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Analysis: Trump’s Second Acquittal Damns Democracy

Former President Donald J. Trump has been acquitted a second time, after a second impeachment trial. Make no mistake, Trump was guilty of his crimes. From the night of the election forward, Mr. Trump spread lie after lie to the American public. He told his supporters by the dozens that the election was stolen, that the election was robbed, that they were saving Democracy by continuing to challenge the most democratic system in the entire world. 

Make no mistake about what happened on January 6th. Mr. Trump knew what was coming. He knew that every word he spoke would culminate into a mob. What happened at the Capitol on January 6th was a disastrous culmination of the terror Trump sent through the American public. It was a culmination of four years of lying and dividing. His tweets from that day don’t make things better. When he asked the rioters to go home, Trump told them that he loved them. Then, in the same video, he continued to fuel an election conspiracy theory that was far from legitimate. 

And yet, today, after all of this, Mr. Trump was acquitted. The decision wasn’t surprising. The Senate is not controlled by the Democrats by a supermajority. Democrats needed 17 other Republican Senators to flip their votes. In the end, the vote will leave a permanent stain on the United States. Mr. Trump was acquitted with a 57-43 vote, with 7 more moderate Republicans voting to convict the former President. 

This impeachment trial doesn’t have any large current impacts. Mr. Trump is no longer in office, so he couldn’t have been removed even if he had been impeached. However, this impeachment trial will mark a darkness in America. Forty-three of the most high ranking officials in the United States government saw their lives flash before their own eyes on January 6th, as the mob tried to run in and storm the Senate chambers. Yet, those same 43 individuals also did not vote to convict Mr. Trump. 

Forty-three Republican Senators knew the election wasn’t stolen. They all knew that Trump’s claims came with no evidence and a lot of name calling. Forty-three Republican senators saw Trump’s video where he told insurrectionists that he loved them. Forty-three Republican senators watched as the Vice President of their own party, Mike Pence, was ushered out of the room by many security personnel after threats that he would be murdered. Forty-three Republican senators watched the clips where Officer Eugene Goodman, alone, directed an entire herd of brainwashed individuals past the Senate chambers. They saw it all. They didn’t convict Donald Trump. 

Many of them openly admitted that Donald Trump’s feast of lies paved a direct path to the events on January 6th. After the impeachment trial ended, Mitch McConnell himself gave a speech with these two thoughts. But, his reason for not convicting Trump came because he didn’t believe the Constitution allowed Presidents to be convicted after they left office. Though, to point out the hypocrisy here, McConnell was the leader who blocked the trial from occurring from the get go, as he stalled the trial in the final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency. McConnell’s reason itself is also dangerous, as it implies that the President, the most powerful person in the United States Government, cannot stand trial or face consequences for actions they committed so long as they are no longer in office.

There’s no doubt that McConnell was one of the key factors behind Trump’s acquittal. As the strong and decisive leader for his own party, McConnell’s choice to acquit likely took at least ten GOP Senators with him. More importantly though, his acquittal came from a place of cowardice. 

In one of Martin P. Fenno’s groundbreaking political science analyses, he writes about why Americans can hate Congress so much but why they can love their own Congresspeople. In his commentary “If, as Ralph Nader Says, Congress Is “The Broken Branch,” How Come We Love Our Congressmen So Much?”, Fenno remarks that Congresspeople all have an end goal of being re-elected. Their decisions in Congress then, come not from their own morals, but from what decision will best further their chances of re-election. Every decision that each Senator or Representative makes is made through a sort of cost benefit analysis, where the Congressperson weighs their decision with what their constituents would be most in favor of.

In an ideal world, the Congressperson shares their ideals with the majority of their constituents. But, if the Congressperson doesn’t, many choose to prioritize the possibility of their re-election over morally handling a situation. When looking at the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Donald Trump, they primarily come from states where their choices won’t cost them re-election. For the forty-three Republican senators who come from more Republican strongholds, the choice to acquit became much less appealing, that quickly. 

Trump’s acquittal brings the issues of the American government, and Democracy as a whole, to center stage. Remember that Trump was impeached because of his lies to undermine the most Democratic process America has to offer: an election by the people. Remember that Trump went underground to talk to several different governors and secretaries of states in GOP states to try and get them to hand him the win. Remember that Trump openly led his supporters to the capitol and turned them into rioters. He himself damned Democracy. And yet, the base behind him spanned to the top of the totem pole, and was big enough for him to avoid getting charged for quite frankly, domestic terrorism. 

America’s governing system is screwed up because Congresspeople started prioritizing themselves and their needs over the American people. Forty-three people didn’t vote based on what they thought was morally good or bad. They voted to place a corrupt party leader over 250 years of American history and Democracy. They voted for their own re-election chances, to please more of their conservative constituents. They voted to hide the truth of the horrors surrounding January 6th, choosing to cast them as acceptable. They chose to further the void of lies fed to their own constituents, because the web of lies makes them more appealing. Most importantly, they voted to keep Trump politically present. 

After his acquittal, Trump released a statement hinting that this wouldn’t be the last of him. The acquittal gave him newfound confidence and proved yet again, that he has control over one of the two major parties in the United States. It’s important to note that Trump isn’t fully free: state court cases in New York and Georgia have sprung up over several illegal actions through the last few years. But, he got let off the hook twice, for some of the most egregious crimes he could’ve possibly committed. The choice to let him walk free of January 6th will forever be a dark cloud looming over American history. 

The Senate made a grave mistake. 

Featured Image via Sky News @ 1:07

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