John Colson: How will history treat the Trump debacle?
Hit & Run
My most fervent hope on this day is that history, the ultimate arbiter of a nation’s success or failure, will be deeply and firmly unkind to twice-impeached former President Donald Trump, to his administration and his enablers, and to his “base.”
But wait: Right after my mind expressed that hope, my senses of logic and reality kicked in, and I remembered that history is written by the winners.
And in the immediate calculus of two-party politics, Trump and his crowd have won a victory of sorts when he evaded conviction, by a vote of 57 (guilty) to 43 (not guilty) on the impeachment charge of inciting the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. That’s 10 votes shy (Republicans only) of the number needed to convict Trump and prevent him from ever running for high elective office again.
In the hope that reason will prevail through the aftermath of that embarrassing non-conviction, though, I believe Saturday’s exoneration of Trump may well turn out to be a pyrrhic victory as the national Republican Party increasingly has all the earmarks of an imploding mass of irreconcilable contradictions and internecine conflict.
At the very least, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have a very hard time maintaining his balance on the razor’s edge he is treading as he tries to balance his need to appear statesmanlike against his hypocritical, cynical and un-American toadying to the group of pitiable deplorables known as Trump’s “base.”
As for the 43 senators whose cynical, self-serving votes to acquit Trump are now a matter of record (check it out on the U.S. Senate website, senate.gov), it can only be hoped that some of them, at least, will face some sort of consequence for their willingness to undermine our democratic republic in favor of the despotic will of a narcissistic, viciously petulant 6-year-old in a bloated, oddly-hued, 74-year-old body.
Going back to the question of how history will treat this moment, my expectation is that it will rank among the lowest, nastiest chapters in our ongoing national experiment in democratic governance.
Why should that be the judgment of historians?
Well, let’s see, we have just un-elected a president who trashed our national government in every way that he could, paying particular attention to anything that smacked of environmental oversight, help for the downtrodden and underserved in our population, international cooperation to deal with global threats and problems, and plain old decency in public discourse and demeanor.
He also lied like a bear rug whenever it suited his purposes, including in the aftermath of the non-conviction.
Here is what he said in a press statement (remember, he’s still banned from Twitter) on Feb. 13: “It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.”
Without blushing or blinking, by that statement, he took everything implied or contained in the Article of Impeachment and attributed it all to Democrats.
“Denigrate the rule of law?” Trump has ignored any laws that displeased him, including his own Oath of Office, which has the legal weight of history behind it.
“Defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree?”
Well, I guess calling on his base to defile the Capitol Building, kill one police officer, badly injure more than 100 other cops and bring about the deaths of five others during a massive insurrection might not qualify as defamation. But it certainly is not a sign of respect or evidence of being “a champion for the unwavering rule of law.”
And “cheering mobs” is what Trump has done for all of the five years he has been either running for president or serving in that capacity, as long as the mobs were his to rule.
Again, that describes Trump to a “T,” both at campaign rallies where his supporters would beat and berate anyone not on his side, and at the Jan. 6 insurrection, at least until the riot was over and it was safe for him to say some obviously insincere words of calming and dismissal.
And now he’s out, nursing his aggrieved sense of entitlement as a private citizen, and facing a number of possible criminal and civil charges as the only potential direct consequence of his actions while president, since the craven Republican Party has once again picked politics over justice.
The problem of Trump, however, remains with us. He wants to run again, and if he is allowed back on Twitter he might just win.
At which point, I’m sure he will do everything in his power to erase from the history books his unique place as the only president ever to be impeached twice.
Of course, if we are dealt another four years of Trump, we may not have much of a country left, so maintaining a truthful historical record could be the least of our problems.
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: This column has been update to correct the count of the impeachment vote in the Senate to 57 (guilty) and 43 (not guilty).
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