As the Senate again tries Trump for impeachment, we shall again witness Senate Republicans refuse to do the obvious right thing and convict the obviously guilty author of the worst assault in our democracy by a sitting President in the history of the Republic. To account for this cravenness, pundits keep describing the GOP as acting out of fear, as in this representative take from David Frum that ran in the Atlantic two weeks ago:
Republican senators are shrinking from doing justice in the impeachment trial because they are afraid of Trump and his supporters. Trump is not afraid. Trump is not driven by the same political calculations as the Republican senators. They are alert to danger—and nimble enough to jump out of the way. Trump, by contrast, is a terrible risk-calculator. That’s why he went bankrupt so often. He doesn’t react to political danger like a normal politician. He plunges ahead. That is a kind of superpower, especially when the costs of his miscalculations fall on others: the defeated Republican House incumbents of 2018, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in 2021, and aspiring Republican candidates in 2022.
The party’s best hope is to shove him aside. But if the Republican senators were the kinds of people who could do that, they would not have fallen under his thrall in the first place.
In the immediate aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, for a brief moment, McConnell seemed to discover in himself some long-corked cask of courage and integrity. That moment did not last. What instead is being planned for February is a Night of the Rubber Knives (to borrow a phrase from political history)—a flinching from reality that will protect Trump, betray the country, and ever more abjectly subordinate a party that calls itself “constitutional” to the ego, whims, greed, and violence of a disgraced ex-president.
I say, “Rubbish.”
Stop, for the love of God, calling the GOP “cowards”. They are not cowards. They are nihilistic, iron-willed, steel-spined predators with consciences seared hard and waterproof as leather to tears of mercy and pleas for decency. They don’t even feel hatred for you. They feel nothing toward you. You don’t matter to them except as prey. Stop telling yourself they are timid people who just cannot work up the courage to do the right thing. They are predators and questions of right and wrong don’t matter to them except as tools for manipulating you into feeling pity for them so they can strike you more easily in your vulnerability. All their decisions are tactical and ordered toward fattening themselves on you and all you love.
In short, they have goals, not principles.
To be sure, somewhere in the rotting husk of their souls, our Faith insists, are human beings whose essence remains the image and likeness of God and we (especially I) need to remember that. They are not identical with their sin and until they breathe their last, there remains the possibility of their salvation. It is not for us to judge their hearts.
But it is for us–and commanded by Jesus–to judge their fruits and to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves in strategizing how to serve the common good when facing enemies (yes, that is the word) such as the GOP. And the first order of business is to exercise prudence by ceasing to tell ourselves they are well-meaning but timid. That is not what is happening here. They are predatory sinners who need to repent, not frightened lambs who just need a little encouragement.
Because of this, it is important to grasp, right this very second and not when it is too late, that the emerging strategy of the GOP is to make the Trump Administration–and particularly its climactic assault on our democracy, complete with violence and murder–a practice run for the real thing in the near future.
They have good reason for attempting this course of action.
First, they know they cannot win in a fair fight in this democracy. They did their damnedest to cheat in this last election as they have done multiple times over the years in state and local elections and it was only through an all out effort by the Democrats and the strength of our institutions that they were defeated in the presidential election. But voter suppression has served them well in the past and they hope it will serve them again.
Second, they know they will be even weaker if they do not unite. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” They have invited into their house a ravening horde of crazies, goblins, lunatics, killers, and morons–the very people who assaulted the Capitol–and they have to placate them because, given the choice, that mob of violent killers and idiots will follow Trump, not the GOP leadership, and destroy the Party in their imbecility and vengefulness. The leadership knows they have to ride the tiger or end up inside.
Third, they know that if they vote to convict the man who sent a mob to the Capitol to murder them, it will mean he can never run for President again, but it will not mean that he cannot send that mob to murder them again, or assassinate them with terror attacks in his spite and malice.
Fourth, they also know that Trump is already acting like he means to run again:
By this notice, the Great Tapeworm in the gut tract of the GOP informs his Republican hosts that he will suck away at their lifeblood and psychic energy forever and ever until they waste away and die if they do not back him. If they convict him in the Senate and make it impossible for him to run again, he will never ever ever stop undermining their efforts to field other candidates. He is a Nazgul, neither living nor dead. He will never stop hunting them.
Fourth, they know that if the GOP has a civil war in its ranks, they can forget winning in 2022, 2024, and beyond. The crazies who screamed, “Hang Mike Pence” will come for them, not for Biden or the Dems. The Dems only stand to win as the GOP and their MAGA Frankenstein monster destroy each other.
So the GOP are opting to roll the dice and sticking with Trump, either in an attempt to steal his crown as the More MAGA Than Trump candidates of the midterms and 2024 or, should Trump somehow stage a comeback, as his .unified party behind him in four years. Because without unity, they are dead as a force in US politics–and a number of them may wind up in prison too as the crooks and nuts they are. So unity means making peace with the freak show that tried to kill them on January 6, because as Trump said to them, “We love you. You are very special.” The GOP is now committed to the defense of an authoritarian fascist and his cult of violent kooks because raw, nihilist power, not America, is all that matters to them.
So the goal is to work toward the destruction of our democracy and the permanent installment of authoritarian rule. That is the end game they seek. Get that through your head right now and work to defeat them right now and for the next decade in every federal, state, and local election, not when it has become an emergency. Continue driving them from power at every opportunity until they are gone completely.