Acquitting Trump was a sad and terrible day for democracy

The powerful and persuasive evidence the House managers put on during Trump’s impeachment trial clearly demonstrated the former president had just one thing in mind on Jan. 6 — that somehow the violent breaching of the Capitol by his followers would open a path to a second presidential term for him.

SHARE Acquitting Trump was a sad and terrible day for democracy
APTOPIX_Trump_Impeachment.jpg

In this image from video, the final vote total of 57-43, to acquit former President Donald Trump of the impeachment charge, incitement of insurrection, in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday.

AP Photos

In the end, it was clear: Donald J. Trump could have gone out onto the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot the nation’s democracy, and a majority of Republicans would not have condemned him.

The country will face reverberations from Saturday’s 57-43 vote to acquit Trump in future elections. Only seven Republicans had enough spine to do the patriotic thing: holding a former president from their own party accountable for inciting an attempted violent coup — let’s call it what it was — while in office.

No one can claim with certainty that the anger and lawlessness unleashed at our nation’s Capitol will not be directed at democracy itself again in future elections, from presidential races down to campaigns on the local level.

Editorials bug

Editorials

Willing to destroy the country

Republicans who voted to acquit Trump paid no heed to the evidence, put forth in meticulous fashion by House impeachment managers who provided a timeline, horrifying videos, tweets and other evidence to prove how Trump spent months fanning the flames of his big lie about a rigged election, preparing for Jan. 6, when electoral votes would be counted.

“Be there. Will be wild!” he tweeted on Dec. 19, in one of a number of tweets urging his supporters to come to D.C.

The powerful and persuasive evidence clearly demonstrated the former president had just one thing in mind — that somehow, the violent breaching of the Capitol by his followers would open a path to a second presidential term for him. That’s why he encouraged his followers to come to Washington. That’s why he exhorted them to go to the Capitol and fight to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election. That’s why he sent no help and ignored pleas — some from other Republicans — to call off the mob as he saw the violence unfolding.

Trump was willing to destroy America’s nearly two-and-a-half centuries of democratic rule and peaceful transfer of power for one selfish purpose: to keep himself in office.

Throughout Trump’s term, craven Republicans excused his countless lies, his attacks on democratic institutions, his open scheming not to accept the election results long before the election itself occurred. After President Joe Biden won his resounding victory, too many Republicans refused to acknowledge it, letting Trump’s rabid claims that the election was stolen fester among his followers.

“What’s the downside for humoring him?” one Republican official reportedly said soon after the election, as though Trump were a truculent child who could not be told the truth about his loss.

Sowing a whirlwind against democracy

Even as the day arrived when Congress would ceremoniously count the electoral ballots and certify Biden’s win, a majority of Republicans in Congress were seeking to reject the voice of the people by delaying the count.

By their sowing such a wind — a gale — against democracy, no one can predict what whirlwind has been loosed into our nation’s politics and government. Trump, now that he has been acquitted, can make a second run at the White House, and the Senate has no power to strip him of a pension or other benefits.

The message from the majority of Republicans who put their blinders on is clear: Inciting a crowd to attack the Capitol and trying every devious trick possible to overturn an election brings no meaningful consequences.

Although it was the most bipartisan impeachment vote in the history of the country, only seven Republicans voted to convict Trump.

Sen. Mitch McConnell on Saturday admitted the House managers proved their case, trying to shift blame from where it rightly belongs, which is squarely on GOP shoulders.

McConnell had delayed a Senate vote on the impeachment until after Trump left office, creating a cynical cover for Republicans to implausibly argue it was too late to vote to convict.

They let Trump off on a technicality they created. McConnell is fooling no one.

No doubt, many of those Republicans — rather than live up to their oaths of office — were more concerned about facing challenges in upcoming primary elections or losing the financial support of major donors. McConnell and his coat-carrying Republicans care only about trying to take back the House and Senate in 2022. But many Republicans across the country have fled the party in disgust since Jan 6, and more may flee after Feb. 13.

Opinion Newsletter

Opinion This Week

A weekly overview of opinions, analysis and commentary on issues affecting Chicago, Illinois and our nation by outside contributors, Sun-Times readers and the CST Editorial Board.

The shame of those who voted to acquit Trump was made clear by the utter inability of Trump’s lawyers to shape any sort of coherent defense excusing his actions. Trump’s enablers also showed how little they cared that Trump put his own vice president in danger. The insurrectionists were moments away from reaching and attacking members of Congress.

On. Jan. 6, America lost much of its standing as a beacon of democracy for those around the world struggling to throw off the yoke of despotic governments. Convicting Trump would have at least sent a message that the flame of democracy in America cannot be so easily doused.

Too many Republicans, sitting as both collaborators and jurors, turned their backs on the rest of us.

It will be a long, hard road to put this grievous day behind us.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

The Latest
Perch and other summer fishing around Chicago leads this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.
Three people were shot and three others were stabbed over several hours late Sunday into early Monday in Lake View East, where police had stepped up patrols after the Pride Parade.
The fire began in the basement of a house in the 4000 block of West Potomac Avenue early Sunday, officials said.
Two train passengers and one person in the truck were killed, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Devastated survivors struggle to grieve as the deceased’s great-granddaughter calls attention to herself.