The Verdict: The Party of Trump is guilty of ending democracy for GOP authoritarianism (Updated)

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I said at the beginning of this Impeachment: Not just Donald Trump, but the lawless and amoral Party of Trump is on trial.

Today the jury delivered its verdict: the Party of Trump is guilty of ending democracy for GOP authoritarianism. America weeps today.

Senators voted 48-52 to convict on the first House-passed article of impeachment for abuse of power, with only Republican Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) joining Democrats for conviction.

The crypto-fascist personality cult of Donald Trump immediately sought retribution against Sen. Romney to enforce absolute unquestioning obedience to “Dear Leader.” “Prince” Donald Trump Jr. says Romney ‘should be expelled’ from the GOP.

Romney is undeserving of any kudos for this “safety” vote, because he did not vote to convict on obstruction of Congress. The Senate voted on a party-line vote of 47-53 to convict on the second House-passed article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.

Refuting months of GOP predictions — And Tiger Beat on The Potomac (Politico) — no Democratic senators voted to acquit Trump. Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) — all seen as potential swing votes — voted to convict on both articles of impeachment. Good on them.

Republicans would not even consider a slap on the wrist, i.e., a resolution of censure, because “Dear Leader” insists he did nothing wrong and his absolute authority shall not be questioned by mere mortals. Senate GOP drives stake through talk of Trump censure.

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post wrote ahead of the obvious verdict, Schiff’s appeal to truth, decency and justice falls on deaf Republican ears:

House impeachment manager Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) closed with a poetic appeal for President Trump’s removal, as convincing as it was heart-wrenching. It was heart-wrenching because one knows that his appeals to truth and decency, and his insistence on the difference between right and wrong, are foreign and unintelligible to a Senate Republican majority that has convicted itself of intellectual and moral sloth.

Schiff asked what has changed since past impeachments, wherein we at least heard evidence. “We have changed,” he replied, only partially correct. The Republican Party has changed, not only by degree and not only in policy positions from free trade to Russian policy to the rule of law.

Schiff aptly diagnosed the problem with leaving Trump in office. “He has betrayed our national security, and he will do so again,” Schiff said. “He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What’s right matters even less, and decency matters not at all.”

Schiff, as would be required of any advocate, then made a plea to the Senate, asserting, “I do not ask you to convict him because truth or right or decency matters nothing to him, but because we have proven our case, and it matters to you. Truth matters to you. Right matters to you. You are decent. He is not who you are.”

lSchiff insisted, “History will not be kind to Donald Trump. If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel and for all of history. But if you find the courage to stand up to him . . . your place will be among the Davids who took on Goliath.”

“Midnight in Washington,” released Tuesday night by the Oregon-based media company Eleven Films.

Sadly, Schiff underestimated the moral decadence and craven complicity of cowardly Republicans in the crypto-fascist personality cult of Donald Trump.

When Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and the rest put out gobbledygook explanations for their votes to deny evidence and for their intent to acquit — [despite conceding that what Trump did was wrong] — they are not dumb; they are lacking conscience and a modicum of courage. Senate Republicans think their seats, their position of power, their earning potential, their friendships and their futures require them to align themselves with Trump. Jettisoning all that to do the right thing and vindicate truth and decency is unimaginable.

Simply put, their entire self-worth and career aspirations depend upon staying firmly within the cult. These are not inner-directed people, needless to say.

[Schiff appealed] to Republicans’ conscience and sense of history, both of which have been shoved aside in favor of one all-encompassing principle: Do not cross Trump. With Trump they hope to find reelection and, if not security, in the right-wing machine manned by think tanks, lobbyists and advocacy groups. With Trump they hope to avoid vilification by unruly and hostile MAGA voters back home. With Trump they hope to avoid unpleasantness with staff and colleagues whose careers demand they stay loyal to the party. These are fragile men and women whose self-worth comes not from doing the right thing but by maintaining their power in the most important job they are ever to have — and by maintaining their place in a right-wing cult from which they dare not be ejected.

Term limits are not the solution to character deficit within the Republican Party. These people are motivated as much by praise from right-wing media and lobbying jobs as by the next election. No, the only thing these people understand is losing, and losing badly. They and the Republicans who will try to replace them in 2022 and beyond will only reconsider their survival plan if it no longer allows them to survive. It is only when divorcing themselves from truth, justice and decency leads to their political obliteration that we will see significant improvement.

