I wrote here recently that there was not enough evidence to impeach President Trump. That the effort to do so was driven by vindictiveness and hatred of everything about him. Since I wrote that, those that disagreed with me based their arguments exclusively on the last four years, what a jerk he has been, and all the bad things he has said and done, etc.
None of the arguments were about what I wrote: that the video and transcripts did not contain any calls for violence or breaking into the Capitol, etc. Since impeachment is political and not objectively based justice, the articles of impeachment could have included information about the last four years and then there would be a different debate. But the weakly and hastily put together five-page impeachment articles barely contained any evidence about a Trump-directed insurrection.
The impeachment substance as contained in the articles, once you sort out all the fancy wording and the unhappiness, essentially consisted of one quote by him at the rally before the insurrection: “If you don’t fight like hell you are not going to have a country anymore.”
Now that the articles have been delivered to the Senate and the smoke is clearing, it is becoming increasingly clear that my analysis was correct. I have written before about the power of the party machines and how the machine system corrupts otherwise decent people to go along with the system despite what they really think is right/proper. In this case, the depth of feeling against Trump was/is so strong that even the role of the party machines (Preserve the Party First, You Second, Country Third) was thrown for a loop.
A clear-headed machine Democrat would step back, survey the landscape, and realize that the impeachment will hurt the party. A bit less than half the country voted for Trump – that’s a lot of voters that will be needed in the future.
Unity and magnanimity should be the strategy – bring more people into the fold – entice those eligible voters who disliked the Democrat response to Trump the last four years so much that they voted for Trump despite him being extremely difficult to actually like. I don’t know how big that portion of the electorate is (let’s take a poll! …wait… never mind) but in close elections we know even a small portion can be all the difference.
Talking about unity as President Biden did during his inauguration sounded like just talk and so far, it has been that – just talk. The impeachment will make the Democrats look vindictive with little to gain – Trump is already gone. It will distract the Democrat administration and Congress from not only actually getting work done, but even more destructively from a machine viewpoint – make it look to the public like they are not getting anything done and are more focused on politics than policy (which Republicans will like).
As the smoke clears even more, the public will see that the impeachment is illegitimate and counterproductive and the focus will shift to scrutinizing the motives (and affecting the fortunes) of the Democrats. It may be constitutional, but when the Chief Justice does not have to serve as the presiding officer and the opposition party can appoint its own long-time party official (Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont) to preside at the trial, it won’t be hard to smell something fishy.
When the impeached individual is not even present and is now a private citizen no longer in office (which is the point of impeachment), common sense says that the criminal justice system should take over the investigation. Of course, the problem for the Democrats is that there will be no criminal probe since no laws were broken by Trump — relating to insurrection anyway -– let alone high crimes and misdemeanors? Although in this day and age when seemingly everything and everyone has become politicized – don’t hold me to that prediction.
The Democrat machine will wake up to this reality – the question is – will it wake up in time to put this to bed as quickly as possible and shift the focus onto other things. Much of the media dislikes Trump probably more than the machine Democrats do (since party people are used to fighting and can respect opponents on some level) so let the media continue their campaign against Trump and keep the party focused on getting things done and expanding the voter base.
My bet is that the machine will wake up, and the trial will be rushed through to a quick whimpering non-conclusion. Now that Trump is gone, maybe predictions like this one will have more reliability.
Alan Calandro of Burlington is the former Director of the state’s Nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.