First, the quality of Republican members of Congress is abysmally low. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday acknowledged that “the president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” But he couldn’t support impeachment. In other words, McCarthy concedes the egregiousness of Trump’s behavior, but he cannot find the decency and honor to seek the president’s removal. McCarthy’s only discernible argument was that there would not be time to remove Trump before a new president takes office, which is laughable since Republicans control the Senate and therefore the schedule for the impeachment trial. It was a shameful display by a weak, hollow politician.
Other Republicans voting against impeachment argued that Democrats had done bad things. Or that, contrary to what Americans saw on television, the mob acted on its own. Or that impeachment would be divisive (unlike allowing sedition to go unpunished, one supposes). The moral and intellectual degeneration of the Republican Party was there for all too see. Cheney’s vote was all the more impressive considering the colleagues she must work with, some of whom now want to remove her from her No. 3 position in Republican leadership.
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who does not have the nerve or the votes to summon members back swiftly — put out a written statement that said he was open to impeachment. “I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate," he told his members.
Second, the stain of Trump will remain with the GOP for a good long time, given the broad support he received from House members who are still under the thumb of a demagogue and his MAGA mob. Corporations that vowed not to give money to the 147 Republicans who challenged electoral votes after the Capitol attack will be hard-pressed to lift their ban, but it will require an enormous effort on the right to primary those lawmakers. Democrats may be able to win back some of the seats they lost in the 2020 elections to moderates who foolishly joined McCarthy. However, the grip that Trumpism has on the GOP remains for now. As a result, people of good conscience who have not already done so must decamp from a party that now embraces white nationalists and excuses sedition.
Finally, the Senate will have to decide whether to stick with Trump, McCarthy and the raving House Republicans or to cling to respectability and rationality. If a large contingent of Senate Republicans stand by Trump, it will only reinforce the image of a party that countenances sedition and rejects democracy. The Senate will need to consider censure for some of its more visible pro-sedition members.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), the lawmaker who gave a clenched-fist salute to the mob as it approached the Capitol, has lost the support of several corporate donors, his home state papers and even some of his law school professors. Feeling the heat, he penned a ludicrous statement claiming that he continued to pursue objections to the election — which had no basis in fact — after the siege because he would not be intimidated by the mob. But in doing so, he did the mob’s bidding. The mob sought to overturn an election — and that is precisely what he tried to do.
In short, a grim picture emerges that the Republican Party, with few exceptions, has departed from the bounds of reason, truth and democracy. If the House is representative of the party and its members as a whole, one can expect them to remain in the political wilderness for some time. There is, to the chagrin of those who support a two-party system, only one party that can be said to stand for the Constitution and objective reality.