Caroline Fredrickson, author of “The Democracy Fix,” writes at the New York Times, After Acquittal, It’s Anything Goes for the Republicans:

On Wednesday, the Senate will vote to acquit President Trump. The vote should send shock waves through our democracy. It is not so much that the Senate is absolving him of all charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power; the shock waves should emanate from how his Republican allies go about it. By rejecting a conviction, the party will demonstrate that it believes anything goes in winning elections.

Most Republican senators have insisted that in pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, Mr. Trump did nothing wrong. A few say he crossed a line, but they have never explained why his actions fall short of conviction, or what it would take for them to consider a conviction.

Rather than reining in a president who clearly abused his power for personal gain, most Republicans have conceded to Mr. Trump’s overarching “Dershowitz defense“: that his re-election would serve the public interest. That argument was enough, for his Senate allies, to override campaign finance laws and the norms of governance that have prevailed in our country until this presidency.

This defense is a natural outgrowth of the unitary executive theory, a legal doctrine advanced by apologists for the imperial presidency, including Attorney General William Barr. It was Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor representing Mr. Trump, who gave this idea its most outrageous frame: “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest,” he said. “And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

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If this were simply verbiage in service of his client, one might almost forgive Mr. Dershowitz for his claim. But Republican senators and other party leaders have embraced this theory as if our Constitution was in fact a pact to establish a monarchy. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a close ally of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, declared that Mr. Dershowitz had said the president’s actions were not impeachable, “and I don’t disagree with that.”

In other words, the core message from Senate Republicans is this: No matter how dangerous or incompetent any president might be, he or she has only to think that remaining in office serves our nation to justify any act to stay there.

This is a five-alarm fire for democracy. The Republican Party has aggressively sought to rig elections in its favor, including voter purging, vote suppression and gerrymandering. Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Moral Majority, explained his support for vote suppression at an evangelical Christian campaign rally for Ronald Reagan in 1980. “Many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo goo’ syndrome — good government,” he said. “They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people.”

That statement has been the foundation of the Republican approach to elections — ensure that only the people you want to vote can vote, and if you can’t win even with vote suppression, look the other way when Russians intervene. Mr. Trump’s defense in the Senate is in keeping with this no-holds-barred approach. Anything in service of victory is permissible.

This impeachment is as much about what happens in November as it is about Mr. Trump’s actions. With the Republicans in thrall to a demagogic leader, will it accept the results if Mr. Trump loses the election? Will Mr. Trump vacate the White House next Jan. 20, or will he claim that the election was a fraud?

Or even more likely, will allies in swing states like Florida, Ohio and Arizona contest results in favor of Mr. Trump’s opponent? We have already seen how Florida’s Republican governor and Legislature have thwarted the will of the voters, who last year approved a ballot initiative to allow former felons to vote: They enacted the equivalent of a poll tax, in defiance of the Constitution.

The time for those who believe in our Constitution and our democracy to act is now. We must prepare in every possible way to counter efforts by the Republicans and Mr. Trump to rig the coming election and to nullify it if they lose. While the statements during impeachment and the lock-step way the Republicans follow Mr. Trump might look like the temporary aberration of a party in the grip of a cult of personality, the roots of this anti-democratic impulse are much deeper. What Mr. Trump has laid bare is the true emptiness of the Republican Party’s commitment to fair elections and its antagonism to the rules of democracy.

If we don’t work now to prepare the public and the machinery of voting around the country for an end-run around our representative form of government, we shall be akin to nations like Russia, where elections are just cover for autocracy.

The Party of Trump has declared war on American democracy. Today Americans must join the battle and declare war on the Party of Trump in return. It must be defeated and consigned to the ash heap of history. It is time for all good patriots to come to the aid of the American Republic. Democracy itself hangs in the balance.

UPDATE: The media has given Senator Mitt Romney accolades for his heartfelt speech, which I agree will be remembered by historians. In his speech, however, Romney said that he had wanted to hear from John Bolton, hoping that he might provide exculpatory evidence for the president. But let’s not forget that when it came time to vote on an amendment to call additional witnesses and to seek additional documents, Romney voted in lockstep with every other Republican against calling witnesses and issuing subpoenas for documents. Actions speak louder than words. [Correction: Romney did vote to subpoena John Bolton, my mistake.]

I believe Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) summed it up best in his speech:

I am mindful, Mr. President, that I am standing at a desk that once was used by Senator John F. Kennedy, who famously wrote “Profiles in Courage,” and there will be so many who will simply look at what I am doing today and say it is a profile in courage. It is not. It is simply a matter of right and wrong. Where doing right is not a courageous act. It is simply following your oath.

Romney simply followed his oath and did what was right. “Where doing right is not a courageous act.” Every other Republican senator failed this test, as history will record.