Donald Trump this month became the first former or current US president to be charged with crimes against the nation he once led and wants to lead again. He cynically calculated that his impeachment would ensure that an angry GOP base would nominate him as their champion in 2024, and recent weeks have shown that his political calculation was probably correct.
The former president’s behavior may have invited charges, but the callous support of Republicans over the past two years convinced Trump of his political immortality, giving him the assurance that he could steal some of the nation’s most sensitive national security secrets. when leaving the White. House, and absurdly insisting that they were his to do with as he pleased, all without facing political consequences. In fact, his fawning support since the January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill has given Trump every reason to believe that he can seize these charges and any others not just for the Republican nomination, but for the White House in 2024.
In a word, Republicans are as responsible as Trump for this month’s impeachment, and will be just as responsible for any indictment and prosecution against him by January 6. You’d think that for a party that prides itself on caring about the Constitution and the rule of law, this would provoke a degree of self-reflection among party officials and even voters about their continued support for the former president. Surely before launching headlong into the 2024 presidential election season, more Republicans would realize that it is time to strike a deal with Mr. Trump that they have waited in vain and naively believed would never be necessary.
But to all appearances, it certainly hasn’t yet occurred to them that a reckoning is necessary. As only Republicans can do, they are already turning this ignominious moment into an even more ignominious moment, and one of self-immolation, by rushing to crown Trump as their nominee before primary season begins. Building the Republican campaign around the newly impeached favorite is a colossal political miscalculation, as comical as it is tragic for the country. No set of politicians except Republicans would ever conceive of running for the presidency of the United States by running against the Constitution and the rule of law. But that’s exactly what they’re planning.
GOP delegates have become so used to their putative leader that they have managed to convince themselves that an impeached and perhaps even convicted Donald Trump is their party’s best hope for the future. But rushing to model your campaign on Trump’s staggeringly stupid template is as absurd as it is nefarious. They will be defending the indefensible.
On cue, the Republicans launched their self-defeating political apparatus this month. Almost as soon as the indictment in the documents case was unsealed, Mr. Trump launched his hitherto languishing campaign, predictably declaring himself an “innocent man” victim of “the greatest witch hunt of all time.” times” by his “utterly corrupt political nemesis, the Biden administration. On Thursday, he added that it was all part of a plot, hatched in the Department of Justice and the FBI, to “rig” the 2024 election against him.
From his distant second, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida denounced the Biden administration’s “weaponization of federal law enforcement” against Mr. Trump and the Republicans. Mike Pence dutifully delivered the political indictment. And both Governor DeSantis and Mr. Pence promised, in a new Republican litmus test, that on their first day in office they would fire FBI director Trump appointee Christopher Wray, obviously for his baseness in investigating Mr. .Trump. He corresponded to Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker of the House, articulate the treacherous mainstream Republican strategy: “I, and all Americans who believe in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this blatant weaponization of power accountable.”
There is no stopping the Republicans now, until they have succeeded in fully politicizing the rule of law in the service of their partisan political ends.
If Mr. Trump’s indictment on the Espionage Act charges, not to mention his now almost certain indictment for conspiring to prevent Congress from certifying Mr. Biden as president on January 6, fails to shake the Republican Party out of its dying political senses, then he is beyond saving himself. Neither he nor he should be saved.
There is no path to the White House for Republicans with Trump. He would need every Republican and Independent vote, and there are untold numbers of Republicans and Independents who will never vote for him, if only for the perfectly legitimate reason that he has corrupted American democracy and is now trying to corrupt the government of the country. law. No sane Democrat will vote for Trump, even over old Biden, when there are so many sane Republicans who will refuse to vote for Trump. All of this is easy to see, which makes it all the more puzzling why more Republicans don’t see it.
When Republicans faced a last-minute reckoning with another of their presidents for much lesser crimes nearly 50 years ago, the party’s oldest statesmen marched to the Oval Office and told Richard Nixon the truth. He had lost his Republican support and would be ousted if he did not resign. The embattled Nixon resigned the next day and left the White House the next day.
That is what it means to put the country before the party. History tends to look favorably on a party writing its own history, as Winston Churchill might have said.
Republicans have waited in vain for political acquittal. It is finally time for them to put country ahead of their party and step back from the brink, for the good of the party as well as the nation.
If not now, then they must be silent forever.