Democratic House managers in Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial have spent the past three days detailing the attack on the US Capitol Building, Trump’s incitement in the weeks leading up to January 6th, and his delegitimization of and attacks on the 2020 election.
New footage of the attack, both inside and outside of the Capitol Building, has been harrowing. We’ve learned that some members of congress who were specifically targeted were, in some cases, seconds away from dangerous encounters with the Trump-emboldened insurrectionists.
A video clip played during the trial showed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his armed security detail narrowly escaping insurrectionists who had broken into the building moments prior. In another clip, Capitol Hill Police Officer Eugene Goodman is seen directing Senator Mitt Romney to run for safety before Goodman confronted insurrectionists and diverted them away from the Senate chamber.
At one point at the trial, Richard Barnett, the man who broke into and vandalized the office of House leader Nancy Pelosi, is shown to have been armed with a stun-gun. Other insurrectionists were seen angrily hunting for government officials such as Mike Pence. Some had called for the Vice President’s hanging.
If Republicans are unable to join with Democrats to convict Donald Trump for inciting a violent insurrection at the US Capitol that could have resulted in the deaths and injuries of multiple members of Congress, we will have entered a very dark and dangerous period for our democracy. We will no longer be able to represent the world’s stable democracies, and it would represent the biggest internal threat to our republic since the Civil War.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, interviewed on Fox News the night of Wednesday, February 10th, appeared to be angrier at Democratic House managers for showing footage of the violent and deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6th, than those who carried out the insurrection and the person who incited the insurrection, Donald Trump.
You’ve got Democratic politicians being silent or encouraging acts of violence. I mean, you’ve got the sitting Vice President, when she was a US Senator, telling people they shouldn’t stop [protesting against the murder of George Floyd in June 2020] and trying to bail them out. So, if I were the Trump team, I would expose the hypocrisy here, and I would go after the argument that it was preplanned, and the idea that the president was in on it is absurd. This thing is collapsing before their eyes and the Not Guilty vote is growing. So, it’ll be over by Sunday.
Senator Graham is right when he says “it’ll be over by Sunday.” If Republicans, once again, acquit Donald Trump of his destructive abuses of power while he was in office, it will mark the figurative end of a functioning constitutional democracy in the United States. No democracy can withstand an all-out assault against it by a party that has turned to fascism and authoritarianism in a two-party system.
Senator Graham is not alone in his assault on US democracy. The Park County (Wyoming) Republican Party censured Congresswoman Elizabeth (Liz) Cheney for voting in favor of impeaching Donald Trump on February 5, 2021. In fact, a total of 10 county Republican Parties in Wyoming have voted to censure Representative Cheney.
The Arizona Republican Party voted to censure former Senator Jeff Flake, Governor Doug Ducey, and the widow of the late Senator John McCain.
Though largely symbolic, the political scolding during a meeting of the state G.O.P. on Saturday underscored a widening rift in Arizona between party officials who have made clear that their loyalty lies with former President Donald J. Trump and those in the party who refused to support him or his effort to overturn the election results in Arizona, which President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won.
The party cited Ms. McCain’s and Mr. Flake’s criticisms of Mr. Trump and Mr. Ducey’s use of emergency orders related to the pandemic, which gave him broad control to enact policies without the legislature’s approval such as closing “nonessential” businesses in the spring.”
One week after the far-right insurrection at the United States Capitol, and the day the House voted to impeach then-President Trump for an unprecedented second time, media outlets began to report that House Republicans were intimidated into voting against impeachment, partly by death threats against them and their families.
During an appearance on Meet The Press on January 13th, US House Representative Jason Crow from Colorado explained the fear that some Republicans had for their safety.
The majority of them are paralyzed with fear. I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues last night, and a couple of them broke down in tears — saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment.
Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico wrote:
Crow is right. Numerous House Rs have received death threats in the past week, and I know for a fact several members *want* to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered.
Still, while more congressional Republicans than we see publicly are against the actions of Donald Trump, the majority of the party, from voters to members of Congress, continue to support the party’s slide into authoritarianism, led by Donald Trump. Trump is the first president in US history to incite an insurrection against the US Capitol Building to overturn an election and overthrow democracy itself.
US democracy is at a dangerous point, despite the election of Joe Biden in November of 2020. While having President Biden in power may prevent the outright destruction of democratic institutions, it may not be enough to neutralize a radicalizing and dangerous Republican Party and far-right.
If Senate Republicans acquit Donald Trump in the days to come, they are setting a precedent that will irreparably harm this democracy for generations. This will give permission to any future far-right ideologue who may lose their political races to say that elections at the national, state, and local levels are rigged against them.
Republicans will spend most of their time further delegitimizing our electoral system. Republicans with majorities in state legislatures will pass draconian voter suppression laws that are more severe than we’ve ever seen. Far-right terrorism against our state capitols, elected officials, and even voters, will escalate. The Republican Party and the far-right understand that they can no longer win a national majority because of their oppressive and anti-democratic positions, and because of changing demographics. They have jettisoned democracy for fascistic and authoritarian tactics. The turn to fascism and authoritarianism is all they have left because they refuse to accept a changing society.
If Senate Republicans acquit Donald Trump, we will know that it will be over as Lindsey Graham proclaimed on his Fox News interview, but what will be over is our democracy. Benjamin Franklin’s worry about keeping a democratic republic would be validated. Unfortunately, we may not be able to keep it this time.
Photo Credit: Architect of the Capitol