Editorial: Trump’s acquittal is dangerous for America, but more dangerous for Republicans

Editorial: Trump's acquittal is dangerous for America, but more dangerous for Republicans

Abraham Franchetti, Editor

On May 5, 2016, Senator Lindsay Graham (R- SC) tweeted, “if we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed… and we will deserve it.”

Almost five years later, this prophecy has undoubtedly come true.  Republicans have lost control of the Presidency, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.  They had only one major legislative victory, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the new administration has already promised to counteract.  Lindsay Graham has become one of Trump’s biggest fans, and as the party’s power in D.C. has waned, Trump’s control of it has become almost absolute. 

The 2018 midterm elections, and more recently, Georgia’s runoff election races, highlight the specific consequences of Trump’s stranglehold.  Georgia, once an unquestioned portion of the southern block, has suddenly become home to two Democratic senators, both of whom overcame a Republican plurality in the general election.  

How did this happen?  Georgia requires that candidates win not just more votes than anyone else, but more than 50% of the total vote.  David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the Republicans each beat Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in their respective races, but without a majority.  So, runoff elections were scheduled a few months after the general election, which then President-Elect Biden had won. 

At the same time, Trump’s personal obsession with winning Georgia’s presidential race, which had already been recounted and verified numerous times, put him at odds with Georgia’s Republican Governor and Secretary of State, whom he described as “RINO” or “Republicans in name only.”  In addition to further encouraging Democratic voters and maintaining their resolve after winning the Presidential race, Trump demoralized enough Republican voters to allow Warnock and Ossoff to significantly outperform their results from the general election.  

This course of events can only be understood in the context of Trump’s notorious narcissism.  Had it proven successful, Trump’s quest to “find 11,780 votes” and overturn Georgia’s results wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the Presidential election in any meaningful way.  He still would’ve lost to President Biden.  Acknowledging this fact, current and hopeful Republican office holders should be afraid.  Donald Trump, kingpin of the Republican party, is willing to sacrifice any race, no matter how crucial, to soothe his ego. 

Even after losing the Senate Majority and the presidency, ambitious Republican populists like Senator Josh Hawley (R- MO) and over one hundred House Republicans planned to object to the election results in a show of fealty to Trump’s claims of election fraud.  Every American knows what happened next.  Trump’s D.C. rally on Jan. 6 became a bizarre, frightening, and deadly display of the rabid support he maintains. 

As a result of the Capitol Insurrection, Trump became the first President to be impeached twice.  Then, he became the first President to be acquitted twice.

There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In these words, McConnell tried to have his cake and eat it too: he could end up on the right side of history through an impassioned quote, but still maintain power in Trump’s party by refusing to hold him accountable.  He also missed an opportunity to unshackle the party from Trump’s grasp.  Had he been convicted, prevented from running from office, and condemned by Fox News, which he berated in the months leading up to the election, Trump’s power would have been significantly reduced.  With a permanent ban on Twitter, intense financial scrutiny and multiple legal probes, Trump may never again have come to the spotlight. 

Once these facts are understood it becomes clear why Trump is so dangerous to the Republican Party.  Under his leadership, the Republican establishment has hemorrhaged power. Not only have they lost to Democrats in national and state elections, far right extremists, including members of the Qanon conspiracy such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), have made it as far as Congress, forcing future candidates to continue to capitulate to extremist groups in primaries and general elections.  And, at the same time, Trump himself has added to this by negatively interfering in state races and attempting to purge the Republican party of those perceived as disloyal. 

So far this has been successful.  Conservative critics have either come to heel like the aforementioned Sen. Graham, left the political spotlight like former Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, or have been pushed from the party, like former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  The most glaring example has been the treatment of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo), who faced a leadership challenge and censure from her state party because of her unapologetic impeachment vote.  Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is often viewed as an up and coming Republican with deep establishment ties.  She now faces at least one primary opponent in the 2022 election. 

In an even more insane series of events, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) received a letter from eleven members of his family disowning him for being in “the devil’s army” because he voted to impeach Trump.  Copies of that letter were sent to other Illinois Republicans and fellow Congressmen to urge them to disavow Kinzinger.  This dogmatic devotion, under which someone is a “disappointment” to his family “and to God” for holding one man accountable, whether he’s the president or not, is a troubling sign. 

As of now, the Republican party is a shadow of its former self.  Although he will likely not regain the Presidency, Trump’s lingering presence and a vocal far right influence present significant danger to moderate Republicans running for statewide and national office.  As a result, by acquiting Trump, Senate Republicans may have harmed themselves more than they harmed America.  Only time will tell if the Republican party can break free of Trump’s influence.