help of a working class for which they did little.
Many leading Republicans have been aware that the party needed a real makeover to respond to demographic changes that would eventually render it outnumbered. They were nearing the point of finally facing that reality when Donald Trump “rescued” them in 2016. This impeachment, win or lose, means that their immediate future is grim!
The angry Trump supporters who are watching them vote in the Senate aren’t really Republicans at all. Many traditional middle class Republicans are just embarrassed and are leaving the party. The economically secure suburbanites are repelled by the January 6th events and the kowtowing of their elected leaders to the fear inducing Trump invaders.
Donald Trump is in sunny Florida playing golf and waiting for a Senate victory. Whether or not he can celebrate on Sunday, the real loser will be the Republican Party.
H.J. Rishel 2/12/2021