Fear and Politics

Predictably, Democratic Senators have called on Donald Trump to appear before the Senate during his impeachment. Likewise, Donald Trump has rejected the request. I have no doubt his refusal arises from his scorn for the Democrats, but just as likely may come from his disdain for the Congress, the separation of powers, the Constitution, and the rule of law in general. Add in his repeatedly stated belief that he, not Joe Biden, is the duly elected President of the United States (the lie he has told so often it seems as though he must believe it), and his likewise less firm but definitely implied belief that the President is above the law, and his refusal to talk to Congress seems less predictable and more inevitable.

I want the House impeachment managers to subpoena Trump. He will not appear, and they will hopefully have him thrown in jail. I rather doubt they will, though.

His defense seems to center around the argument that what he told the mob on at the January 6th rally was factually correct: the election was indeed stolen. My mind boggles at the thought such a tactic might actually work, at least with some Republican members of Congress. They would like to acquit on the grounds that the Constitution does not allow for the impeachment of a president no longer in office, but that’s not what Trump wants. Their chosen method of letting him off the hook might allow for criminal indictment for insurrection, but they probably don’t want that, either.

The Republicans in Congress are nothing if not consistent: Trump matters above all else. They are his party, his toadies, his sycophants. They claim to be afraid of his base, and willingly throw aside any semblance of real patriotism and honor to cater to them.

Take the treatment of Liz Cheney and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Liz Cheney, who voted for impeachment, escaped the vote to strip her from her leadership role in the House by a comfortable margin. Then we have Marjorie Taylor Greene, a woman who espoused bizarre conspiracy theories (Jewish space lasers, anyone?), who approved of statements condoning assassination of Nancy Pelosi, and who in a campaign ad showed herself in front of pictures of several young members of Congress holding an AR-15. She lost her committeships, but it took an act of the entire House (read: majority Democrats) for that to happen. Only eleven Republicans stood against conspiracy and violence. And as one commentator noted, “if her behavior is not beyond the pale of Republicans, then what is?”

The difference between the two votes is obvious: one occurred in a closed caucus session by secret vote, and the other took place on the House floor with all the world watching. Given how hard it is to see how a Republican could support both Cheney and Greene, more than a hundred Representatives split their votes – courageous in secret, cowardly in public. 

Perhaps they fear violence at the hands of the hardest of the hard core Trumpers: Q-Anon, the Proud Boys, the Oathkeepers. God knows Democrats do – especially the newer, more liberal Democrats. On the floor of the House during the debate about Greene, Representative Rashida Tlaib tearfully related how she started receiving death threats even before she was sworn in. 

Imagine what it must be like to go to work every day with someone who just a year ago indicated they would like to shoot you. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has stated that white supremacist Representatives walk the halls of Congress, and she is afraid for her life. Given that Lauren Bobert of Arizona was tweeting the location of Speaker Pelosi as she was being moved to safety, and the reports that a member of Congress escorted people around the building the day before the insurrection, and that the House has had to consider rules levying fines for bringing firearms into the House chamber, AOC’s fear seems completely justified.

We find ourselves in a very dark place, when elected officials let fear guide them rather than principle. That has always been true to some extent, but never like this. I don’t know how we get back to the normal level of political opportunism.

Maybe we don’t.

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