This past week, America underwent a trial by fire and came out wanting. I am speaking of course of Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. After several days of damning testimony on the part of the congressional prosecutors, Trump’s defence team went through the motions, presenting no real rebuttal to the barrage of facts that showed conclusively that Trump did indeed incite an insurrection that not only disrupted the hallowed halls of congress, but also threatened the lives of the country’s leaders inside and lead to several deaths.
Instead, the defence parroted the same old lies, indulged in the same old disinformation, deflection and unsubstantiated malarkey that Trump and his most rabid supporters are famous for. They did so, because they knew that this was not a real trial, that no matter what the facts were, the majority of Republican Senators would spinelessly and amorally vote to acquit what history will inevitably show to be the most corrupt and incompetent President the U.S. has ever had. In the end, a majority of the senators, including seven Republican Senators, did vote to convict Trump, but the 57 – 43 vote was not sufficient to meet the two thirds majority required by the American constitution.
I would like to emphasize that this wasn’t a real trial in the judicial sense, but more of a political theatre of the absurd. There were no witnesses called to testify under oath, there was no judge to enforce courtroom rules and procedures, and there was no cross-examination or substantiation of any of the “evidence” presented by the Trump defence team. All one hundred Senators acted as the “jury”, despite the fact that a large number of the Republican Senators, could and should have been disqualified from serving because they aided and abetted Trump in the very acts that led to his impeachment. Even more incredible was the fact that during this “trial”, a number of these Republican Senators met and conferred with Trump’s lawyers. In a real criminal court case, this would be deemed jury tampering, a criminal offense in itself. The culminating act of absurdity came after the vote when Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, stated in an interview that he was convinced that Trump was guilty, but voted to acquit him because of constitutional technicalities. I should note that these “technicalities” had been convincingly discredited and disproved by not only the prosecutors in the trial, but also by a wide majority of experts in constitutional law.
Needless to say, Trump was quick to boast that he was completely vindicated and continued his ludicrous claims of having overwhelmingly won the election and that the impeachment was nothing more than one of the biggest “witch hunts” in American history. What was more ominous, was his statement that his MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement, was just beginning and that America was not finished with him yet. Sadly, there are many millions of disaffected, angry and deluded cultists that are loyal to Trump and who are willing canon fodder for Trump’s ambitions to become an omnipotent American Caesar. In more modern terminology, he is nothing more than an aspiring fascist despot who has mastered the use of populism and demagoguery to create the political chaos in which he thrives.
The real question for America is what happens next. Trump will not go away quietly. The Republican party will undoubtedly take a hit in credibility and popularity. Many Republicans are very uncomfortable with how far to the right the party has swung under Trump. Significant numbers of the rank and file have begun leaving the party. A recent analysis of voting records by the New York Times showed that some 140,000 formerly registered Republicans had left the party in the wake of the January 6 insurrection. There is even discussion about forming a new political party that is closer to the center of the political spectrum.
And yet, as the impeachment trial has shown, most Republicans are too scared of the power and influence that Trump holds, to challenge him directly. Many are secretly hoping that Trump, now a private citizen, will succumb to the barrage of criminal and civil charges that will likely be initiated against him in the coming months. The Republican party has clearly lost its spine and sense of morals or ethics, and it will be interesting to see whether it is able to regain the stature and integrity it used to have.
Looking back upon the Trump presidency and its violent and unfortunate conclusion, one cannot help but feel that if Shakespeare were alive today, he would have the perfect material for an epic tragedy. Sadly, it would not be a work of fiction but a very disturbing reality.