Greg Sargent of the Washington Post recently made an astute observation about impeachment, Democratic equivocation over impeachment is a moral and political disaster:
Democrats have also suggested that an impeachment inquiry should be avoided until Republicans grow convinced that removal is merited, because without that an inquiry would divide the country or isn’t worth doing because the Senate wouldn’t ever convict.
But this, too, is fatally flawed. It gives Republicans veto power over even the question of whether to launch an inquiry. Importantly, an inquiry is not a decision whether to impeach or not. Rather, it initiates a long, deliberative fact-gathering process that is designed to ultimately inform that decision.
Thus, this rationale is an evasion and a dereliction of institutional duty on its face: It takes the very possibility of making a deliberative decision on whether impeachment is appropriate off the table entirely, simply by virtue of the fact that at the end of the process, Republicans will never acknowledge that it is, for reasons that have nothing to do with the known facts about Trump’s misconduct.
In short, it allows Republicans to dictate that the question isn’t even worth a serious effort to answer. And … it does not address whether an inquiry is merited by what we now know.
All of this is true, but the problem is far worse than what Sargent presents. As Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote in 2012, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.
As I have argued, “What we have right now is the entire Republican Party in lock-step with the Trump crime family. It is acting as a criminal enterprise, using the control of government to undermine the Department of Justice, the Congress and the rule of law to prevent the fair administration of justice and to prevent holding anyone accountable.”
Republicans in Congress are co-conspirators and accessories aiding and abetting the Trump crime family in the obstruction of justice. They are equally culpable at law for their own misconduct.
Trump’s extended “crime family,” Republicans in Congress, sit on congressional committees where they can engage in obstruction of Congress on his behalf, and they would sit on the “jury” in the Senate in any impeachment trial.
What Trump’s extended “crime family” in the Senate would do is engage in Jury Nullification, the jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law.
Unlike in court proceedings, there is no jury selection process or voire dire of potential jury members in the Senate. These co-conspirators and accessories who are aiding and abetting the Trump crime family, sitting on the jury, would acquit the president in any impeachment trial because they would also be acquitting their own equally culpable criminal misconduct. “We’re all good.”
The long-term consequences of this is that it will create a precedent for all future presidents to engage in similar criminal misconduct without incurring any consequences. It would render the impeachment process a feckless constitutional remedy against a president who engages in criminal misconduct because members of his own political party simply do not care about the facts, the evidence, or the rule of law, and are willing co-conspirators and accessories to obstruction of justice. Tribal loyalty to one’s own political party rules the day — and the rule of law will have been destroyed.
One has to wonder if this is not the actual goal of authoritarian Republicans — to destroy the rule of law, our constitutional government, and our long-cherished democratic institutions, norms and values — and replace it with a lawless authoritarian kleptocracy, like Russia.
GOP consultant Rick Wilson has a sarcastic column for the Daily Beast, Trump Is on the Iron Throne, and American Democracy Is Dead (subscription required), in which he calls upon Republicans to give up even the pretense of trying to appear to be anything other than Trump sycophants in the personality cult of Donald Trump. Here are some snippets via Rawstory:
Under a Game of Thrones-inspired headline “Trump Is on the Iron Throne, and American Democracy Is Dead,” Wilson wrote, “For Republicans eager for the next, inevitable step of Trumpism and tired of some musty 240-year-old Constitution getting in the way of rallies, rage-tweeting and lib-owning, I’ve got a modest proposal: Why not end this republic, and launch a glorious new era of royals and royalty, where a man who behaves like a king can actually be one and govern as he desires?”
“After all, he’s surrounded not by coequal members of a representative legislature and independent judiciary, but by lackeys and lickspittles groveling at his gouty feet. Inside this Trump kingdom, advisers rise and fall not based on merit, performance, or ideas but instead on fealty, servility, and an ability to abase themselves to the king’s many whims. Let’s just cut to the chase,” he acidly continued.
