By ZACH SMERIN
Unsurprisingly, the American Senate found the former President of the United States not guilty of the article of impeachment that was brought to them by the House of Representatives - incitement of insurrection.
Over the past few days, ‘Impeachment Managers’ from the Lower Chamber, which voted to impeach a week after the well-publicised events of January 6, made their case to the Senate, followed by a defence conducted by the former President’s lawyers. It certainly made for interesting TV.
As the Senators during an impeachment trial act as one big jury which needs a two-thirds majority to pass a guilty conviction, the Democrats would have had to be joined by at least seventeen Republicans. Only seven did - more than the single one that voted during the first impeachment trial, but nowhere near enough. Republicans each took calculated risks regarding the vote, and the seven that voted guilty have good reasons to not be worried about a backlash.
Susan Collins has been in the Senate since 1997, and who was just re-elected in November. She’s long been considered one of the few Republican moderates. So has Lisa Murkowski, in the Upper Chamber since 2002, who actually lost her primary in 2010 to a more conservative challenger but nevertheless won the general election through a write-in campaign.
Mitt Romney, a fierce critic of Trump since the latter’s initial run for President and the only Republican who voted guilty during the first impeachment trial, has enough personal support from his Mormon base in Utah. Senators Sasse and Cassidy have just been re-elected until 2026 and are probably hoping for the Trump support to blow over by then. Senators Burr and Toomey, who were considered the closest of the seven to the former President, are not running for re-election. They join the former Senators Corker and Flake in coming out against the ex-president after announcing that they are retiring from politics. How brave.
That left ten republican senators out of fourty-three remaining short for a conviction, and evidently they, under the leadership of Mitch McConnell, decided that it’s in their interest to keep the support of the base, which cares more about Trump than about the Republican party.
Let’s not delude ourselves. The details of the case never really mattered. Republicans generally do not care about democracy or rule of law. For proof of this, look no further than their support for restricting the right to vote of millions of predominantly non-white American citizens in Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., the further racially disproportionate disenfranchisement through Voter ID laws, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College, and blocking President Obama from picking a Supreme Court pick in his final year in office. There are fewer people who support the Republicans, and without these methods, they would not hold power. Unfortunately for them, their voter base over the last five years has fallen victim to a cult of personality around Donald Trump that Ronald Reagan could have never dreamt of. When Trump claimed that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose any voters, everyone believed him. Somehow, the conservative base - supposedly made of those tired of coastal elites and just wanting someone to “tell it like it is” - who’s against government handouts, wants to protect American jobs, supports ‘personal responsibility’ and traditional family values - have formed a cult of personality behind a pathological liar, a New York City real-estate tycoon who was born into wealth, dodged the draft, went bankrupt at least six times, brags about not paying his taxes, outsourced the manufacture of his products to China, knowingly used undocumented workers, admitted to sexually harassing women, who’s only major piece of domestic legislation was to pass a tax cut that overwhelmingly benefited the top 1% of income earners. The list goes on.
Trump doesn’t really care about the Republicans. He’s switched parties several times and flip-flopped on countless policies - from abortion rights, to military interventionism, to protectionism. He was the only candidate at the first Republican Primary Debate in 2016 that didn’t rule out running as an independent, were he to lose the primary. The only thing he’s ever cared about is power; to be accepted into the society elites who initially did not accept him because he was ‘only’ from Queens, not Manhattan. While not fans of Trump, the mainstream media - CNN and MSNBC in particular - have formed over the last few years a symbiotic relationship with him. For Trump, all publicity is good publicity, and for them, more Trump means more viewers. And there will certainly be more stories about the former President, whether it will be regarding Melania, his court cases, or Mar-a-Lago. But it will be the possibility of another Presidential run that will be the spectre haunting all these news reports, the elephant in the room - especially given how absurdly long American election cycles are. Because it won’t matter whether he actually runs, but the sheer fact that he could run. Get ready to hear the name ‘Grover Cleveland’ a lot - the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms.
I don’t feel comfortable guessing about anything regarding American politics anymore after losing a fiver on a bet that Trump would win Georgia. We will simply have to see. But ultimately, the main point, made already so many times, should be this: Trump is not the problem - he’s the symptom of greater, systemic problems faced by America and the rest of the World. For the sake of us all, it is about time that we work towards solving these problems, the best way that change is implemented - not from above, but from below.
Image: White House / Shealah Craighead