By Nikhil Vaish
The Republican Party had a choice to make and I hoped the party that abolished slavery and enabled the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, overriding a Democrat filibuster, would again rise to the occasion and do the right thing for their country.
Even though I support the Democratic party, I am one of their harshest critics. In fact, I have been critical of the way the Democrats behaved during the most of Trump years and said on numerous occasions that their constant hysteria and crying wolf were detrimental to winning over a majority of voters.
It was wrong for Democrats to publicly call for the President’s head, days after he won the 2016 election. Democrats were misguided in the amount of time and taxpayer money they wasted on investigating every aspect of the President’s public and private life in a bid to remove him from office through any means possible.
Also, I did not agree with the Democrat’s first impeachment of President Trump, for his call with the Ukrainian President. On the call Mr. Trump clumsily tried to pressure President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son. What Mr. Trump did was wrong and reprehensible, but did not rise to the level of impeachment. President Zelensky himself stated that he never felt pressure from Mr. Trump, or his administration, to investigate Hunter Biden. Further, the absence of any evidence pointing to a broader conspiracy or direct orders from the President to members of his administration, is the reason Democrats failed to convince a majority of voters.
Impeachment should not be used frivolously or as a tool for political vengeance. In this instance a whistleblower had come forward to alert Congress of the President’s inappropriate behaviour. So, one can argue that the checks and balances worked, making a partisan impeachment, unnecessary. It is also fair to ask that if the media and elected leaders had not been so fully consumed and distracted by the impeachment trial last January, would we have paid more attention to the coronavirus pandemic that was just starting?
In Trump’s defense, conservatives argue that the mainstream media has shown an open bias and complete lack of objectivity when covering Mr. Trump and his administration. A Harvard study concluded that the media set “a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.”
Another double standard that is cited by conservatives is the fact that the media does not devote the same time and attention calling out Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters, who urged people to seek out and harass Trump staffers. Or liberal protestors who menacingly confronted Republican lawmakers that voted to confirm Justice Kavanaugh. They also point out that there was no outcry when Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer publicly threatened Justices Gorsuch and Kavanagh over their views on abortion. Republican Senator Ben Sasse summed up this double standard saying; “Think about it: “If a Republican threatened Justice Sotomayor or Justice Ginsburg, it would be the biggest story not just in Washington but all across America.”
To be clear, I am not defending Mr. Trump and have always said that he is a reprehensible conman and unprincipled charlatan. The point is that finding a president distasteful and his views vile does not mean we get to hold him to a different standard. We must never have a set of standards for people we like, and a different one for those we disdain. The health of our democracy relies on a doctrine of fairness and equal treatment for all.
Just as I will call out the mainstream media for their lack of fairness and Democrats for bad behavior, I refuse to absolve Mr. Trump’s reckless abdication of duty, leading up to and after the election. The facts in this case are strong.
For months Mr. Trump made it clear that he would refuse to accept the election results if he lost. As early as June last year he claimed that the election was going to be rigged and he tweeted: “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” and proceeded to use the word “rigged” more than 75 times in tweets between May and October.
Based on this evidence alone it is hard to refute that the president was clearly laying the groundwork for his lies in the event that he lost the election.
After it became clear that he had lost, the President was within his rights to legally challenge the election results. In 2000, Mr. Gore refused to concede to Mr. Bush until December 13, after there had been a full recounting of votes in Florida and after weeks of legal battles.
Trump’s lawyers filed a record 62 lawsuits contesting the results, of which 61 were dismissed. Their lawsuits were thrown out for lack of evidence because Trump’s team based their allegations on a single person’s account and offered no corroborating evidence. In other instances suits were dismissed for ‘lack of standing’. These dismissals were universal and came from 86 different judges, both Democratic and Republican-appointed, and included scathing rebukes from at least nine federal judges appointed by Trump.
Whether you agree with Mr. Trump’s legal challenges or think them frivolous, we cannot deny the president due process. However, what the former president does not have the right to do, and it amounts to abuse of office and dereliction of duty, is to perpetuate lies about the election being stolen and claiming widespread voter fraud, without offering a shred of evidence.
Trump and his legal team also spent weeks making false statements and spreading conspiracy theories on various media channels and in press briefings. The president’s statements were clearly designed to inflame passions. He repeatedly called on supporters to fight and refuse to give up. Not only did he urge them to “fight” but even told them when and where to show up, tweeting on December 19: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” “Be there, will be wild!”
The president cannot feign ignorance about the consequences of his rhetoric prior to the Capital riots. Leading up to January 6, there had been instances of armed protestors surrounding the homes of elected officials. Georgia’s Secretary of State, a Republican, received death threats, with people texting him saying that he deserved to face a firing squad. Numerous Republican officials also warned Mr. Trump that his rhetoric was dangerous and would lead to real violence, but he chose to ignore them and continued to fan the flames.
Not only did president Trump refuse to tone down his rhetoric but he proceeded to violate federal and state election laws by attempting to pressure Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, begging him to overturn the election results by finding him 11,870 votes.
Democratic impeachment managers did a good job making their case but one thing I didn’t agree with is that the evidence showed that president Trump directly incited a ransacking of the Capitol. He did however, direct an angry mob to march towards the Capitol building and encouraged them to put pressure on the Senate and the Vice President to overturn the election results.
Trump’s subsequent silence and refusal to take action after the assault was underway, and it was clear that lives were in danger, showed that he was willing to let the violence continue in a bid to up the ante. We know that desperate calls from lawmakers in his own party, urging the president to call off his supporters, fell on deaf ears. At one point, Mr. Trump told House minority leader Kevin McCarthy that rioters seemed more upset about the election than he was. Hours later, when he reluctantly issued a public statement, after being forced by advisors and family members, he still ended the day with a tweet praising the rioters and sending them love.
Some years ago, I explained why the party of Lincoln had come to reside in Donald Trump’s trousers. When the party started to welcome conspiracy theorists and extremists into their ranks, with the naïve belief they could control these forces, they began a process that lead to a hostile takeover by Mr. Trump and now by acquitting him they have sealed the fate of the Grand Old Party.
However, we must not forget the ten Republican congresswomen and men who voted to impeach despite grave personal and political risk. They have been censured by their party and are getting death threats. Seven Republican Senators also followed their conscience and put country before party. No Democrats have ever voted to convict a president from their own party.
So, while this may feel like a victory for president Trump it is not, because seventeen brave women and men made it clear that Mr. Trump no longer has an absolute hold on their party.