We are living in a national moment that hundreds of years from now people will study and reflect on regarding how we did our jobs as citizens and caretakers of our democratic republic. We are engaged with only the fourth presidential impeachment trial in history, and the first time a president was impeached twice and sent to trial in the senate. I am not expecting a conviction verdict in the Republican-controlled Senate, but that does not mean the rest of the nation can not learn the lessons that present themselves. On that score, it is vital that our nation pay attention in the days to come and grasp the fragile nature of our democracy when determined ones wish to undermine and destroy it.
I do not subscribe to the view this impeachment trial would impede the work of the nation when it comes to a COVID-relief package or starting the work on immigration policy. Rather, I argue the trial is also the work of our time, and in fact, a priority. When a president seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the election process, the outcome of the counted ballots and urges and foments insurrection there absolutely needs to be a national response.
I realize that for a long time our society views most things in 30-minute segments, akin to a sitcom where all the loose ends are wrapped up by the bottom of the hour. The attention span of people dwindles but the gravity of the issues that present themselves do not. I am aware that most Americans have decided on Trump’s guilt as polling data continues to show a majority saying Trump should be convicted and barred from holding office again. But there is still more of the nation that needs to be brought into the light and educated about the attempted coup on our national capitol, as well as the weeks leading up to that awful day when death and mayhem were unleashed by Trump supporters.
The fact that impeachment is not an ordinary event underscores the gravity of the matter and why we should pay heed. For such an event to occur means a president behaved so recklessly, dangerously, and in Trump’s case, we can also rightly argue outrageously, that the trial now underway not only has merit, but also powerful evidence for a finding of conviction. (Forget for the moment that Trump failed to learn anything from his first impeachment.)
Any reading of our history will demonstrate the high degree of scandal during the presidencies of Ulysses Grant and Warren Harding. But there is nothing in the past that mirrors that total lack of regard for the Constitution or political institutions such as what we witnessed from Donald Trump. Without doubt, the most historically corrupt period in our history.
While many Republican senators and, sadly, a sizable swath of that party’s base ignore the substance of the charge being pressed—a president citing insurrection–the rest of the citizenry must watch, listen, and find a national bond and commitment to work at strengthening the foundation of our democracy.
Trump’s lawyers will treat the nation as if we all are of the mental aptitude of the ones who voted so rashly in 2016. They will try to spin their limp legal theory that every time Trump lied about the election results and recklessly urged his followers to “fight like hell” that was nothing more than a president exercising his free speech rights under the First Amendment. Well, from the desk of this blogger I can assure my readers that inciting lawlessness and violence is not protected speech.
The madness that was unleashed on the 6th must not be viewed as just another episode in our political narrative. It was not! We have seen in the 21st century how a lie repeated again and again had dire consequences. Telling Americans that Iraq had a role in 9/11 was more than a lie, it then turned into an international calamity when we invaded and toppled their government. Similarly, the lies Trump told and pressed over and over resulted in his base going bat-crap crazy.
As too many in our nation watch one sitcom end, and another begin, so too does their ability to look at the bizarre and totally unacceptable capitol riot but shake it off as another headline replaces it. Except that in the real world the grave consequences of not meeting this moment in time with justice and firmness will only allow for a degree of tolerance so to allow it to happen again.
In our national story there has never been a more clear and vivid example as to the utter betrayal by a president to the oath of office. Never before has the very foundation of our nation been so at peril. Republicans may take a knee to their cult god, but the rest of the nation needs to hear every word of the trial and feel every slam that our nation absorbed during the coup attempt, and then vow to meet this moment in time with a deeper resolve to stand up for our national values and common ideals.
And so it goes.