“When this distinguished group of House managers were gathered on January 15 to deliver the articles of impeachment, (they) were told they could not be received because Mitch McConnell had shut down the Senate, and was going to keep it shut down until the inauguration,” Pelosi claimed, her face cloth failing to mask her fury. She maintained that even though it was constitutionally irrelevant, McConnell could have begun the trial “the next day” while Trump was still in office.
I was waiting for a reporter to ask: “Madam Speaker, since it is your opinion that it is constitutional to impeach and try a president who has left office, why didn’t the House carry out a full investigation, as you say should be done with a 9/11 style commission? Why didn’t you spend weeks or months interviewing witnesses and building a case, instead of rushing a snap impeachment? Why is the Senate taking the heat for not doing things that should have happened in the House?”
It would have been informative to hear her explain how an impeachment on Jan. 13, leading to a trial starting, if she had her way, on Jan. 16, based on an event of just 10 days earlier, would have represented justice. Hapless motorists accused of speeding are afforded more due process in small-town traffic courts.
While many in the media are carrying water for Pelosi and excoriating the senators who voted to acquit, the most likely legacy will be shame for those who voted to convict despite such a railroaded process. But acquittal notwithstanding, Trump is finished, as he should be after refusing to accept defeat and fanning the flames of a riotous mob. No congressional action was needed. He has disqualified himself from leading the GOP, let alone ever being a serious candidate for office again.
Contrary to predictions, Trump’s devotees will let him go. After a recent Frank Luntz poll found that 91 percent of Trump voters declared, even after the Capitol riot, that they would vote for him again, analysts were impressed by Trump’s continued sway. To me, the findings mean that Trump has already lost nearly 7 million voters since the election. That kind of attrition will continue.
But while Trump will be gone, Trumpism is the GOP’s future. There are no serious competitors. The moderates and blue bloods were represented, at least symbolically, by the Lincoln Project, which has imploded. No worries. Even after losses in Georgia, Republicans control half the Senate. The party made surprising pickups in the House and is poised to win it in 2022. Republicans won majorities in more state legislatures after already controlling most of them. In once solidly blue West Virginia, Republicans have just became the dominant party among registered voters for the first time in decades.
Across America, it’s a safe bet that most Republicans elected or registered since 2016 are Trump acolytes. There are millions of Americans animated by Trump who will remain politically active, with or without him. Of course, the vast majority of them are not insurrectionists, condemning violence from the left or right. They are hardly members of a cult in need of deprogramming, as some have chillingly suggested. They are just Americans.
What is Trumpism without Trump? It’s an emphasis on individual freedoms, a belief in energy independence through deregulation, an “America First” approach to foreign policy, a dedication to secure borders, a pushback against cancel-culture “wokeness” (in a surprising alliance with France) and the kind of unapologetic embrace of “God and Country” values that are guaranteed to fuel culture wars for years to come.
Many will be competing for the role of Trumpism’s standard-bearer, because despite acquittal, the end of the impeachment trial closes the door on Trump himself. But anyone tempted to breathe a sigh of relief over his political demise should consider that his movement is still just emerging, and perhaps not exhale quite so soon.