EDITORIAL: The establishment strikes back

The Dispatch Editorial Board
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), left, listens as President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after attending the weekly Senate Republican luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 19, 2020, after Trump met with the Senators to discuss the progress of safely opening up America and economic recovery. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)

Donald Trump might finally face the reckoning he deserves.

The House was expected late Wednesday to, for the second time, impeach the president in a vote taken just one week before his term was set to expire. 

Trump faces a single charge, incitement of insurrection, after he whipped a mob into a frenzy and sent them marching on Capitol Hill while lawmakers voted to certify President-elect Joe Biden's victory. Following their master's orders, the horde encircled the Capitol, laid siege to Congress and drove lawmakers from both chambers.

One thing was clear hours ahead of Wednesday night's vote in the House: Donald Trump will again be impeached.

Democrats have the votes.

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But even in that chamber, the cracks are spreading in the partisan wall that's for years protected Trump from accountability.

Rep. Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, has said she will join the impeachment effort. House Republicans have freed their members to "vote their conscience," The Hill reported Wednesday morning. And several Republican members will join the Democratic effort to send Trump away in infamy.

But it's in the Senate where Trump might, finally, be held accountable for his actions. 

After the violence of Trump's insurrection quite literally landed on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's doorstep, he, too, seems ready to purge Trump from his party and send him into political oblivion.

McConnell, through his aides, on Tuesday made clear his appreciation of House Democrats' impeachment effort, reported The New York Times. McConnell is, himself, "leaning" toward conviction, Axios reported.

This was nothing short of McConnell signaling to his members: Vote as you please.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a Congressional Oversight Commission hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday Dec. 10, 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., has openly signaled his contempt for Trump and willingness to punish him. 

Suddenly, there is a real possibility that two-thirds of the U.S. Senate, including more than a dozen Republicans, could vote to convict Trump. Even if the conviction comes after the expiration of Trump's term, it would be an important and necessary moment for the reestablishment of a republic based in law. 

As any student of the failure of post-Civil War reconstruction knows, democracy's infections tend to fester if left un. 

The positions of the likes of McConnell and Cheney are very likely shaped in part by political motivations. Dooming Trump to the harsh judgment of history wi, in the near term, undermine his efforts to dominate the party for the next four years with constant threats of another White House bid in 2024. 

This is, in one sense, the revenge of the establishment GOP. 

Never before has the Senate convicted a president. But never before has an American president so brashly and transparently waged war on the entire concept of self-governance. 

In the week since the Jan. 6 attack, Trump's defenders in Congress and within right-wing media have landed on a truly bizarre defense for the seemingly indefensible.

Their disingenuous calls for "unity" are in fact demands for immunity coming from the very people who spent weeks parroting the president's lies about November's election. Their reasoning that Trump's impeachment will further inflame his radicalized base, thereby inciting even more violence, is an indictment on the Republican Party itself.

It's nothing short of a threat. It's the domestic abuser defense: Don't make us angry or we will hit you harder. It's the very definition of mob rule. 

There can be no healing, no reconciliation, without first an unequivocal stand for democracy's basic existence, regardless of the political calculus involved.