The Rocky Road Ahead

Twenty four hours after impeachment and six days until Trump is out of office it's anyone's guess what happens next.

Today, is a twofer AT Truth and Consequences. First, I have some thoughts on yesterday’s historic second impeachment of Donald Trump and why we entering a period of grave national uncertainty. Next, Ian Zimmerman has penned his first music column for Truth and Consequences on some far out Canadian electronic music. Enjoy!

Yesterday afternoon, Donald Trump became the first president in American history to be impeached twice by the US House of Representatives. While arguably the president could have been impeached for any number of misdeeds he has committed while in office, the final straw for Democrats and 10 Republicans was his incitement of a mob that invaded and attacked the US Capitol last week. Yet, what is most remarkable about the House's action is not that impeachment occurred, but that it wasn't unanimous. 

If inciting a mob to assault Congress - after weeks of trying to undermine the will of the US electorate and steal an election he lost - is not an impeachable offense than nothing is. But for 197 House Republicans, the president's conduct still does not rise to the level of impeachment, proving as Orwell once wrote, "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

The obvious question is what comes next and, as a political observer, I'm supposed to have something smart to say on this subject. But I'm as confused as you. Never before in my lifetime can I recall a period of such profound national uncertainty. 

It seems clear that the Senate will not convene this week to begin an impeachment trial, which means that Trump will almost certainly remain in office until his term expires in six days. Now that he's off Twitter and social media and few people in his administration seem to be paying attention to him, I'm less concerned about what he can do in these last hours, aside, I suppose, from trying to pardon himself and his family. I assume that will happen.

I'm also not sure what happens to the Republican Party. There is a clear divide in the party between the 10 House Republicans who were willing to do the responsible thing and vote for impeachment, and the vast majority who were not - though that divide is not nearly large enough. That so few Republicans were willing to hold the president accountable for his actions does not bode well for the GOP's journey into becoming a party of responsible adults. The Senate trial that will begin after Trump leaves office will be a fascinating moment because it's far from clear what Senate Republicans are going to do. It seems quite possible that enough of them - though likely not a majority - are troubled by Trump's actions to vote for conviction. While Trump cannot be removed from office after his term expires, the Senate can vote to disqualify him from ever holding federal office again.

Beyond Trump, there is the larger question of what happens to those Republicans who enabled and conspired not only with Trump, but also with the insurrectionists. There has been growing pressure on Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz to resign, though I doubt that will happen. Democrats in the House have moved to investigate members who may have helped incited the riot last week or threatened their House colleagues. We still need more information on the level of involvement of House members but I would not be shocked if we find out that some Republicans were communicating with the rioters. House Democrats are clearly upset and the reckoning has only just begun. 

Whether or not elected officials - and this could include President Trump - are charged for their actions in inciting the mob, we can expect hundreds of prosecutions of those who invaded the Capitol. It was perhaps not the smartest move for so many people who were breaking the law to live stream the experience, while unmasked in the midst of a deadly pandemic.  

The final question, however, is the hardest one: what happens to America after all this. How do we put the pieces back together again when a significant portion of the country refuses to accept the legitimacy of a President Biden and also believes that the violence perpetrated by those opposed to him was acceptable? America was in a dark place before Jan 6, but it's in an even darker one now. As the House debate on impeachment showed, we are incapable of even agreeing that inciting a political attack on a co-equal branch of government is wrong. I'm not terribly confident that we're about to find common ground on health care, immigration, etc. 

As I wrote here not long ago, I think there are better days ahead for America when it comes to dealing with COVID-19 and spurring the economy. Though the daily death toll from COVID, which this week topped 4,000, suggests that day cannot come soon enough. But even an improving economy and widespread vaccinations cannot mask the rot that clearly exists in our country. The next several months will be crucial as Biden seeks to implement his agenda and unify the country. I wish him nothing but success, as should all Americans, but I cannot hide my fear that what played out last week at the Capitol is not a one-off event, but a harbinger of what lies ahead.