The last disastrous days of Trumpism have brought the Republican Party to an existential point. How the GOP senators decide to deal with the henchman who has intimidated and manipulated them for five years will show whether their out-of-control party can revive its conservative soul or whether it is destined to fall into a conspiratorial and undemocratic impasse.
In the coming weeks, it will become clear whether Trump’s anger and radicalism will fade when he is in internal exile in Florida. Or they will disintegrate if something more serious happens – even an unthinkable white nationalist uprising triggered by Trump’s refusal to accept his electoral defeat, which will destabilize an already troubled Biden presidency.
In this regard, the president-elect has already expressed concern that the drama surrounding the Senate hearings could block the first major items on his agenda, including more resources to expand the distribution of unstable vaccines and better support the crippled economy.
The first-ever trial of the former president – itself a final and surreal collapse of the norms of the Trump era – will also help determine how quickly American political institutions and the galvanizing role of truth in public life can be rehabilitated, under the ongoing assault of the current president. Perhaps the courage of 10 Republican lawmakers who joined Democrats on Wednesday to call for impeachment of both parties in the House bodes well for a breakthrough in the tough political battles.
But Trump retains a myopic grip on the Republican base and is able to intimidate and threaten GOP senators who will be in court. In recent days, scenes of Republican lawmakers being harassed at airports by angry Trump supporters provide a small glimpse of the price paid by those who disagree with their leader.
Given that a majority in the House of Representatives voted not to punish the president for staging an effective coup against another branch of the government, hopes for a new dawn of republicanism may be overstated.
In the coming weeks, the president will also retreat into a private life that suddenly seems very unattractive.
Trump’s behavior, which destroyed the American tradition of peaceful transfer of power, made him an outcast. Companies and banks are rushing to distance themselves from him, a fact that may have motivated his belated call for calm in a video broadcast after he was recharged.
If Trump is no longer a protected president, there are still many civil and legal problems. The president is already very concerned about last week’s impact on his personal brand, sources told CNN. With his companies already feeling the negative effects of a polarizing presidency, the future of the president’s business looks bleak at best.
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Washington has a week to deal with the institutional turmoil of the first-ever double indictment of the president. The Senate’s new majority leader, Chuck Schumer, will be tasked with grappling with fierce constitutional issues that clearly relate to the former president’s trial.
The first question will concern the timing and ability of the Senate to honor Biden’s request to remain open to pandemic issues, as well as the urgency of confirming his appointments to senior government positions at this time of rare national crisis. Timing will be another issue – because the new White House will see a rush of days, not weeks.
Make no mistake, there will be an indictment in the U.S. Senate, a vote to convict the president of crimes and misdemeanors, and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote to prevent him from running again, Schumer said in a statement.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may recall the chamber from recess to begin the trial if Trump is still in power. But there are clear political reasons for allowing Democrats to condition – and perhaps even feel – this process.
An intense intrigue surrounds how McConnell himself will vote after he voiced his support for Trump’s impeachment attack on Capitol Hill last week, including his beloved Senate.
It’s true that McConnell seems determined to keep his board to play the insidious politics of impeachment. But if he were to finally break with Trump, it would give the other Republican senators the political cover they need to follow suit and perhaps achieve a convincing two-thirds majority.
Word is that McConnell is angry with Trump. The outgoing majority leader is safe from major trouble after beginning a new six-year term, and he lost his majority largely due to the president’s antics before Georgia’s re-election earlier this month. Kentuckz, who made a Faustian deal with Trump to overhaul the Supreme Court and court system with conservative candidates, has little to gain from defending the president as it did after the first impeachment.
This means that McConnell and the senators who abandoned the president and refused to support his efforts to prevent the transfer of power on the day the mob invaded Capitol Hill now have a chance to effectively drive Trump out of the party and out of American politics for good.
The party is falling apart
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Wednesday’s impeachment debate in the House of Representatives exposed the forces tearing apart Lincoln’s party. Republicans in the House of Representatives were divided between Trump’s strong supporters, lawmakers who admitted that some of them were responsible for last week’s outrage, and those who cast fateful votes to keep their president in office.
Although only 10 Republicans voted with the Democrats, it was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in history. The debates have shown how Trump has changed his party.
Since the members of the House of Representatives, having served only two years, are most sensitive to the mood of their members, it is not surprising that many of them had no choice but to follow the Speaker. A stream of hypocrisy, false moral equivalence, and outright lies about the election results dominated Republican interventions, reflecting Trump’s scorched earth abuse and misinformation.
In a slight admission of disgust on Capitol Hill for Trump’s behavior, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy argued that the president should have immediately condemned the rioters when they trespassed on Capitol Hill last week. But the California Republican argued that Democrats, not Republicans, have further divided the nation by pushing for impeachment. This from a Republican leader who spent two months amplifying Trump’s false accusations of election fraud that undermined the confidence of millions of Americans in the democratic process.
Other Trump representatives in the House of Representatives have shown their continued influence by arguing that the Democratic impeachment efforts are nothing more than a continuation of efforts to destroy Trump’s presidency, which began hours after his inauguration. Florida pastor Matt Getz, who really believes in this, pulled the accusations from Democrats when he accused them of behaving much worse than the president.
Make no mistake, the left in America has been provoking far more political violence than the right for months. Our cities have been burned, our police stations have been burned, our businesses have been destroyed. And they haven’t said anything or they’re for it and they’ve raised money for it and they’ve made it happen in the greatest country in the world, Gaetz said. His comparison distorts the true scale of the demonstrations against racist police and the horror of the unprecedented attack on the citadel of American political power.
Ultimately, the future of the Republican Party will depend on whether Gaetz’s or McConnell’s vote is authentic.
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The last thing Biden might want if he’s on the 20th. January at noon, taking control of a sick, internally alienated and economically demoralized nation is a political mess that threatens to deepen the crisis.
He must now maintain calm and unity as he submits to the scrutiny of impeachment, historically one of the most divisive varieties of political theater. The process means Trump’s toxic shadow will darken the early days of his presidency, which he hoped to use to promote a literal and political national healing.
In a statement released Wednesday night, Biden called the attack on Capitol Hill “unique in our nation’s 244-year history, but did not directly criticize Trump by name and stressed the need for the Senate to balance its constitutional duties with work on other pressing issues.
Confirmations for key positions such as the Secretary of National Security, State, Defense, Treasury and the Director of National Intelligence, the implementation of our immunization program and the revitalization of our economy. Too many of our countrymen have suffered too long in the past year to put off this urgent work, Biden said.
The president-elect is one of the few Washingtonians who believe there is a way to work together across party lines to make common progress, despite years of growing bitterness between the parties. Therefore, she needs the support of Republicans if she wants the most ambitious items on her agenda to be overtaken by pandemic issues: Climate change, health care and infrastructure.
The increased political tensions resulting from the indictment may have already dampened these aspirations.
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