So, Fat Donny skates a second time, as today the Senate arrived at the greatest foregone conclusion since the last great foregone conclusion. Hey, look on the bright side! We convinced seven of the fifty Republicans to vote their conscience, besides which Mitch gave a post-verdict speech that made it sound as if he was one of them, which he wasn’t, but still, it sounded nice; it took just a bit of the edge off. He even implied, while concluding with solemn regret that Donald, now a private citizen, was beyond the Senate’s jurisdiction (not true, especially since the whole Senate, which has exclusive jurisdiction to decide such matters, just ruled the opposite), that maybe the scoundrel should instead be criminally indicted. The Orange Man was indeed bad, Mitch agreed. It was sad, really, that he had to be let off, guilty as he was, and boy oh boy was he ever guilty, no shadow of a doubt on that score, but whadda-ya-gonna-do? The old tortoise seemed almost sad, almost apologetic. Sometimes life presents us with ugly choices, you know? Sometimes bitter pills just had to be swallowed.
In effect if not tone, it was pretty much the usual McConnell kick in the teeth, delivered this time with a steel-toed bunny slipper.
Other than that, no surprises. We all knew going in that presenting the GOP with an opportunity to taunt us a second time was an exercise in almost abject fatalism, and I suppose it’s worth asking whether the thing was worth doing at all. I’m saying yeah. I don’t see what other choice the Democrats had, and grim though I’m wont to be, I’m not quite sure that it accomplished nothing, in the long run. The House Managers made a devastating presentation. Millions saw those videos, and listened to those tapes of the Capitol Police as they fought for their lives in the midst of the maelstrom. It must have made an impression on more than a few, whatever their MAGA predilections, and the suppressed optimist within me has the sense that over time, for at least part of the Base, revulsion at Trump’s sedition will swell until it starts to fester. Not right away. It takes a while to process. It sinks in slowly. Remember, though, that when Nixon took his famous last climb up the stairs into Marine One, he was still popular too, I think moreso than Donald is now. The Base was still solidly behind him, and polls showed that millions felt he’d been hounded unfairly from office by a bunch of liberal jackals. Then people had time to think on it. It might be the same for Donald. In a couple of years, when the only news coming out of East Trumpistan is how another criminal or civil case is forcing him to fundraise frantically so he can pay his latest set of second rate defence lawyers, maybe a lot of folks will be hiding their MAGA hats at the backs of their closets. Maybe they’ll be denying they ever voted for the bloated jackass.
Maybe. But maybe the hard core turns against Donald not because he threatened to destroy the Republic, but because he didn’t deliver. That might just be me reverting to pessimistic form, but many in the Republican Party are acting today as if that’s what they assume too, and why not? As far as they can tell at this point, the Base remains restive and volatile, and still wants what it always wanted. They’re scary. They were going to hang Mike Pence, remember? They built a frigging gallows on the lawn in front of the Capitol Dome. It’s no wonder the quivering GOP Pomeranians can feel their choke chains being yanked, especially when most of them are now scared of more than just losing their cushy legislative sinecures if they don’t adhere to the QAnon dogma. We’re at the point where the ones who aren’t true believers like Gaetz and Jordon, or crass, amoral opportunists like Cruz and Harley, are going along to get along because their rabid constituents might show up at their front doors with assault rifles if they step out of line. In that case, maybe their best bet would be to quit politics altogether, as many are, but most, including 43 Senators today, seem determined to keep pandering, and thus it may not matter what becomes of Trump. If Donald slides into risible irrelevance, the millions who voted for him may happily transfer their flag to the next guy that makes the noises they want to hear, and then everybody will fall into line behind the New Dear Leader. What scares me, what’s scared me all along, is that the next guy might not be a feckless idiot.
One wonders whether Mitch is worried about that too. Maybe belated anxiety over the monstrous evolution of the GOP into the party of White Nationalist authoritarians was part of the motivation for today’s otherwise breathtakingly cynical display. He didn’t dare infuriate the Base by voting to convict, but maybe his rather off-brand delivery of a speech that would have been a pretty good closing argument from the House Managers is evidence that he’s finally realized he can’t keep riding this bucking bronco. Like Never-Trumper Republican Charlie Sykes said tonight on MSNBC, it looked as if Mitch at last realizes that he’s in the Leopard Eating Faces Party, and the hell of it is that the Leopard doesn’t much care whose face it eats. It’s out of control. It would, however, be so like Mitch if he thinks he can still haul the train back on to the tracks and forge a middle path, so long as he retains power – gotta retain power! – and for now, that means playing both sides of the net. For the Base, he lets Donny off the hook. To lure back the corporate donors and appeal to the suburban voters who abandoned the GOP in the last two elections, he lets on, now that it’s all over, like he’s also appalled by Trump’s attacks on American democracy. If he’s clever and ruthless – and when was he anything but? – he can still steer the ship the way he wants it to go, right?
It got a little sporty there, sure, and the road ahead is full of land mines, but remember: the tax breaks, and the judges. That makes it all worthwhile.