Editorial: An insurgency has created a lengthy ‘to-do’ list for America
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
Insurrections — no matter their size or success — create substantial “to-do” lists for governments in their wake. Here’s a partial list that the world’s most recently damaged democracy should address.
• Recognize that impeaching Donald Trump before his term ends on Jan 20 is unlikely, and the only way it could be accomplished may create more lasting harm than good. An overriding goal of both Democrats and principled Republicans should be to convince as many of Trump’s 74 million supporters to permanently abandon him and other politicians of similar character. That is the way to turn this national disgrace into an opportunity. If impeachment must be so hurried to convict the president before Jan. 20, the chances are high that the proceeding will appear to a sizable number of people to be a court that gives its defendant inadequate opportunity to present his defense. That perception will result in fewer of those 74 million people abandoning Trump-style governance than otherwise would.
• Don’t forever rule out an impeachment of Trump, even if it can’t be completed before Jan. 20. For example, if the president pardons himself, impeach. Take the time to do the process right, as the chance of a conviction would seem to be high. Large majorities of the country would see a self-pardon as one man placing himself above the law. Much has changed in America, but disdain for that principle has not. Law and order Republicans would seemingly have a hard time ignoring that fact in impeachment. The benefit of a post-term impeachment is twofold: 1. It would bar Trump from ever holding office again. 2. It would set precedent that Congress will act in the strongest terms possible against future presidents who attempt to place themselves above the law.
• Do protect the country from an unstable president in his final days in office. The 25th Amendment — not impeachment — is the correct way to do this. Democrats and principled Republicans should have regular conversations with the vice president and Cabinet members. The vice president has a very important role to fulfill in these final days of the term. As the only other nationally elected leader in the land — despite recent rhetoric, the president is not his boss — he needs to demand to be part of certain proceedings for no other reason than to keep an eye on the president and to take actions through the 25th Amendment in the event that he determines the president truly has become mentally unstable, as some prominent Republicans and former members of Trump’s inner circle have suggested. Remember, the vice president is elected by the people. A president cannot fire a vice president. That’s significant.
• Preach that character counts, and keep our fingers crossed. It doesn’t currently appear likely the president will be removed by the 25th Amendment. That will create a tense number of days for the country to survive before his term ends. It was sobering to hear that the speaker of the House and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed Trump and how he is able to access the nuclear codes. Democrats and principled Republicans should use this moment to remind America why character should be the No. 1 consideration when selecting a president. After all, there were any number of Republicans who could have replicated the accomplishments that Trump’s supporters have praised: conservative judges, tax cuts, tougher China policy and harder stances on immigration. Four years ago, Republicans simply should have dismissed Trump and found someone with far better character to accomplish their priorities. The fact that they didn’t leaves all of us to hold our breath for these remaining days of his term.
• Do some math. It was disturbing to read that a YouGov survey after the Capitol mob found 45% of Republicans backed the attack. Hopefully that is just another example of bad polling. But even if it is not, it is a significant opportunity. In the past, almost any action in support of Trump polled closer to 80% to 90% favorable with Republicans. At 45%, it is quite possible Trump has lost about half his base. Democrats and principled Republicans should work to cement those losses. Combine those numbers with the fact there were only eight Republican senators who voted to uphold any election objections, and the arithmetic is better than it has been in some time to actually get a few things done.
That would be good because there is quite a mess to clean up.