I’ve thought for the longest time — and said so — that assurances that the Senate won’t convict Trump if he is impeached are too glib. I seem to be off on my lonesome on this, so I’m going to explain why I believe the popular dismissal of that possibility is misguided.
First, my premises.
Soon after the 2016 election, I was out on the back deck grilling burgers with some Trump supporters; they were giddy with joy. “Trump,” I told them, “will be impeached and convicted. Just watch.”
Certainly, I had no foreknowledge of the specific facts now in hand — but I did know, as every sentient adult in the universe knew, that Donald Trump is corrupt, thuggish, amoral, ignorant when not downright disdainful of American ideals, uninterested in the mechanics of governance, and that there is no better Donald Trump who would be making an appearance. The ignorant human sewage who so charmed the Evangelical Right is who Donald Trump really is.
Seriously: I sometimes wonder what it’s like to go through life so blind that it wasn’t obvious that the slow-motion train wreck of the Trump administration was coming.
So Premise #1 is that Trump really is guilty as hell of serial offenses against the Constitution and the American people.
Countless reporters have publicly made a remark to the effect that the people they know in Congress are aghast at this or that act or behavior or remark by Trump — but won’t say so publicly. That is, much of the Republican presence in Congress knows that Trump is corrupt and dishonest but is toeing the party-line.
For now. For now they are toeing the party-line.
Premise #2 is that the Republicans Trump is counting upon to protect him know that he is utterly unfit for office but are afraid of his base.
Why, then, would they turn on him and vote to convict?
When the House of Representatives votes Articles of Impeachment, things are going to get real. The senators will individually confront the fact that they are no longer speaking for the cameras and the American Gothics back home, but for the country and its history and its values. Removing the American president is a matter no less grave than choosing whether to go to war and, however greatly they might resent that the task is before them, they — not all, but most — will approach the question soberly and with gravity.
Trump’s behavior will grow more erratic, more nasty and mean-spirited, more incandescently dishonest, as events proceed. That won’t affect many in his squalid little cult — but that’s the only support he’s going to have. The Republicans are going to have a difficult time recruiting unregenerate Tea Party types to campaign against Senators who vote to convict. They will find somebody here and there, and it’s believable that it may cost a senator or two his job but, overall, I think public opinion will protect senators who defend their country against Trump’s depredations.
The facts in plain view aren’t going away. Trump knowingly accepted Russian meddling in the 2016 election, he solicited Ukrainian meddling in the 2020 election, and he has committed multiple instances of obstruction of justice; these are settled, documented facts about which there is no serious dispute. Well, Senators have friends, family, and grandchildren in addition to constituents — and they’re not going to enjoy the prospect of being asked … Why didn’t you defend your country from him?
The only objection to conviction that might plausibly be raised goes like this: There is an election coming; why not let the American people get rid of him in November?
Trump’s growing and obvious emotional instability is answer enough.
The rule that has rarely steered me wrong — and then only temporarily — is this: Never go long against the common sense and decency of the American people. Trump is w-a-a-a-y long, and I’ve no doubt that a reckoning is coming, or that it’s going to be delivered by the hands of the government he has so debased.