Trump May Really Get Punished

Published at 04:09 on 16 January 2021

Note I said may. Both political parties are in a state of moral compromise. The Republicans have degenerated into fascism. The Democrats are possessed of an institutionalized Stockholm syndrome, and have long been too timid to seriously confront the Republicans.

This, however, is different. It’s basic realpolitik. If a ruling order cannot defend itself against existential threats, thereby ensuring its perpetuation into the future, that ruling order is not long for this world. If Trump’s putsch is not severely punished, it becomes yet another tool in the toolbox for the Republicans to use, and it will be used again.

It is for this reason that Biden has since the coup attempt backed away from his continual emphasis on unity, making tweets like this:

Our president is not above the law.

Justice serves the people — it doesn’t protect the powerful.

The rest of the party is generally doing likewise. They did drag their feet a bit, but they chose to impeach. All House Democrats, even the most wavering-prone centrists, supported the impeachment. This is in itself quite likely the opening shot in what will be a string of increasingly stinging rebukes, as it gives Trump the unique besmirching of being the only president to be impeached twice.

Even a small gaggle of Republicans voted to impeach. By the time the vote to convict works its way into the Senate agenda, the fraction of Republicans choosing to back away from Trumpism may well be larger. It seems there is political blowback brewing: a majority of Senator Hawley’s constituents now think he should resign.

Another good thing is that, if there is any Attorney General capable of breaking with the precedent of presidential impunity, Merrick Garland is it. He is a Justice Department institutionalist, and he is not a progressive. The latter point is a feature, not a bug. It is politically easier for a moderate to go after Trump than it is for a progressive, because the former is naturally more insulated from charges of political motive.

It took the coup attempt to wake the Democrats (and many in the general public) up and underscore that, yes, Trumpism really is a form of fascism, and must be dealt with accordingly. But wake them up it apparently has.

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