By Barrington M. Salmon Contributing Writer @bsalmondc
Donald Trump and the Republican Party may have won the impeachment battle against the president by blocking witnesses and standing together, but critics say it will prove to be a victory that takes a heavy toll. The loser, they say, is the United States.
Protesters hold signs and sing outside the U.S. Capitol Jan 31, in Washington, as Senators continue the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. Photo: AP Photo/Steve Helber
Closing arguments from Mr. Trump’s legal team and House Managers concluded Feb. 3. At Final Call press time, the country was prepared to hear from President Trump during his Feb. 4 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress with a looming Feb. 5 Senate vote to officially acquit him.
On Jan. 31, Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were able to fend off the furious month-long efforts of House Democrats to convince senators to allow witnesses to testify in the impeachment trial of President Trump.
In the end, the compelling evidence presented by House managers detailing President Trump’s abuse of power and his attempts to convince Ukrainian government officials to launch an investigation designed to politically damage potential rival Joe Biden meant nothing. Members of the president’s defense team argued that the commander-in-chief had not committed any impeachable offenses, could not be prosecuted or impeached for his behavior, whatever it is, and—as retired Harvard Law School Prof. Alan Dershowitz asserted, President Trump could not be impeached if the actions he took were “in the public interest.”
Demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 31, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez
One by one, undecided “moderate” senators, Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Cory Gardner (Colorado) and Martha McSally (Arizona) announced they would not vote to allow witnesses to testify. Following that, the Republican-controlled Senate voted 51-49 to disallow witnesses after Democrats failed to persuade four Republican moderates to join them. With no witnesses to hear from, the trial proceeded to wrap up.
‘Nothing will change’
Even as the trial concluded, constitutional scholars, ethicists, historians, certain elected officials and others expressed dismay at the decision by Sen. McConnell and his fellow Republicans to eschew non-partisanship and abrogate their constitutional responsibility to be a check and balance on the executive branch. Many lament the damage Republican defenses of the president have and will have on Congress, other American institutions and the body politic.
Ohio native Maureen Curran, a lifelong Republican, has been frustrated since Mr. Trump ascended to the White House. As she watched the trial proceedings, she has become more disillusioned.
“We know it’s not going anywhere,” the neonatal nurse and self-described moderate Republican said of the impeachment trial. “I guess I’m disheartened. I’m not sure what Trump’s hold is over these people. He’s not as powerful as they think. I’m not afraid of him. If I was an elected official, I would lose my job with dignity. At some point in your life you have to have personal pride. If this was Obama, I’d be saying the same thing,” she said.
“Everyone has already made up their mind. They are voting party instead of country. They work for us but seem to have forgotten that. The country is tired of all this. Nothing is going to change, and the Senate won’t impeach or remove him.”
“With no censure he will go on, do more questionable things and say, ‘I did it. So what?’ ” she said. “As a citizen watching this, it’s discouraging, disheartening. This makes us really realize that neither party has us as a priority. It’s really sad. We have been reduced to this. He doesn’t represent my father or I.”
Veteran labor organizer Bill Fletcher, Jr., thinks the corruptness of the impeachment trial process will energize anti-Trump resistors.
“The substance of the charges is documented and has been proven. The substance is what the Democrats presented,” Mr. Fletcher told The Final Call. “For a long time, I was against impeachment until Ukraine. It was so blatant.”
“He will always be the impeached president and he is forever hurt by this, but it is dangerous with Donald Trump because of his fragile ego. He can say that the elections were stolen and people will hit the streets. It’s entirely possible that he’ll declare martial law or choose to ignore the results if he loses in November,” added Mr. Fletcher.
A District of Columbia resident, who said she’s been watching the impeachment hearings and trial, was frustrated and dismayed by the Republican senators’ failure to do their constitutional duty.
“I’ve been watching and listening. It’s really disappointing that Republicans have chosen Trump and their long-term interests over that of the country,” said the attorney and business executive, who because of the toxic nature of political discourse requested anonymity.
“They have used false process arguments to acquit him. At the agency level, institutional knowledge is leaving, there’s a brain drain, a lack of talent and them polarizing people who are staying. The attack on the Constitution is a real problem. They’re making sure that the Constitution is radically impacted. Constitutionally, getting anything done will be hampered for a generation,” she added. “There is a record number of people without health insurance, the financial recovery has never been a reality for poor people and when we consider the impact of dismantling the state on ordinary Americans … .”
She and any number of Trump administration critics argue that cabinet officials and others who support his agenda are dismantling agencies, weakening laws, reversing or trying to erase Obama era regulations, eviscerating environmental and labor and workforce protections and packing the courts with nominees who are arch-conservative but mostly unqualified, activist jurists. Many refuse to answer whether they consider Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade as settled law.
