So now, after four-plus years of praising Donald Trump’s “exquisite” leadership; four-plus years of waving away lines like the one about finding the Second Amendment solution for Hillary Clinton by saying he was just joking; and lately, after nine weeks of mostly being accomplices to Trump’s insane claims about election fraud; after Trump has torn the country in two and bullied local Republicans trying to do their jobs and instigated a riot that sought to kill his own vice president and did kill a police officer, exactly 10 members of the Republican Party out of 207 voting in the House of Representatives went on record as being willing to impeach Trump.
For most of America, the week since the riots has if anything intensified the horror. With each new day, we see shocking videos showing that some of the intruders knew the Capitol floor plan. We learn new details about just how close to danger or death some members and staffers were. And of course we see Trump himself down in Texas once again deny that he had anything to do with what happened after he’d exhorted the true believers he’d summoned that “you have to show strength.”
But for House Republicans, the past seven days have had the opposite effect—they’ve rallied and realized that if they just issue a few phony, perfunctory denunciations of the violent rioters, they can quickly get back to blaming the left for everything and accusing Democrats of somehow being the real supporters of violence.
So the impeachment proceeding was the usual freakshow. Louie Gohmert warned that a vote like this meant the end of the republic. Tom McClintock of California wore a mask that said “This Mask Is as Useless as My Governor.” Marjorie Taylor Greene wore a mask that said “Censored”—while she was giving a speech on national television carried on at least five channels. Matt Gaetz went full Matt Gaetz, mentioning the “Biden crime family” and shooting a glance over to the Democratic side while muttering that Republicans were not going to forget about that. Steve Chabot of Ohio, who I haven’t seen a picture of in a few years, is now wearing his hair like Trump’s (I mean, creepily so, almost like the way Jennifer Jason Leigh did with Bridget Fonda in Single White Female).
There was a small silver lining. Given that one of the standard defenses of Trump is that he’s only going to be president for another week, at least the day’s debate did get a number of Republicans to admit finally that “in one week, Joe Biden will be president.” In other words, they’re willing to admit Biden won, provided those admissions can also double as another excuse not to punish Trump.
Wednesday had opened on an optimistic note. On Morning Joe, they were playing up Liz Cheney and the small handful of her confederates who’d said they’d vote to impeach, suggesting hopefully that maybe things were snowballing in the direction of reason and democracy, that surely even this hardened assemblage would recognize Trump’s behavior for the assault on democracy that it so plainly was. Well, if you spent an hour or two watching that debate, you were quickly disabused of the notion that much has changed.
You would think these people might be a little more upset about a mob of invaders who were trying to kill them.
But hey. Congratulations to the 10. I guess that's enough to call it legit bipartisan in these times, and it could have been worse. They did the right thing. Cheney is from a state Trump won by 40 points. She surely knows whether there’s a credible Trump challenger out there gunning for her. I guess this means there’s no one she’s particularly worried about right now; also, that she’s betting that staking out the anti-Trump pole is a good bet. Who knows, it could work. In any case, it’s a step (or two or three) up from being her father’s eyes and ears in the State Department, spying on the careerists who didn’t fall into line on the Iraq War, a role she once relished.
As for the Democrats: Well, they did their job. The people who are constantly screaming that the Democrats are a bunch of wimps who are afraid to take on the Republicans—a caucus that from time to time includes me—need to remember this one. They stood up. They wasted no time. They did the right thing for the country, for democracy, for history.
I tip my hat to impeachment mangers Ted Lieu and David Cicilline and especially of course Jamie Raskin, who endured the suicide of his grown son, in his own home on New Year’s Eve, and yet rallied to do this, thinking, no doubt, of Tommy the whole time. If he wasn’t one of your top five members of Congress before all this, he sure should be now.
Now things move to the Senate but not before the inauguration, Mitch McConnell’s office announced a little before the House vote. But after watching this display, I wouldn’t get my hopes up about a Senate conviction. McConnell’s leak Tuesday about his supposed approval of impeaching Trump is starting to look like a little bit of a feint. You notice Mitch never said he’d vote to convict. He’s just mad at Trump for costing him the majority leader job and figures the party needs to make a break from Trumpism.
Well, I’ll end where I began. Four-plus years of watching this criminal commit a dozen or more clearly impeachable offenses and doing all the other sleazy and unethical and demeaning things he did to this country, and responding by talking about how great he is or how he was just joking, or rushing for the elevator while muttering they didn’t look at Twitter yet that day, have taken their toll, Mitchiepoo. Trump is still at 80 percent among your rank and file. He may go down in history as both the most accidental and most disgraced president ever; he never won the popular vote, he was the only president to be impeached twice, and he lost reelection. But you’re not likely to shake him anytime too soon.
Certainly, what happened in the House today suggested that most Republicans don’t yet want to.