By JIM SPEHAR
“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
— George Washington
It seems timely, with President’s Day barely in our rearview mirrors, to contemplate the aftermath of the failed attempt to convict one of the successors to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln after his second impeachment. And to frame that contemplation in the context of Washington’s “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” compiled when our first president was not yet 16.
Conviction would have required 10 more GOP senators to summon up some ember of “that little spark of celestial fire” Washington cited. The acquittal, while disappointing to the nearly 60% of Americans polled on Monday who thought our former president should have been convicted, was no surprise. Nor was the survey breakdown, which found 88% of Democrats and 64% of independents supported conviction. Only 14% of Republicans, the same percentage as GOP senators voting to convict, agreed.
It was relatively peaceful politically during the week after the Senate impeachment trial. Joe Biden was busy being, well, presidential, a marked contrast to his predecessor. Actually speaking about issues in public. His press secretary also accepting daily questioning by the media. Finding a way to advocate for his priorities in Wisconsin without urging followers to physically attack those who might disagree with him. Not a single snarky tweet or disparaging remark.
Less tranquility comes from congressional Democrats proposing a 9-11 style commission to further investigate the Capitol Hill rioting. I’ve come to believe the second impeachment trial was necessary despite knowing the effort would fail… that what even Mitch McConnell admits was our ex-president’s responsibility for the deaths and damage during the Jan. 6 insurrection was too blatant to just be ignored. But I wonder what more, other than rehashing testimony already presented and generating additional headlines and images useful in 2022 campaigning, the commission will accomplish.
There’s zero chance the Senate majority leader will merit mention in any future “Profiles in Courage.” After first voting to acquit, citing a supposed deadline he created, McConnell then righteously prosecuted our former president in the court of public opinion. Fresh from re-election, he seems to at least contemplate a Republican Party devoid of dependence on or worship of a divisive personality.
That’s a contrast to Sen. Lindsey Graham, who actively equates future GOP political successes with allegiance to a failed leader who’s taken the party down the path toward irrelevance. Graham knows sitting Democratic senators represent nearly 42 million more of us than Republicans. Remember, our three newest Supreme Court justices were nominated by a president who lost the popular vote and confirmed by senators representing less than half our population.
In the aftermath of 2020 electoral defeats, the GOP is now relying on state-by-state efforts to suppress voting by restricting access to mail and absentee balloting. The party will again focus on creating GOP-friendly congressional districts once delayed counts from a mismanaged 2020 census are final. Thankfully, here in Colorado, that process is no longer in partisan hands.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to have it both ways. Supporting fellow GOP leader Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach and loudly chastising the former president in a phone call to the White House as rioters occupied the House and Senate chambers. But then hurrying down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring days later.
Our state’s congressional delegation split along party lines in both the House and Senate votes that were part of the second impeachment process. Colorado Democrats Joe Neguse and Diana DeGette served as impeachment managers with Neguse being spotlighted as particularly impactful.
The final Senate vote also served as a reminder that the most powerful people in Washington may not be Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Shumer, Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy. Given equal division among Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, he ultimate decision-makers over the next two years may very well be Mitch Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin.
The following adage seems an appropriate description of McConnell, Graham, McCarthy and 40 other members of the Senate minority who chose to ignore the body’s own vote accepting jurisdiction as well as overwhelming evidence found convincing by a bipartisan majority as well as 60% of Americans.
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everybody gets busy on the proof.”
— John Kenneth Galbraith
You’re welcome to prove Jim Spehar wrong in comments to email@example.com.