“Trump has given life and breath to White supremacy,” she said. “Can we put someone in place to replace the infrastructure? I’m a hyper-realist. We won’t see a radical restoration of racial justice whoever we elect, but he might put it back the way it was. At a bare minimum, we need some restoration (of norms and institutions). I think we’re in a worst situation than when Michael Brown died. What happens next?”
Dr. James Pope, Jr., said America’s true and unvarnished nature has been laid bare. “You know the overwhelming thought I have as I balance my competing priorities is that we are watching, in live and vivid color, the reverberations of the myths that the United States was built upon: settler colonialism, narrow and contradictory notions of equality, justice, freedom and the implications of racial capitalism on human and natural resources,” said Dr. Pope, associate professor and program coordinator of Africana Studies at Winston Salem State University.
“I know this may be a bit more complex to understand by some, because we often are caught in the moment of crisis. However, every crisis is always rooted in a longer trajectory,” he added.
“What we are witnessing is the true face of ‘democracy’ that was born in the milieu of Western Europe defining itself, through the exploitation of itself and others. We cannot forget that the U.S. was an outgrowth of this internal strife between warring clans—the aristocracy—those who rule by birthright, as ordained by ‘God’ and those who challenged this birthright rule—a financial class. This conflict is and has been played out over time and space. However, the myths upon which each of these clans justified their existence are turning on themselves.”
“The system (Whiteness) is (re)consolidating, not for a narrow conceptualization of the now moment or for the election or some moral, just stand. The system is seeking a (re)consolidation in the face of a perceived threat to its mythical authority, the growing Black and Brown population, economic and planetary crisis and war,” said Dr. Pope, who specializes in comparative African and Diasporic history and politics as well as international relations.
In an interview he granted The Final Call three years ago, Mr. Fletcher said President Trump is being used by conservatives and the political and economic elite “as a blunt force object, an effective mechanism to move their long-term agenda” which is to ensure that power in America remains in the hands of a White minority.
Nothing has changed since he gave that interview, he said, in fact, since then, the fear and apprehension White people feel has intensified.
“This hardened right wing party is very aware of the coming environmental catastrophe and economic fragility and they are trying to secure power before the catastrophe. They are less concerned with the pretense of democracy,” said Mr. Fletcher, a talk show host, racial justice, labor and international activist and author.
He also argued that the political right has made race central to their organizing approach and message, and contends that fear of demographic change is driving the White nationalist agenda.
“There is a growing crisis within the settler state of the U.S., brought on by a convergence of economic, environmental and demographic factors. This is also a White nationalist revolt against everything we won in ‘60s,” said Mr. Fletcher. “As America experiences a seismic demographic shift and becomes browner, the fear of a Black and Brown planet and trepidation about the loss of power is fueling desperate efforts to thwart Black advancement, their access to the vote and political, social and economic power.”
“When you think about what Trump said during the election, he’s demonstrated how much there is to lose,” said Mr. Fletcher, chairman of the board of directors for the International Labor Rights Forum and executive editor of The Black Commentator. “Affirmative action, denaturalization—who are they gonna be coming after? Africans, Caribbeans, Asians and anyone who raises hell. We have a lot to fear and lot to lose.”
Political analyst and author Dr. Wilmer Leon, III said he has watched the tussle between Democrats and Republicans with fascination, especially when revelations from former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton’s upcoming book threatened to upend the trial. In Mr. Bolton’s book, which is expected to be published soon, he says he was in the room when Mr. Trump said he wanted military aid withheld from Ukraine until it agreed to investigate the Bidens. In the wake of that revelation, Mr. Trump strenuously denied that he said that.
“The whole tide shifted with Bolton,” said Dr. Leon, a talk show host, commentator and academic. “This is a struggle among elites in this country—financial versus military elites—and Donald Trump is in the middle of it. They’re fighting over domestic and foreign policy. The military don’t know if they can trust him because of North Korea and Iran and he’s wreaking havoc with tariffs and trade wars.”
With regard to the impeachment trial, Dr. Leon asked, “Are the Democrats playing to win or playing not to lose? I think they’re doing the latter. Losing means they don’t control the narrative.”
Sen. McConnell is customarily playing games and outwitting his Democratic counterparts, he observed. While there were reports that as many as 12 Republicans were said to be amenable to calling witnesses, most are too fearful of the president’s wrath and of upsetting his base, observers argued.
“Fear of the Trump base is real, but it depends on where you are,” said Dr. Leon. “The base is not really as big as people suggest but they are vocal and well-funded. The question is, are you strong enough to withstand his base?”