February 8, 2021 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
The Senate’s barbarous Republicans
The former president isn't the only one on trial.
No serious person thinks the United States Senate is going to convict Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection against the United States. Forty-five Republicans have already said they do not believe prosecuting a former president is constitutional. They will likely unite in denying the chamber the two-thirds vote needed to convict him.
Forty-five Republicans will likely maintain that argument, though a constitutional scholar with impeccable conservative bona fides said it’s nonsense. “Given that the Constitution permits the Senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former officeholders, it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders,” wrote attorney Charles J. Cooper.
They pledge allegiance not to America but to its moral perversion, a bizarro world in which very powerful people at the top of society can insist something is true with it’s not.
Cooper isn’t alone. That doesn’t matter, and that’s what I want to talk about today. What does it mean when very powerful people at the top of society insist something is true when it’s not? In the case of Trump’s Senate trial, it will mean the Republicans won’t have the burden of listening to, or thinking about, the evidence against him. It will mean there’s something to the allegation that Republican Party is cracking up.
But these answers do not address the question squarely. What does it mean when very powerful people at the top of society insist something is true when it’s not? It means they can do anything as a direct result of being very powerful people at the top of society. They can deny the truth. They can, moreover, create their own (a story in which they are the heroes and everyone else is the enemy, a story in which the Democrats are seeking revenge instead of constitutional accountability). The House Democrats can’t prove to these Senate Republicans that Trump told seditionaries to sack and loot the United States Capitol. What they can do, however, is suggest something clearly to everyone else—that the power to deny the truth, and to create your own, is barbarous.
In a previous edition of the Editorial Board, I said Trump’s second impeachment trial is not meaningless, foremost because it will force the Republicans to declare their true loyalties. In defending Trump, they are declaring loyalty not to America as it stands, but to an imaginary nation-within-a-nation, a white-power confederacy of the mind and spirit seeking to carve out a country where a minority is protected but not bound by the law while a majority is bound but not protected by it. They pledge allegiance not to United States but to its moral and democratic perversion, a bizarro world in which very powerful people at the top of society can insist something is true with it’s not.
Moreover, they can create their own truth. As I said in another past column, the Republicans are terrible for the economy and the body politic, and lethal to literal bodies, because they have sought out more and better ways to lie to us. These lies are so numerous, ubiquitous and huge the memory of their pain lingers for years. Their lies have become totalizing such that morality is prolapsed and simple words turn out to mean their diametric opposite. The Big Lies have created “a system that makes people into one another’s enemies, victims, and oppressors,” as Jedediah Britton-Purdy once said, and “a system that keeps its people in the dark and gives them no way out. A system, that is, that makes the world as it is both inescapable and unintelligible.”
Tens of millions of Americans face eviction and homelessness due to unemployment related to a pandemic that is now inside its second year. Inequality was bad pre-covid. It’s unrecognizably bad post-. The death toll will be half a million people by the end of this month. The rich keep getting richer yet they shrug at Americans suffering, for wealth is for God’s chosen and the devil can take the rest. White-power vigilantes have merged with anti-vaccine renegades in the name of “freedom and liberty” to shut down inoculation centers set up by governments of, by and for the people. As Florida recorded the worst outbreak of the variant strain of the coronavirus, tens of thousands crowded the streets, unmasked, to celebrate the winners of the 2021 Super Bowl.
This—all of this—is barbarous.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.