Republican deadenders, impeachment, and that pesky conservative value personal responsibility
Today I picked up a mystery set in Belfast in 1982. It opens with the discovery of a torso, chopped off at shoulders and knees, stuffed in a suitcase left at an abandoned factory. Police inspector Sean Duffy concludes that suicide can probably be ruled out. Duffy's description of his city goes like this:
Army helicopters flew low over the lough, sirens wailed in County Down, a distant thump-thump was the sound of mortars or explosions. The city was under a shroud of chimney smoke and the cinematographer, as always, was shooting it in 8mm black and white. This was Belfast in the fourteenth year of the low-level civil war euphemistically known as The Troubles. (Adrian McKinty, I Hear the Sirens in the Street)
Our Troubles are a ways yet from their fourteenth year, although the roots can be traced further back than we might care to think. That they are nearer beginning than end is all but guaranteed by the calculation on the part of the majority of the Republican Party congressional delegation and the party establishment generally to go full bore deadender for Donald Trump because they need Trumpist votes to win elections. Lindsey Graham laid it bare:
Without Trump’s help [in 2022] we cannot take back the House and the Senate. With his help, I think we can…If you’re wanting to erase Donald Trump from the party, you’re going to get erased…This idea of moving forward without Donald Trump in the Republican Party is a disaster for the Republican Party. (Wade, Graham Warns McConnell)
A second calculation drops all pretense that Republicans will try to win by virtue of the power of arguments advanced on behalf of principles and policies they endorse. The path to victory as they see it runs through legislation that will make voting more difficult for people in demographic groups that tend to vote Democratic, the presumption being that lower voter turnout benefits Republicans. The Republican chair of the election board in Gwinnett County, a Republican stronghold north of Atlanta, said that Republicans have to change election laws regulating absentee by mail voting and ballot drop boxes "so that we at least have a shot at winning" (Arielle Kass, Republican Gwinnett elections chair).
Forty-five Senate Republicans raced to take cover under the arguable (just barely) contention the impeachment of Donald Trump is unconstitutional because the seditious dog is no longer president. It requires allowance for beaucoup benefit of the doubt to resist denouncing this as a bogus contention that would not pass muster in a seventh-grade civics class.
impeach : 1 a : to bring an accusation against b : to charge with a crime or misdemeanor; specif : to charge (a public official) before a competent tribunal with misconduct in office c : to remove from office esp. for misconduct (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary Eleventh Edition)
For the record, the House impeached Donald Trump while he was still in office. He awaits trial in the Senate.
Here is what the Constitution has to say about impeachment (Article I covers the legislative branch, Article II the executive, Article III the judicial):
The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. (Article I, Section 2)
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law. (Article I, Section 3)
The President…shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. (Article II, Section 2)
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Article III, Section 4)
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury… (Article III, Section 2)
The clear murky language of the founders neither explicitly restricts impeachment to officials while they hold office nor prohibits impeachment after they have left office. The Senate 45's case rests on a fallacious inference from the fact that the provision for removal from office is the first mentioned of the two penalties the Senate may impose upon conviction. That the first element in the conjunction, removal from office, is not applicable in this instance does not give Trump a pass on the second element, disqualification from holding office in the future.
Perhaps in the manner of Scholastic philosophers of the Middle Ages, notorious for their hairsplitting, they might hold that because disqualification is the second element in the conjunction, it is of lesser weight and consequence, to be ignored when removal from office is no longer an option. This is a reach, to put it charitably. Nothing in the text suggests that the two options are anything but equal elements.
That noted constitutional scholar Rand Paul jumped on Chief Justice John Roberts' decision not preside over the Senate trial, thus, screeches the senator from Kentucky, rendering the trial illegitimate. Kim Wehle, professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, former assistant U.S. attorney, and associate independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, takes Roberts and Paul to task for this sophistry (Where’s the Chief?). Citing a report issued by the House Judiciary Committee in February 1974 on the "inevitable ambiguities in the constitutional text," Wehle concludes that
The chief justice of the United States should likewise adhere to this vision of the immense importance of the role of impeachment in our constitutional system rather than leave the process entirely to the politicians, based on what seem like textual gymnastics. (The Supreme Court has declined to comment on Roberts’s decision.)
Sen. Leahy is hardly unbiased, having voted to convict Trump the first time around. The lack of bias—or even the appearance of bias—is precisely why federal judges have lifetime appointments devoid of the pressures of re-election. Both parties in Congress, along with the chief justice, have assisted in a cheapening of a hallowed lever of presidential accountability. Once again, it’s the people who lose.
The Oregon Republican Party demonstrated that it intends to take a backseat to none when it comes to deadender dingbattery with a resolution that the January 6 assault on the Capitol was a false flag operation to "discredit Pres. Trump…and conservative Republicans." To their credit the state legislature's House GOP caucus pushed back with this statement: "There is no credible evidence to support false flag claims…we are in a crisis and that crisis requires steady leadership and action, not partisan rhetoric. The election is over. It is time to govern."
Republicans are quick to tout their devotion to the principle of personal responsibility as a core conservative value, never more so than when the issue of public assistance crops up. On other occasions, maybe not so much.
Tale the case of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (QAnon–GA), whose Facebook and Twitter accounts have reportedly been adorned with comments, videos, and "likes" that express approval of QAnon conspiracy theories, claims that the Parkland, Florida, school shooting was a false flag operation, and calls for execution of Nancy Pelosi, to name but a few. Greene showed her leadership skills when she responded to criticism by passing the buck: "Over the years, I've had teams of people manage my pages. Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views." Not her responsibility. Now come reports that she "has removed dozens of Facebook posts from 2018 and 2019 in which she endorsed fringe conspiracy theories and repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians" (Steck, Kaczynski, Greene removes social media posts).
And let us not forget those conservative stalwarts who justify their actions on January 6 with the kindergartner's excuse that President Trump told them to do it (Colson, Capitol rioters). Not their responsibility.
It certainly appears that people like Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger are outliers within the Republican domain. I am hard-pressed to fathom where we go from here. Those of us on the left and even the Democratic center may disagree with Romney et al. to a greater or lesser degree on pretty much everything, but we need them because the alternative is to cede the Republican Party to the deadenders Graham, Paul, Cruz, and the rest of their crew, and the QAnon caucus spearheaded by Greene and Boebert.
References and related reading
Thomas Colson, Capitol rioters say Trump told them to do it, which some legal experts say could open him to criminal charges, Business Insider, January 18, 2021
Sarah Ferris, Melanie, Zanona, Pelosi rips GOP leaders for sticking with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Politico, January 28, 2021
Ferris, Zanona, GOP under pressure to take action against Marjorie Taylor Greene, Politico, January 29, 2021
Arielle Kass, Republican Gwinnett elections chair resists calls to step down, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 20, 2021
Paul LeBlanc, Video surfaces of Marjorie Taylor Greene confronting Parkland shooting survivor with baseless claims, CNN, January 28, 2021
Sam Levine, Republicans considering more than 100 bills to restrict voting rights, The Guardian, January 28, 2021
Em Steck, Andrew Kaczynski, Marjorie Taylor Greene removes social media posts amid scrutiny of past controversial comments, CNN, January 28, 2021
Peter Wade, Graham Warns McConnell: GOP Won’t Survive Impeachment, Rolling Stone, January 20, 2021
Kim Wehle, Republicans Are Giving Rogue Presidents a Pass by Redefining Impeachment, Politico, January 29, 2021
Wehle, Where’s the Chief? John Roberts should be presiding over the Senate’s second Trump impeachment trial, The Bulwark, January 29, 2021