“Be honest with yourselves; how far is the leap from President Trump to King Trump in your minds? How many Trump supporters have wondered unironically about a third term for the Donald, or of replacing one Trump with another when this girthy beast finally strokes out?” he wrote. “You weaponized the Republican caucus to support His Majesty in the House so egregiously you took an ass-beating from the politically incompetent Democrats, losing 40 seats in 2018. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell holds the line for Trump and former Tea Party super-constitutionalist stalwarts like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have gone full royalist, along with Lindsey Graham.”
“Princess Ivanka and royal consort Jared of the House of Kushner hold government jobs of no discernible function but of enormous consequence. Why? The walls of Castle Trump keep that secret, thank the gods,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, the two have the ear of the King and are literally above the law when it comes to security clearance laws, ethics rules, and the use of federal offices to enrich themselves. Those things aren’t wrong in the new world. They’re just part of Trumpian droit du douchebag.”
“While Trump treats Princess Tiffany as if she were the daughter of a chambermaid and Eric the Slack-jawed as if he should be sent as a hostage to some other royal house, it’s Don Jr. who is the current heir apparent, already emulating the King in every tangible way,” he continued before noting the senior Trump history of multiple wives and multiple infidelities with, “He’s behind on wives and mistresses, but he’s got time.”
“And so, my Republican friends, it’s time to embrace monarchy. Let your id be your guide, your past be a memory, and Trump be your King. Bend the knee. You’ve gotten quite good at it.”
Or as another GOP consultant, Steve Schmidt, who helped run George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign and led Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid explained when he renounced his membership in the Republican Party in 2018:
Steve Schmidt is finished with the Republican Party. He renounced his membership last week in a series of withering tweets that quickly went viral. Under Trump, he wrote, the party had become “corrupt, indecent, and immoral.” With the exception of a select few, the GOP was “filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders.”
* * *
[T]he reality that I’ve come to is that the party stands at an hour at which it is irredeemable, where it has died and bled out because of the cowardice and fecklessness of its leaders.
When Trump was elected, there were three parties in Washington: the Trump party, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The Republican Party had every chance to put a check on his vile personal conduct, his administration’s outlandish corruption, his fetishizing and affinity for autocrats around the world and his undermining of the western alliance.
* * *
This cancer has always been there. This dormant cancer. But it has become fully embraced in this moment. We’re seeing at this moment a president of the United States do five things. He is using mass rallies that are fueled by constant lying to incite fervor and devotion in his political base. The second thing we see him do is to affix blame for every problem in the world. Many of them are complex, not so different from the issues faced at the end of Agrarian age and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. We see him attack minority populations with words like “invade” and “infest.” The third thing he does is a create a shared sense of victimization caused by the scapegoated populations. This is the high act of Trumpism: From Trump to Sean Hannity to Laura Ingraham, everyone is a victim. The fourth thing he does is he alleges conspiracy by nefarious and unseen hidden forces – the “deep state.” And the fifth thing is the assertion that “I am the law, that I am above it.”
* * *
What you’ve seen is this rapid devolution over the last 18 months of the Republican Party becoming a white ethno-nationalist party, a blood-and-soil party that is protectionist, isolationist, that is rooted in resentment and grievance.
* * *
It’s always been there. It’s been there from the Know-Nothing movement in the 1840s. The effect of Trump is the justification it gives to people who are angered by Trump to act more like Trump. To debase themselves into opposition. If you want to oppose Trump, the first thing you should do is say, “I’m not going to do one thing that makes it worse.” Because making it worse helps Trump. Part of the damage of this era is his debasement and his purposeful divisions. That’s unique in all of history.
* * *
If the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt and Reagan is to be redeemed and resurrected, then the party of Trump must be obliterated. Annihilated. Destroyed. And all of the collaborators, the complicit enablers, the school of cowards, need to go down. Maybe something can regenerate from that.
The problem is we cannot impeach the Republican Party along with their “Dear Leader.” They must suffer an overwhelming electoral defeat, a complete rejection by the American people.