The 43 Senators of the Republican Sedition Caucus Are Every Bit As Guilty as Donald Trump

Voters must be reminded in 2022 that senators like Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson chose partisanship over their constitutional duty.

re printed from The Nation

February 18, 2021

by John Nichols

The 43 Republican senators who blocked the conviction of Donald Trump for the high crime of inciting insurrection to overturn the results of the 2020 election refused—for reasons of ideological delusion and blind partisanship—to hold a guilty man to account.

Despite Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s pathetic attempt to suggest otherwise—in one of the most intellectually dishonest speeches ever delivered in a chamber that has considerable experience of intellectual dishonesty—the senators who sided with Trump are now every bit as guilty as the seditious former president to whom they sold their political souls.

For that to happen, however, Democrats must recognize the genius of impeachment: that the impeaching of a president occurs on two levels. There is the formal process that occurs in the House and the Senate. And there is the informal process of indicting an errant president, and his defenders, in the eyes of the American people.

The 43 Republican senators who blocked the conviction of Donald Trump for the high crime of inciting insurrection to overturn the results of the 2020 election refused—for reasons of ideological delusion and blind partisanship—to hold a guilty man to account.

Despite Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s pathetic attempt to suggest otherwise—in one of the most intellectually dishonest speeches ever delivered in a chamber that has considerable experience of intellectual dishonesty—the senators who sided with Trump are now every bit as guilty as the seditious former president to whom they sold their political souls.

And every bit as deserving of electoral rejection.

For that to happen, however, Democrats must recognize the genius of impeachment: that the impeaching of a president occurs on two levels. There is the formal process that occurs in the House and the Senate. And there is the informal process of indicting an errant president, and his defenders, in the eyes of the American people.

History tells us that impeachments do not have to conclude with a conviction, or even a Senate trial, to matter. They can continue for so long as the people demand accountability. The fight simply moves from the Capitol to the polling place—as it did in 1974 when Richard Nixon quit the White House and avoided a House impeachment vote and a Senate trial, only to see Republicans lose four Senate seats and 48 House seats.

The 1974 election results remind us that one of the vital aspects of any meaningful impeachment is the extension of the indictment beyond the president who has committed specific high crimes to include those members of Congress who engage in the high crime of defending a guilty man. The key is to recognize that a process that may not bring accountability in the Capitol can do so at the ballot box.

AN ELECTORAL RECKONING

Voters in 2022, 2024, and 2026 can and should punish the 43 Republican senators who now make up the chamber’s sedition caucus. A few of the senators who protect Trump will avoid political justice by choosing not to run again. The rest must face an electoral reckoning.

In some states, the work has already begun. A billboard outside Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s hometown identifies the Trump-aligned Republican as “Treason Johnson” and stamps the word “Resign” across his face. It was erected by Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, one of a number of Democrats who are preparing to challenge the incumbent. “The trial may be over, but we won’t forget this,” Nelson said on Saturday. “The billboard I put up is a reminder that Ron Johnson should be held accountable for today’s vote and his traitorous actions. He should resign, and if he doesn’t, I’ll be the one to beat him in 2022.”

In Missouri, Democrat Scott Sifton launched his challenge to Senator Roy Blount, the chair of the Republican Policy Committee, with a double-pronged assault on Blount and the state’s most controversial Trump sycophant, Senator Josh Hawley. A former legislator, Sifton produced a powerful video that opens with an image of Hawley raising his fist in solidarity with the fascist mob that was preparing to storm the Capitol on January 6. “When he raised his fist and betrayed our democracy, Josh Hawley showed us who he really is. And when Senator Blunt was too weak to stand up to his party’s lies, he showed us who he is too,” says Sifton. “So next year when that Senate seat is on the ballot, we, the people of Missouri, need to show who we are.”

Nelson and Sifton are doing it right. So is the Florida Democratic Party, which ripped into Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who embarrassed himself during the trial by floating the delusional suggestion that if Trump were convicted as an immediately former president, then Hillary Clinton could be impeached as a distantly former secretary of state. Florida Democratic Party chair Manny Diaz argued that Rubio had “declared open season on our democracy by voting to condone an insurrectionist attack on our government, an attack unquestionably incited by Donald Trump.” Along with the state’s other Republican senator, Rick Scott, Diaz said that Rubio had “pledged loyalty to Trump above their duty to our country and the Constitutional oath they swore to uphold before God.”

RON JOHNSON’S CONSPIRACY THEORIES

On the top of any list of vulnerable Republicans is Ron Johnson. Like Missouri Senator Hawley and Texas Senator Ted Cruz—both of who are serving terms that run through the 2024 election—Johnson positioned himself during the impeachment trial as a belligerent Trump loyalist. On Saturday, the Wisconsinite yelled at a fellow Republican, Utah Senator Mitt Romney, for voting to hear witnesses. After the clash, Johnson complained that hearing the facts would only “inflame the situation” and screeched, “We never should have had this impeachment trial. It’s just like opening up a wound and just rubbing salt in it.”

On Monday, he tried to explain away his vote by questioning the seriousness of the attack on the Capitol, telling a Wisconsin right-wing radio host, “This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me.”

Why was Johnson so determined to downplay the violence that shocked the world on January 6? Why was he so aggressive in seeking to block witnesses and avert accountability? Because the senator knew that an honest examination of Trump’s guilt would shed light on his own culpability as an inciter of insurrection. In December, when he still chaired the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson fed the hysteria that culminated in the attack on the Capitol by organizing a hearing that entertained the most outrageous of the lies Trump was promoting with regard to the election.

