Today the U.S. Senate will open the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. It will start with a bang of the Senate President’s gavel and the evidence presented will focus on the bang of gunfire in the United States Capitol slightly more than one month ago.
In other countries during that short time: The military leaders of Myanmar, the former Burma, staged a coup against their democratically elected government because they favor a military dictatorship.
And in Russia, untold thousands in cities and towns across the 11 time zones of the country protested against Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. They deeply want a democratically elected government. The opposition leader, Alexei Navalny was poisoned on the order of Putin, survived, returned to Russia was arrested and convicted on phony charges and sent to prison.
Today’s Senate trial centers on an attempted coup against the U.S. democracy by a large armed mob including active and retired military, law enforcement personnel and white supremacist and nationalist groups. We watched in horror on our televisions as Trump, the accused instigator of the coup attempt, was mesmerized watching a White House TV , according to news reports. The fact that the election result survived at least 60 court challenges satisfied neither Trump nor the blood-thirsty crowd.
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zalensky, leads a country in the long, dark shadow of Russia. Once a Soviet Socialist Republic, they fought and won their independence in 1991. Two weeks after the Capitol assault, he said in a televised interview, “I saw the invasion (of the Capitol) and was very concerned about a coup, the shooting and the loss of life. It’s very difficult now for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy.”
In July of 2017, Donald Trump tried to extort President Zalensky, by threatening to withhold defensive weapons from Ukraine, then under attack by Russia. This was just a few weeks after Trump’s “private” meeting with Putin in Warsaw, the details of which remain secret.
No description of the horror at the Capitol or the events leading up to it on January 6 is more graphic than the hours of video shown on television. Five died and many more were injured. It makes us look like the countries Donald Trump once cited as not deserving our foreign aid. He dismissed the “shining city on a hill” conjured by Ronald Reagan as a vision for America, in favor of fealty to a Putin-like authoritarianism.
Now Trump has been impeached for a second time – the first in our country’s history — and his sycophants in Congress are not ashamed, but afraid. They need the petty prestige and the illusion of power available only from “we the people” as they cut the ribbon opening the new sewer plant or put their name on a new post office in their district.
They are pathetic cowards who believe that without Trump’s support, even though he is a has-been, they may lose their jobs.
Members of Congress and their staffs were attacked. Some 370 of the staffers signed a letter to Senators demanding Trump be convicted. Nevertheless, his supporters in the Senate are spouting a series of procedural reasons he should not be found guilty as charged for “Inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”
The cult of Trump plans to poison our democracy by finding him not guilty. Felled Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued to delay the trial until after the inauguration, but now argues it would be “unconstitutional” to vote on impeachment after a president leaves office.
Donald Trump, Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and other legislators in the House and Senate spurred, some say led, the insurrectionist mob. They, too, share his iniquity and culpability.
President Biden wants unity and cooperation; however, Minority Leader McConnell demands on his own terms and his alone. His side lost, so for them, acceptance and repentance are the only legitimate options, and repentance in the absence of justice and accountability is hollow.
Republican legislators who have the will, morality and spine to do the right thing must do so.
Trump must be found guilty, or we will become Myanmar or Putin’s Russia. But as much as it begins with a bang, I fear it will end with a whimper.
Brian McGlynn is a journalist and essayist living in Mystic.