Is the House of Representatives’ second impeachment of Trump serious? Maybe they’re hoping the threat will push him to resign in exchange for Pence handing him that sweet pardon he can’t give himself, or the invocation of the 25th Amendment which would take the onus off Pelosi and the Dems and shift it onto Mike Pence and what’s left of the Cabinet.
There only being a few days left in the term, and the House both rushing while dilly-dallying its way to a vote, now supposedly set for Wednesday, January 13, when they could have had the deal wrapped up last Friday if it were so critical and necessary, or Monday, or Tuesday. That’s the thing about exigency. If it’s critical, do it now. If you don’t have to do it now, then it’s not critical.
Of course, Mitch McConnell has already used his last exercise of clout to schedule a Senate trial for one hour after Joe Biden will be sworn in as President, giving the Chief Justice enough time to administer the oath, shake hands and make it over to the chamber. Whatever happens, Trump won’t be convicted under the Article of Impeachment until he has completed his term of office. Since he won’t be attending the inauguration, he’ll have plenty of time to get a good seat in the Senate gallery.
If this were a criminal prosecution in court for incitement of insurrection under 28 U.S.C. § 2383, the elements of the crime would be worthy of serious discussion. Did his words “incite”? Was that his intention? Was the lawless conduct “imminent”? Or was this an exercise of Free Speech under the First Amendment that was dangerous, foolish, outrageous, but not criminal? As impeachment is not a legal act as much as a political act, such technical concerns give way to more political concerns.
For that reason, the defense proffered in the New York Times by Representative Tom Reed (R-NY 23rd District) is about the best one can argue.
[A] snap impeachment will undoubtedly fuel the divisions between our citizens at a time when the wounds of Jan. 6 are still raw. With the start of a new administration and a new Congress, there is a real opportunity to build bridges and unite the American people around our shared values.
Failing to do so will undermine our efforts to bring people together. It may even provide excuses and delusional incentives for those who would incite further violence.
Argued separately, but really just a penumbra of this point, Reed argues that this reinforces the beliefs that drove an insurrection of the Capitol.
Finally, a too-quick impeachment will not suddenly change the minds of millions of Americans who still do not recognize the election of President-elect Biden as legitimate. In fact, rushed proceedings will be seen as validating the view that impeachment is part of a multiyear campaign to delegitimize Mr. Trump’s 2016 election.
He’s not wrong that impeaching Trump now will “fuel the divisions” that have festered for the past four years until the boil exploded on January 6th and spewed pus on the seat of legislative government. Nor is he wrong that it will not change the minds of those who believe that Hugo Chavez returned from the dead to stuff ballot boxes for Biden.
There are many lessons in history about appeasement of those bent on destruction, but we watched them play out over the past four years. After Trump was elected, a thing called “The Resistance” emerged, refusing to recognize Trump as the legitimate president and spending its every waking moment desperately screaming about every offense he committed, real or imagined. They refused to wish him well as the loyal opposition and did whatever they could to sabotage anything that came out of his administration. They wanted him to fail, and they were willing to let America burn just to see it happen. Trump was happy to help.
The tables have now turned, except the unduly passionate wore a viking hat rather than a pussy hat, and ransacked instead of marched. To allow this to influence the consequence of Americans storming their own government is to reward insurrection. Provide incentives and people will act upon them. If insurrection works, then it becomes a legitimate political tool.
More to the point, not taking Trump to task, with prejudice, will not heal the divisions in this country any more than Biden mouthing the words while announcing the givebacks to the progressive wing of the Dems for their votes. Biden won’t be social-justice Liz Warren or democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders, but he will be closer to them than the middle.
And that’s what Tom Reed and the Republicans fail to see when trying to placate the worst of this base. Trump’s votes don’t mean more than 74 million Americans support him, but that some percentage of that rejects the Dems and fears their “reimagination” of America into some radical fantasy. If ten thousand acolytes risked life and limb to go to war as their fearless leader asked of them, it’s a minuscule percentage of Americans, a percentage so trivial that it’s dwarfed by another tiny portion of a nation, transgender people.
So what? We’re a nation awash in loud and violent, but relatively tiny, extremist groups. They drove the narrative over the past four years and served only to push Trump to be the worst he could be. To pander to insurrectionists now would not only be to allow violence once again to drive our national narrative, but to empower Biden to take comfort in the most radical of his party.
The bulk of a nation, hundreds of millions of Americans, don’t scream and riot because they are too busy doing the work that keeps this nation alive and their families fed and clothed, and because they just aren’t violent and destructive people. They were appalled and disgusted by this attack on our Capitol, even if they didn’t vote for Biden. Their unity, the real unity of a nation, demands that the fringe violence be ended. All of it, left and right. We’ve had our fill of crazy and stupid, and a functional, peaceful and honorable nation back.
So no, Member Reed, whatever divisiveness that comes of impeaching Trump as a result of his inciting insurrection is inconsequential. Unity comes from serving the majority of Americans, not bending to the will of the worst, smallest, loudest and most violent crazies on the fringe. Heal this nation by remembering that democracy means the majority rules, whether that means you prefer the elected president or not, and not by fearing the violent crazies.
Update: Per the New York Times, Mitch McConnell supports impeachment.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking.