Remove. Impeach. Convict.

Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and remove President Donald Trump from office. Immediately. Even though Trump has less than two weeks in office, he cannot be trusted with the reins of power — not to mention the nation’s nuclear codes — given his role in organizing and inciting the thuggish mob of insurrectionists who stormed the nation’s Capitol Wednesday. 

President Donald Trump addressing supporters on the Ellipse Wednesday with the White House in the background

Removal from office now does not permanently remove the danger Trump presents to the American experiment in republican government. Trump served only one term as president. He is eligible to run in 2024, something he has mused about openly. Because Trump back in the White House is unthinkable, the House of Representatives must begin impeachment proceedings against him, and the Senate must convict if the House impeaches. I do not know how long the process might take nor what kind of hearings would be needed. I should think the playing of his remarks at the rally before his supporters stormed the Capitol — “we fight like hell, and  if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” and “we’re going to walk down [to the Capitol] and I’ll be there with you” (actually, he slunk back to the White House) — coupled with his tweets in the days before — “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” — makes a prima facie case for a vote in the House in the next few days, followed by trial in the Senate. But, if the process were to take weeks, even months, it must be pursued to the end because the punishment for impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate can be a ban on ever holding federal office again. Conviction also sends a signal to any putative future dictator that Congress and the nation will not tolerate undermining the Constitution. 

Rudy Giuliani speaking to Trump supporters Wednesday

Trump, of course, did not act alone. The proper authorities should begin looking into the scoundrels who also spoke at the rally on the Ellipse Wednesday. Rudy Giuliani — the buffoon posing as Trump’s lawyer — called for a “trial by combat,” and Donald Trump Jr. — the president’s son — warned lawmakers debating challenges to the Electoral College vote, “We’re coming for you, and we’re going to have a good time doing it.” The insurrectionary mob needed no further encouragement.

The reckoning of responsibility doesn’t stop with Trump, his lawyer, and his son. The guilt of lawmakers eager to slavishly aid Trump in fomenting a coup against the government he leads must be addressed. A total of eight senators and more than half of the GOP caucus in the House supported one or more of the challenges to the slates of electors. These traitors — for that is what they are — will be forever marked by their vote to violate the Constitution of the United States and ignore the will of the people who collectively chose Joe Biden as president in a free and fair election.

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri acknowledging the insurrectionists

Special attention should be paid to the prime culprits in the coup attempt: Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas. Hawley got the ball rolling last month when he announced he would challenge Pennsylvania’s slate of electors, claiming he only wanted to assuage the concerns of millions of Americans who believed the election was fraudulent. Wednesday, he raised a clenched fist as he strode past the insurrectionists. Cruz suggested forming a commission similar to the one that looked into the contested 1876 election to investigate allegations of fraud in last November’s election. Both senators know that no credible evidence of fraud has been presented, and Cruz’s allusion to 1876 proves only that his knowledge of American history is as limited as his awareness of the Constitution. Yes, a commission was formed to adjudicate the allotment of electors between Republican candidate Rutherford Hayes and his Democratic opponent Samuel Tilden because three states sent two slates to Congress, something that did not happen in 2020. Yes, the commission awarded the disputed electors to Hayes. But, both sides accepted that result only because of an agreement — the so-called Compromise of 1877 — under which Democrats acceded to Hayes inauguration in return for the removal of Federal troops from the South and the end of Reconstruction. No one asked — nor cared — what newly freed African Americans thought of the compromise that ushered in Jim Crow and a system of peonage akin to slavery.

The blame for how the United States reached the depths of a thug brandishing the Confederate flag in the Capitol extends far beyond those politicians who voted to overthrow the results of a legal election. Praise is being heaped on Pence for not letting Trump strong-arm him into acting illegally in announcing the electoral vote and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for rightly saying on the floor of the Senate, “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” Speaking against Trump at the end of his tenure, when his behavior became too egregious to ignore, does not constitute a profile in courage.

Vice President Mike Pence performing his ceremonial duty Wednesday

Pence and McConnell — and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress and those who served in the Trump administration — were Trump’s enablers. Everyone knew that Trump is a narcissist unfit to hold national office. Trump’s ignorance of politics, government, and law was on display before he ran for office. His bullying and his racism were apparent to all. Yet, no one more eagerly did Trump’s bidding for four years than Pence. Not that acting as the president’s lapdog did the vice president any good. In the end, when Pence followed the Constitution and custom because he truly had no other choice, because that is what the law demanded of him, the president turned on him as he turns on everyone who crosses him. “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution,” tweeted Trump. McConnell, for his part, earned Trump’s scorn when the majority leader recognized the obvious and called Biden president-elect. 

Republican servility to Trump led to this, a thuggish insurrectionist desecrating Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office

The point of noting Republican responsibility and servility to Trump is not to exact revenge against every member of the party. While Hawley and Cruz may deserve censure, at least, from their colleagues, the issue is not punishment but acknowledgement. Republicans must come to recognize their role in the rise of Trump. It is not only that the GOP abetted Trump during his four years in the White House. It is also the role the party played in making Trump possible. Years of pandering to racists and xenophobes, incessant obstructionism, and tolerance of “birtherism” and conspiracy theorists turned the Republican Party into a political organization ready to welcome a would-be authoritarian, paving the way for Trump and his attempted overthrow of constitutional government. 

In his speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, McConnell said, “We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes… with nothing in common except our hostility towards each other.” A good way to begin healing that divide would be for Republicans to recognize their role in the rise of Trump and begin the process of removing him from presidency and insuring he never holds that office again.

Posted January 8, 2021

Comments are closed.