The first two things I read this morning were fun to read and made sense — with one big caveat. Both were columns by Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post:
After a day of horrifying, searing evidence from the House managers, [Repugnant] senators are increasingly desperate to figure out how to avoid rubber-stamping the ex-president’s incitement to riot, which injured scores, resulted in five deaths, defiled the Capitol and traumatized staff and lawmakers. (Hint: Vote guilty.) Their excuses are flimsy, even laughable.
“Not constitutional.” Sorry, the Senate voted otherwise on Tuesday after a devastating presentation of law, precedent and common sense showed that they most certainly can impeach an official while in office and convict afterward. Reportedly even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) admits the Senate could exercise jurisdiction. (He’d rather not, however.) [Note: He doesn’t want to run against you know who in 2024 and hopes other Repugnants will vote to convict and disqualify] . . .
“First Amendment.” Nope. A president has every right to, say, march in a neo-Nazi parade and invite a foreign country to invade. But such conduct is still impeachable. It is not a question of his right to say what he wants, but whether he committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” (in this case, incitement to sedition). Moreover, as dozens of constitutional scholars have explained, incitement to riot is not protected speech.
“No evidence he incited the mob.” That one went out the window on Wednesday, when House managers masterfully took the Senate through weeks of the ex-president’s Big Lie, his “stop the steal” campaign and his call to “fight.” He sent supporters a “save the date” for protests in the capital, whipped them into a frenzy for weeks and timed his harangue just as the Congress was beginning to count the electoral college votes. They even played a video of a rioter reading aloud the disgraced president’s tweet vilifying Vice President Mike Pence as the crowd amassed outside the Capitol. The managers presented a mound of evidence showing the insurrectionists believed they were following the then-president’s orders.
“He made that video.” The one where he said “We love you” to the mob that terrorized the Capitol, came within feet of lawmakers, bludgeoned and killed police, and sought out the speaker and vice president to kill them? Well, that only came after hours of lawmakers, some in the Senate, pleading with him to call off the mob. And he never called in the National Guard to restore order.
“What a precedent!” Yes. If another president spends months trying to undermine an election, incites a riot and, as Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) put it, “left everyone in the Capitol for dead,” he too should be impeached.
“Let him be criminally prosecuted.” This was actually suggested by one of his own attorneys. (You get what you pay for.) The senators took an oath of office. They have an obligation to decide if he should be barred from serving future office. He is being investigated by a Georgia prosecutor for his attempt to strong-arm Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger, but that does not absolve them of the obligation to do their job. (How pathetic is it, by the way, to argue, “Other people can uphold their oaths, so we don’t have to”?) . . .
The unpleasant reality is that many [Repugnant] senators stoked the MAGA mob for weeks with the Big Lie. Some made spurious attempts to upend the election. It is therefore uncomfortable for them to convict the ex-president because his followers actually listened to him and lay siege to the Capitol. This discomfort compounds their constant aversion to standing up to the disgraced ex-president.
Senate [Repugnants] are desperate to avoid the impression they are spineless careerists lacking a modicum of the courage the police showed in saving their necks on Jan. 6. Instead of resorting to obviously silly arguments, they might actually uphold their oaths and vote to convict. Nah, anything but that.
The first three days of the impeachment trial have reminded us just how low the [Repugnant] Party has fallen. What should be open and shut — an airtight case of inciting an insurrection — has become yet another exercise in disingenuous denial. Most [Repugnant] senators have plainly decided to acquit the ex-president no matter what. No matter how dangerous and frivolous it would be to create a “January exception” for impeachable conduct, and despite overwhelming the evidence that he stoked the MAGA mob, they will let him walk.
This is a party that is immune to facts and bereft of decency. It has proved that it cannot function within the ground rules of our system — that candidates concede when they lose, that they respect a free press, that they stick to facts and embrace majority rule. Such a party cannot exist in our democracy.
The [Repugnants] who rally around a pathological demagogue are not a “fringe” in the party. The 10 House and six Senate [Repugnants] who have expressed the view that impeachment is not only constitutional but essential are the fringe. That is a mere 12 percent of Senate [Repugnants] and less than 5 percent of House [Repugnants]. Those people are the outliers.
We are not talking about a trivial difference over policy — or even a major one. It is a fundamental division over whether the party should become a right-wing populist cult willing to subvert democracy to keep power. That is too much for some to swallow, thank goodness. The two sides cannot coexist.
Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein writes:
The truth is that a lot of [Repugnants] seem willing to let the party become more and more Trumpy. That means being comfortable playing footsie with white supremacist and other violent groups; eager to make voting more difficult and even to overturn election results when necessary; and generally less and less supportive of the rule of law and democracy. A party like that, with little aspiration to appeal to anyone beyond its strongest supporters, might still be competitive electorally thanks to the way two-party politics tends to work. And if it wins, it could put most of its efforts into tilting the rules more in its favor.
Pro-democratic (little-d) people cannot live with a party so enamored with authoritarianism and devoted to one Big Lie after another. That [Repugnant] Party is antithetical to our Constitution, to fidelity to truth and to a multiracial democracy.
Could the 5 to 12 percent “take back their party”? It would be lovely. But I see no indication that is possible. Nor does the base seem ready to accept the 2020 election was legitimate. It has no apparent interest in moving on from the former president or living outside the right-wing media bubble. The minority of [Repugnants] who think otherwise might survive the next round of primaries, but they show no ability to move the 88 to 95 percent of the party out.
Bernstein asks what would happen if “a handful of [Repugnant] members of Congress — say, those who voted to impeach Trump and those who appear ready to vote to convict him — [broke] away from the party.” Well, even if they could, they would likely face a massive hurdle in getting on the ballot and winning as third-party or independent candidates. (There have been a handful of exceptions, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who won elections as an independent and a write-in candidate.)
Now, that would be a fine outcome for many Americans if it meant patriotic, honorable Democrats won more races. But if you think the country needs two parties that are both patriotic and committed to truth and democracy, you have not gotten where you need to go. The current, anti-democratic and intellectually dishonest [Repugnant] Party is an insurmountable barrier to the development of a viable alternative to the existing Democratic Party.
So by all means, decent politicians and patriotic voters should leave the [Grotesque Old Party]. Then they can work with the one remaining party [note: the one that prefers democracy] to demolish the cultish, right-wing populist party that is closer to fascistic European parties than to American political parties that traditionally have competed for votes. When the existing [Repugnant] Party has been reduced to political rubble, those who do not have a home in the Democratic Party can clear away the rubble, find a governing philosophy and develop a constituency. None of that happens so long as the party willing to harbor and defend a demagogue who threatens the republic stands in the way.
The big problem for any current Repugnants who want to work with the Democrats is that actually putting “Democrat” next to their names would cause most of them — maybe all of them — to lose their next elections. The folks back home consider Democrats to be their enemies, no matter what Democrats do. By all means, these relatively sensible Repugnants should vote much more often with the Democrats. Just ten of them in the Senate would give the Democratic Party a filibuster-proof majority. But doing so will labor them as traitors and almost certainly mean they’ll have to retire or find honest work in the private sector two, four or six years from now.