Since then, Johnson has continued to peddle conspiracy theories—speculating before the trial that Democrats were impeaching Trump in order to divert attention from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s supposed “blame” for the deadly riot. The senator offered no evidence to support his claim about the California Democrat, who was a target of the insurrectionists. Yet he asked, “Is this another diversionary operation? Is this meant to deflect away from potentially what the speaker knew and when she knew it?” A breathless Johnson concluded, “I don’t know, but I’m suspicious.”

What was suspicious was the senator’s ludicrous speculation. The same could be said of his claim that the Democrats were guilty of mounting a “vindictive and divisive political impeachment” that got in the way of “healing.” By Johnson’s standard, no political figure would ever be held to account—not even for inciting deadly violence.

THE PEOPLE ARE WHAT COUNT

Johnson and the other 42 Republicans who opposed accountability now want to “move on.”

But voters should never forget that these Republican senators refused to respect the essential calculus of the Constitution.

Lead impeachment manager Representative Jamie Raskin laid out that calculus: “Our Framers were so fearful of presidents becoming tyrants and wanting to become kings that they put the Oath of Office into the Constitution. They inscribed it into the Constitution to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ the Constitution of the United States.”

While the founders hoped that the oath would inspire honorable leaders to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States,” Raskin explained, they were not so naive as to imagine a future in which only the honorable would occupy the Oval Office. So they awarded policing authority to the Congress.

“We’ve got the power to impeach the president, but the president doesn’t have the power to impeach us. Think about that. The popular branch of government has the power to impeach the president; the president does not have the power to impeach us,” said Raskin, continuing: “All of us who aspire [to] and attain a public office are nothing but the servants of the people. And the way the framers would have it is: The moment that we no longer act as servants of the people but as masters of the people, as violators of the people’s rights, that is the time to impeach, remove, convict, disqualify, start all over again. Because the interests of the people are so much greater than the interests of one person, any one person, even the greatest person in the country. The interests of the people are what count.”

 

 

Our democracy faced a near-death experience. Here’s how to revive it.

Washington Post

Opinion: Stacey Abrams

Feb. 7, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. EST

The violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, coupled with ongoing threats to election officials, election orkers and lawmakers at all levels, represent unprecedented attacks on the foundations of our democracy. Certainly, President Donald Trump and others in his party who inspired the attacks must be held accountable through all available means. But accountability alone will not be nearly enough.

Only meaningful reforms can undo the damage done — and establish a government that is truly representative of the people. The next real test of our democracy comes now.

Make no mistake: Democracy may have survived this year, but President Biden and Vice President Harris were elected despite, not thanks to, weakened electoral systems. Together with the Democratic Congress, they now have the opportunity to implement reforms that reaffirm our nation’s promises that our country represents and works for everyone. We as Democrats must act before it is too late.

Our democratic system faces extraordinary threats today because of sustained attacks from Republican leaders who throw up roadblocks to voting and, among the worst actors, stoke the flames of white supremacy and hyper-nationalism to cling to power. There can be no clearer example than the covid-19 pandemic. The deaths of more than 450,000 people in the richest country in the world are symptomatic of a democracy in crisis and a political system that rewards cronyism over competence. Despite strong public support for the Centers for Disease Control’s work, the Affordable Care Act, and other economic justice and safety-net policies that could save lives, millions nevertheless continue to contract the disease without adequate access to health care.

No thinking person can deny that the communities of color disproportionately suffering and dying from this pandemic are also the people whose votes — and ability to hold failed leaders accountable — have been continuously suppressed.

The pandemic has been a collision of tragedy and corroded institutions, and the challenge is in how we respond. We can either engage in collective amnesia about what we have just lived through, and leave an unaccountable government in place, or we can rise to meet this moment by fixing the broken social compact. Defeating Trump was not enough. Meaningful progress on health care, racial justice and the economy requires aggressive action on voting rights, partisan gerrymandering and campaign finance.

One of the first steps must be an overhaul of the Senate filibuster, which has long been wielded as a cudgel against the needs of millions who struggle. Today, the parliamentary trick creates a more sinister threat to our nation: the ability of a minority of senators, who represent 41.5 million fewer people than the Senate majority, to block progress favored by most Americans.

Democrats in Congress must fully embrace their mandate to fast-track democracy reforms that give voters a fair fight, rather than allowing undemocratic systems to be used as tools and excuses to perpetuate that same system. This is a moment of both historic imperative and, with unified Democratic control of the White House and Congress, historic opportunity.

The agenda to restore democracy also includes passing the For the People Act to protect and expand voting rights, fight gerrymandering and reduce the influence of money in politics; the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; and the Protecting Our Democracy Act to constrain the corruption of future presidents who deem themselves above the law. These landmark bills have broad-based support, and would have passed long ago were it not for obstructionist leaders who fear losing their own influence if the American people have more power of their own.

Further, fixing our democracy requires we finally allow our fellow Americans in D.C. and Puerto Rico, the vast majority of whom are people of color, to have full access to our democracy. That means D.C. statehood and binding self-determination for Puerto Rico. In the District, as white extremist mobs destroyed the Capitol, murdered a police officer, and threatened the lives of elected officials and residents, Washingtonians were left defenseless because D.C. is not a state and its chief executive had no authority to deploy the National Guard.

Time is short. The forces standing against a democracy agenda seek to preserve and expand paths to power by shrinking the voting pool rather than winning voters over. In reaction to the historic turnout of 2020 and Democratic victories in places such as Georgia, already this year more than 100 bills have been put forward in state legislatures seeking to restrict voting access. Those efforts will not end without a fight.

We don’t know how many chances we will get to reverse our democracy’s near-death experience. We must not waste this one. We must go big — the future of democracy demands it.

Stacey Abrams is a former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and founder of the group Fair Fight.