Trump's Party, But Worse

Acquitted but not exonerated

Trump lawyer Michael van der Veen (2nd L) celebrates after the second impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP)

Mad respect for the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Donald Trump.

Don’t underestimate how much raw political courage that took. Even the ones who aren’t up for re-election face censure, excommunication, and the feces-flinging wrath of the Trumpist flying monkeys.

Unfortunately, the seven do not represent what the Republican Party has become.

Forty-three Senate Republicans voted to acquit the former president. Trump’s Big Lie, his attempt to overturn the election, and the attack on the Capitol did not cross a red line for them.

As Alexander Burns wrote in the NYT:

The vote stands as a pivotal moment for the party Mr. Trump molded into a cult of personality, one likely to leave a deep blemish in the historical record. Now that Republicans have passed up an opportunity to banish him through impeachment, it is not clear when — or how — they might go about transforming their party into something other than a vessel for a semiretired demagogue who was repudiated by a majority of voters.

Actually, the Republicans told us who they were. Let’s run the numbers from the last few weeks:

  • The number of Republicans who backed the Texas lawsuit to overturn the presidential election: 126;

  • The number of Republicans who voted against certifying the electoral votes of Pennsylvania: 138;

  • The number of Republicans who voted to protect conspiracy theorist/bigot Marjorie Taylor Greene’s committee assignments: 199;

  • The number of House Republicans who voted against impeachment: 197;

  • And then Saturday’s vote. Overall the pro-Trump GOP vote (in the House and Senate): 240-17.

This is Donald Trump’s party. But worse.

Over the last five years, Republicans have shown willingness to accept — or least ignore — lies, racism, and xenophobia.

But now it is a party that is also willing to acquiesce to sedition, violence, extremism, and anti-democratic authoritarianism.

Maybe that’s what Lindsey Graham meant when he talked about “Trump-plus.”


Ron Brownstein asks: “Is the GOP's extremist wing now too big to fail?”

Through their inactions on Trump and Greene, Republicans "are normalizing, they are mainstreaming, what counterterrorism experts would say is violent extremism: that it is acceptable to use inflammatory rhetoric and encourage violence to achieve your ends and ... it is acceptable to engage in public life through conspiracy theories," says Elizabeth Neumann, a former assistant secretary for threat prevention in the Department of Homeland Security for Trump who resigned and opposed his reelection.


Acquitted, but not exonerated.

Let’s leave aside for a moment the hypocrisy and deep cynicism of McConnell’s post-acquittal floor speech.

Knowing that TrumpWorld would spin the vote as a vindication, McConnell declared unambiguously that Trump was guilty, disgraced, and still liable for his crimes.

“There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,”  he said, moments after voting to acquit the ex-president.

McConnell is (and always will be) focused on maintaining his own power; and his pretzel logic was appalling.

But, there was a flash of real bottled-up frustration there. He was trying to lay down the marker that acquittal did not equal exoneration.

Or as Saturday Night Live put it:

"I think he’s guilty as hell and the worst person I've ever met, and I hope every city, county and state locks his ass up," said McConnell, played by Beck Bennett. "Ah, God, that felt good. I been holding that inside my neck for four years."

On Sunday, Lindsey Graham said that McConnell’s comments were “an outlier” in the GOP, and he’s not wrong.

The institutional GOP is anxious to move on, but once again it lacks the will to actually do what it takes to stop Trump, while the party’s base shows every sign of sticking with him.

And Graham is there for… it all.

"My friend Richard Burr just made Lara Trump almost the certain nominee for the Senate seat in North Carolina to replace him if she runs,” Graham said, endorsing her candidacy, and declaring that she is the “future of the Republican Party.”  



The Wall Street Journal editorial board calls the vote, “Trump’s Non-Vindication”:

The Senate failed Saturday to convict Donald Trump on the single House impeachment article of inciting an insurrection, but the 57-43 vote was no vindication. The statements by Senators who voted to acquit make clear that he escaped conviction mainly—perhaps only—because he is no longer President.

Seven Republicans joined every Democrat in the most bipartisan conviction vote in history. While short of the 67 votes needed to convict, most Republicans didn’t defend Mr. Trump’s words or actions on Jan. 6 or his attempts to overturn the election. As we’ve written before, Mr. Trump’s behavior was inexcusable and will mar his legacy for all time.

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All The Bulwark Coverage

Make sure you read Amanda Carpenter this morning on “The Strategic Silence of Mike Pence”.

Ask yourself: Why would Mike Pence bother lifting his voice in defense of his own life if no one else in his party cares to do so?

If you think about it from this perspective, then Pence’s silence isn’t just complicity. It’s another marker of the nihilism that has taken over the Republican party, whereby nothing matters except for Trump and/or owning the libs.

