On Sunday, it was announced that Donald Trump had been acquitted in the impeachment process from the charge of incitement of insurrection. This fundamental failure to protect democracy and political integrity illustrates the darker problem which permeated the Trump presidency: strong-arm behaviour and gaslighting as a successful tactic in American politics. These acts have now been legitimized and empowered to continue thanks to his acquittal.
The vote saw 57-43 senators favour impeachment, falling short of the required 67 votes. Republican senators failed the American people and wasted their final opportunity to showcase their party as one which values equality and democracy. With only seven Republicans voting to convict Trump, the Republican party can no longer be depicted as a respectable institution. The indisputable video evidence presented by the Democratic House impeachment managers explicitly demonstrated that Trump’s rhetoric regarding the ‘stolen election’ and his continuous seeds of psychological manipulation and encouragement of retaliation towards his supporters were responsible for the events on January 6th. In footage from the day, Trump can be heard shouting “Take the Capitol!”, encouraging the attack that left five people dead, one police officer without an eye, and another officer repeatedly shocked with a taser until a heart attack was induced.
Even Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, stated that “there is no question…that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day”. Recognising Trump’s endgame after the election defeat as violent, autocratic action, McConnel condemned Trump, observing that “the leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things”.
McConnel, in no unclear terms, therefore is aware that Trump is guilty of the charge of incitement to insurrection. Despite this, he voted against conviction. As such, it cannot be argued that Republican senators were unable to recognize Trump’s assault on democracy. Instead, the reality is that the impeachment vote, to them, was one of maximizing their self-interests instead of upholding the values of the constitution or preserving an image of responsible Western leadership. The GOP senators who voted against conviction actively chose not to vote with a moral conscience but instead to follow their ambition, even at the expense of justice and protection of democracy from exploitation. Their decisions expose them as unfit to serve as representatives of the American liberal democracy.
By setting a precedent of crime without punishment as legitimate in the office of the President, Republican senators have endangered the future of the already fragile American political sphere. Their cowardice and egoism were not accounted for in the drafting of the U.S. constitution and, in consequence, they are neither fit to uphold it nor to protect it. Ultimately democracy is only as strong as those responsible for maintaining it.
The verdict not to convict Trump as responsible for the attack on the Capitol affirms to him and his supporters that, going forward, they can undertake actions of even more severity than exhibited on January 6th, assuring Americans that they have not seen the end of the fight for their democracy. The audacity of Republican senators to vote against a matter of fact that was witnessed globally and has been recognized on the international stage undermines a basic right of faith in government, proving, not that Trump is innocent of the charges, but that he has 43 accomplices remaining in office. Consequently, Trump’s acquittal informs U.S. citizens that honesty, compassion, and moral justice are irrelevant values in the GOP party. This action has permanently stained the Republican party as a threat to the protection of liberty and equality, the American people themselves, and, because of the U.S.’s central role in the international arena and agenda, every individual across the globe.