GOP blows chance at redemption but the Shinola lives on in D.C.

Was anyone really surprised when the U.S. Senate failed to impeach the former president? We all saw it coming. Just like we all saw the big lie about stealing the vote coming when Trump started jawing about it weeks before the election. The dude is so transparent— and I don’t mean transparent in a good way. I mean transparent because, as they say in poker, there is always a tell. He shows his hand before he makes his play.

Hammer home the lie, again and again, and the rabble will come through for you. That’s rabble as in rabble rousers. They might even try something seditious like storming the capitol hoping to stop the vote count and, on the way, stringing up a few of those damned pinkos while they’re at it.

“Nancy! Where are you?”

Donald Trump has never been a mystery to me. He’s always been an easy read. What has been a concern to me from the start is why so many seemingly reasonable people were buying his line of Shinola. Okay so everybody who likes Trump is not a terrorist or a Nazi, but they’re definitely seeing something there that for me is a stone-cold mystery. I don’t know which was more predictable: (a) Trump setting up a rally with several thousand angry people primed to erupt and then inciting a dangerous mob or (b) Trump retreating to the White House so he could gleefully watch the action on TV, knowing his loyal vice president and scores of the Republican faithful were in danger. He talks tough, and then, when the heat is on, he runs and hides.

I would prefer to ignore this American travesty, because his existence had been all-consuming for so many people for so long, but his influence lives on.

So we have an election and he loses. That means we move on, right? Maybe we can repair the damage and get back on track with the environment, retrieve our old allies who watched as we drifted away, tame a pandemic that never seemed to be taken seriously throughout 2020, and stop playing footsie with ruthless despots.

Trump is Trump. He may have been a loser, but he’s no has-been. He is still worshipped by the majority of Republicans, pollsters tell us, and half of Republicans are more loyal to Trump— a cult of personality— than they are to the party itself. This not only continues to threaten any hopes of unity, but the probability of more acts of violence, with Homeland Security already raising alarms.

We’re talking about our fellow citizens who refuse to break the bond. Quite the opposite. They continue to aggrandize him and sustain the fiction that the loser was actually the winner who must be returned to power in their virtual world. It all starts at the top with Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives who had the opportunity to set the Ship of State back on a more compassionate course and, to borrow from the Old Testament, get this Satan behind us. Like I said, we knew how it was going to go, and the only surprise would have been nine more Republicans approving the Article of Impeachment.

As Columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr., put it so concisely:

“The cowardice of the vast majority of Republican Senators was both predicted and predictable.”

This extends to the diehard Trump admirers who would apparently follow him wherever he chooses to lead them. The most insulting thing about all of this is they see themselves as true blue patriots. After the impeachment vote failed, they cheered him on when they saw him, chanting, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” as if he had performed some noble and valiant service to his country when it was always about him and never about us.

Perhaps a more fitting chant, as he returns to private citizenship with debts already in the hundreds of millions, suspected tax fraud and criminal prosecution and civil actions pending, should be, “Lock him up! Lock him up!”

It is unfortunate that the Republicans in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who voted their consciences have been subjected to censure by their state parties. Most of them opted for excluding the deposed president from censure himself on a technicality. That technicality, set up by Mitch McConnell and accepted in good faith by most of the Democrats, was based on waiting until after the inauguration of Trump’s successor before continuing with the impeachment process already initiated by a majority vote of the House. Then, after a display of compelling evidence of Trump’s role in bringing protestors from all over the country to decry the official acceptance of the November election results, normally a formality, he dispatched the hyped-up, weaponized mob off to the capitol and the horrors we observed on January 6.

He’s no longer president, was the dissenters’ alibi. One of them was McConnell, who subsequently launched into a speech condemning Trump’s actions and suggesting that he could be subject to criminal and civil repercussions for what he has done. You can’t make this stuff up. (Well, maybe you can, considering the  Shinola-laden conspiracy theories many have swallowed.)

Personally, when they talked about impeachment with only two weeks remaining in Trump’s term, I felt it could incite even more anger and violence. I, too, felt he might better face judges and juries as a private citizen.

Once they moved ahead with impeachment, however, it became a matter of considering the evidence and rendering a verdict. It should have been a no-brainer, because the jury itself had been the victims and witnesses of the crime. Instead, the victims rewarded the perpetrator based purely on politics and job security. There is no question that, with a few exceptions, Republicans who voted their conscience instead of leaning on a manufactured technicality knew they did so at their own peril. That peril included everything from death threats to being censured back home by their state and county GOP Committees.

Choosing Conscience over Partisan Politics

Some, like Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a devout Christian, was accused of “joining the devil’s army” and “doing the work of the devil” by his own family members in a letter published in The New York Times. But it was clear that their accusations of betrayal had little to do with what the ex-president did or didn’t do leading up to the capitol onslaught. It all came back, once again, to political positions that separate the two parties.

In that letter, written by a cousin who said the Kinzinger should be “shunned” as one of the 10 Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote for the impeachment to proceed to the Senate, it came down to this condemnation: “To embrace a party that believes in abortion and socialism is the ultimate sin.”

Illinois voters preferred Biden over Trump by more than a million votes, with Democrats claiming the one Senate seat on the ballot and 13 of 18 House seats. Kinzinger was one of the five Republican winners in November, landing two-thirds of the votes cast in his relatively rural, conservative district in November. He was saddened by the rejection of his family and others in his party but said, based on Trump’s putting himself above his country and constituents and resultant treasonous behavior, his vote was “an easy decision.”  The evidence itself may have made his verdict easy, but he must have known he’d have to pay the price, if not the extent of the painful partisan rejection.

“It’s important for us to be clear-eyed and speak out about the darkness that has enveloped our party, or else, you know, there’s no reason to be out here fighting,” he said in a recent interview.

The word “fight” has received a lot of attention lately. Trump was urging a fight to subvert democracy and to keep his job. Others prefer to fight to maintain liberties and freedoms that should not be cast aside by lies and unfounded conspiracy theories.