Every so often, a statement of such force, of such glistening clarity, is made that cuts though the dross. Such was the case with the scorching declaration attacking Donald Trump on the eve of Wednesday’s impeachment vote by Congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of reviled warmonger Dick Cheney.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” the third-highest-ranking Republican from hugely conservative Wyoming stated. “Everything that followed was his doing. There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Democrats couldn’t have articulated it better. In the debate, they only had to quote her. Some did. More significantly, nine Republicans joined with Ms. Cheney in voting with the Democrats to impeach Mr. Trump for the second time – a humiliation no other president has suffered.
This contrasted with last year’s impeachment, when zero Republicans voted in favour. There weren’t many this time, but enough to denote that the exodus from the Trump party has begun.
It is unlikely to stop. In the Senate, long-time Trump enabler Mitch McConnell put out word that he wanted Mr. Trump frog-marched from the Oval Office as well. Given his clout, that could well mean there will be enough Republican votes for a Senate conviction whenever a trial is held.
While advocating censure as opposed to impeachment, GOP minority leader Kevin McCarthy said “the President bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.”
But nothing is certain. One might think that after the riots, after the losses of the presidency, the Senate and the House and after another impeachment, the banishment of Donald Trump would be a no-brainer. But polls say he is still supported by more than two-thirds of Republican party members. An even larger majority is against him resigning.
It appears that they think Mr. Trump’s words in inciting the storming of the Capitol were, as he said while signalling no contrition for what happened, “perfectly appropriate.”
An internecine conflict between those loyal to his truth-fornicating brand of authoritarian populism and those wanting a restoration of traditional Republicanism is in the offing. It promises to be a searing fight – one which could lead to the bifurcation of the party, especially if Mr. Trump is still at large.
Many got the sense that deep down, the Republicans knew they were on the road to perdition with this demagogue. They stuck with him through all the outrages – Charlottesville, Helsinki, the first impeachment, the pandemic mismanagement, the daily ransacking of dignity etc. – not out of any respect, but only because of his political coattails.
They had to look after their own political hides. They weren’t about to put the country before politics – such a rarity in public life now – by standing up to him. But those coattails have shrunk considerably now. The terror of Jan. 6 has freed them from their dance with the devil. They can go their own way.
What a spectacular fall it has been, in the space of just two months. The Republicans had emerged in decent shape after the election loss. Mr. Trump’s popularity was still high. Had he behaved like a normal human being during the transition, he was well placed to continue as the man in command.
But his crazed insistence that the election was stolen from him sealed his doom. It was confirmation that he was unhinged. His delusional rants divided Republicans, contributing to the loss, via two runoff election defeats in Georgia, of the party majority in the Senate and setting the conditions for the Capitol Hill convulsions.
Should the Senate move ahead and vote to convict Mr. Trump, it would likely mean he can never run for office again. It would be up to one of his children, probably the rabid Don Jr., to take up the banner.
Those wishing to make a clean break with Mr. Trump will not find it easy. Many of the party’s leading blights, including Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, are pro-Trump hardliners who refused to acknowledge Joe Biden as the election winner.
Vice-President Mike Pence could loom large. He rejected a Democratic motion to have Mr. Trump removed via the 25th Amendment. But it will be no surprise to learn that, like Mr. McConnell and many other heretofore Trump lackeys, he is pleased with the second impeachment.
As dreadful as the attack on the citadel of American power was, in commencing the unravelling of the Trump brand, it has rendered a service to the party and the country.
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