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The Republican Party was on trial along with Donald Trump. Both now stand convicted, if not by the Senate, then definitely in the eyes of the nation and the world: The ex-president for planning, inciting and inflaming a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to keep himself in power, and the party for excusing that monumental crime against the American people.
The seven Republicans who voted him guilty were 10 too few to convict him, but they deserve the nation’s love and thanks for their devotion to the Constitution. So do the House impeachment managers, who made a virtually flawless case leading to the most bipartisan impeachment vote ever, 57 to 43.
The 43 senators whose votes acquitted him chose the wrong side in the eternal conflict between conscience and cowardice. They prostituted our democracy to a demagogue and despot. They made a dead letter of impeachment and set history’s stage for others like him.
Those contemptible senators, including Florida’s Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, have cost their party any claim to the respect and trust of the American people.
The damage is beyond repair. It has betrayed the nation. The moment calls for the remaining responsible Republicans, however few or many, to break away. The case for a new party is as urgent as when the GOP was founded in 1854 to oppose the spread of slavery.
The nation cannot do without the political balance provided by a center-right party proudly bound to constitutional principles, such as the peaceful transfer of power. Until now, no president of either party had defied the expressed will of the voters.
But the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower has become the party of Trump, who holds it in such thrall that only 10 of its House members and seven of its 50 senators dared to hold him responsible for the worst crime it was possible for an American president to commit.
That so many others could accept his having put their own lives at risk on Jan. 6 can be understood only in the context of their political ambitions. Their careers matter more to them than anything else, least of all their oaths of office.
The party of Trump is extremist and infested with cadres of domestic terrorists like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Bois and the Oathkeeepers.
An example of its moral bankruptcy was the vote of the Wyoming party to censure Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, for her courageous vote to impeach Trump.
Abraham Lincoln would not recognize what Trump has made of the party, but Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Putin, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez very well might.
The House impeachment managers proved beyond reasonable doubt every element of a cynical and criminal conspiracy on Trump’s part.
Even before the election, he began propagandizing that it would be stolen from him. Afterward, he perpetuated that colossal lie despite losing 66 court cases. He tried to bully Georgia officials into breaking their own election laws. Having spent months stoking the rage of his followers, he called them to Washington on Jan. 6, his last opportunity to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election, with the promise the gathering “will be wild.” On the fateful day, he repeatedly directed the mob’s wrath against Vice President Mike Pence for refusing his unlawful demand to discard Biden’s electoral votes. He told the mob to march to the Capitol and when they successfully stormed it — howling “Hang Mike Pence!” — he did nothing.
When Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, telephoned Trump to call off the mob that was breaking into his office, the president made plain his acceptance of what was happening.
“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” he said.
Even when he finally — and reluctantly — called on the mob to desist, with people already lying dead, he rewarded the rioters.
“We love you. You’re very special,” he said. “Go home in love and peace. Remember this day forever.”
History will remember it well enough — as a day of treason.
Trump could not have done more damage at the head of an invading army. Although he’s now out of office, he has duped millions of people — including nearly three of every four Republicans — into believing that the election was stolen from him and that America’s election process, since 1789 the foundation of our strength and our international reputation, is untrustworthy. That’s intensely dangerous because it breeds mistrust at home and disrespect abroad.
Whether Trump runs again or simply exploits his acquittal to remain the party’s kingmaker is actually the lesser consequence of the moral cowardice and intellectual bankruptcy of Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and 41 other Republican senators.
The greater danger is the precedent. If Trump’s crimes didn’t deserve removal and disqualification, what ever would? If a future president attempts to subvert the Constitution as Trump did, what’s to stop him? .
If the impeachment process can’t be applied to an ex-president, why does the Constitution specify disqualification for future office as the only punishment other than removal?
The Senate’s failure makes it imperative for the Justice Department to investigate Trump and his accomplices for sedition and conspiracy, federal crimes that could put them in prison.
President Biden seems reluctant, understandably so, to set the precedent of prosecuting his predecessor. But it would be worse to let Trump’s crimes go unpunished.
Trump already faces criminal investigation in Georgia, where Fulton County’s new district attorney says she will take it to a grand jury as early as next month. Trump’s recorded telephone call demanding that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” just enough votes to tip the state to him is more than a smoking gun; it’s tantamount to a confession.
There has been another constructive development, As reported by Reuters, more than 120 prominent Republicans — including former elected or appointed officeholders — held a Zoom call Feb. 5 to discuss forming either a breakaway third party or a faction lending its support to legitimately conservative candidates regardless of party.
“Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy,” said organizer Evan McMullin, who was an independent candidate for president in 2016. “The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new.”
The Bible recounts that God promised to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if merely 10 righteous people could be found, but there was only one. Modern history will recount that among Republicans in the United States Senate on February 13, 2021, there were just seven.