And in order to further this project, Republicans see themselves as bound to acquiesce in the face of any evil.

Bill Kristol: What Comes Next?

So the fight to preserve and strengthen free government invites activity on various fronts with varying emphases. The next couple of years will probably resemble the American Revolutionary War more than D-Day. We don’t know ahead of time where, if anywhere, the big breakthroughs will come. We don’t know where a defensive stand could be crucial. We don’t know where there will be an opportunity for a counteroffensive or a straight-out offensive.

ICYMI: Jim Swift: Trump’s Acquittal Is An Ignominious Failure:

Today’s vote to acquit Donald Trump was a disgraceful act of partisan cowardice.

Yes, a majority of senators (a total of 57, including 7 Republicans) voted to convict the former president. But the fact that it was the most bipartisan verdict in any impeachment trial of a president cannot disguise the reality that it was an enormous institutional failure. Donald Trump incited an insurrection; the case against him was not refuted; and history will look back upon his acquittal with confusion and shame.

The United States Senate let America down.

Tim Miller on “McConnell’s Missing Conscience”:

So the only way to view McConnell’s deliberations is that he recognizes clearly the fundamental nature of the threat, he saw stopping the insurrection as part of his legacy, he knows that it is Donald Trump who was solely responsible for it, and yet he still cannot bring himself to vote to convict . . . unless the vote is in private.

Mona Charen on “Hatred And The Trump Impeachment”:

Former President Donald Trump’s lawyers have settled on the word “hate.” They suggest that hatred of Trump motivates this second impeachment….

Of course, it’s ridiculous to say that the House managers are proceeding with this impeachment in the first weeks of the Biden administration for the sheer joy of hammering Donald Trump. But let’s pause over the hatred accusation for a minute.

Hatred is sometimes the only appropriate response. I am no classicist, but from what I recall of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, learning to love what is lovable and hate what is despicable is part of the education of a well-balanced man. Aristotle taught that men should be even-tempered, but contained within that precept was this: “The man who is angry at the right things and with the right people, and, further, as he ought, when he ought, and as long as he ought, is praised.

Adam White on the “Whataboutist defense of Trump’s Violent Political Rhetoric”:

When Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined that phrase [“defining deviancy down”], he observed that conservatives had been “sensitive to downward redefining that weakens societal standards.” Today, however, conservatives who support President Trump gladly accept those ever-lower standards as the proper measure of Trump’s conduct, instead of recognizing that his conduct proves precisely why constitutional self-government requires much more.

Ben Parker on the “10 Worst Moments From Trump’s Defense”:

(10) As the hours dragged on, van der Veen didn’t continue his plodding pace. He became more and more agitated, growing red in the face, and during the question and answer period, began gesticulating with his arms and hopping in front of the microphone. Before the eyes of 100 senators, the lawyer took on the affect of his client.

The transformation was complete when van der Veen addressed the letter signed by 144 constitutional lawyers refuting his arguments. It was, he intoned, not just a disagreement over law, but a personal attack on him, an effort to intimidate him and silence him.

He, Michael van der Veen, was the real victim of the January 6 assault and the impeachment that followed.

Cheap Shots

Deep Thoughts

1. It’ll Do

David Frum’s glass is half full.

The 57–43 margin wasn’t enough to convict under the Constitution. It wasn’t enough to formally disqualify Trump from ever again seeking office in the United States. But practically? It will do as a solemn and eternal public repudiation of Trump’s betrayal of his oath of office.

2. Betraying America

Tom Nichols is incandescent:

The Republicans have repeatedly betrayed both Lincoln and the Union. The party whose first president died as a martyr at the hands of an insurrectionist is now controlled by empty, hollow people who rolled their eyes and lazed their way through the trial of a president who was manifestly guilty of inciting an insurrection.

3. The Shallow Thoughts of Eric Metaxas

Just letting him talk is a devastating way to expose someone:

[Emma] Green: I just want to be clear about the metaphor here, because I think it matters. The attack on the Capitol was perpetrated by a group of people who had, in some cases, weapons, and who forcefully broke into the United States Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the Electoral College votes. I don’t think the argument is that anybody who voted for Trump anywhere in America is a violent white supremacist. I think the criticism has been about that act and the way in which President Trump, along with those who have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election results, encouraged that act.

Metaxas: But it’s our right in America to do that—to question things. And when you are told that by doing that, you are contributing to violence, you are inciting violence—that, right there, is a red flag.

The media landscape was not what you just described. It was an absolute pile-on. You’d think somebody had clubbed a senator to death or something. I was just scratching my head, trying to make sense of whatever happened, if we even know what happened. There are enough questions that it’s so confusing. They were acting like people were shot.

Green: I want to stop you there, because a Capitol Police officer was beaten to death by protesters. He died of his injuries.

Metaxas: Look, I’m not a newshound.