The Democrats are, for once, chucking concerns about “unity and healing” to the side in their pursuit of getting Donald Trump out of the White House following last week’s riot at the Capitol. They should keep doing that once he’s gone.
With the House set to impeach Trump for a second time on Wednesday, the Democrats — and some Republicans, no doubt more concerned for their own safety and the stern warnings from corporate America than the laughable idea that the halls of Congress are some sacred shrine to democracy — are ultimately abandoning the entire message of togetherness that President-elect Joe Biden ran on, even if that’s not what they think they’re doing. There appears to be a real acknowledgment in the leadership of the Democratic Party that accountability for Trump and his enablers is necessary.
This might be obvious to a lot of people, but it’s a marked departure from how the Democrats handled George W. Bush, for instance, with exactly the same House leadership as they had back then. It’s easy to see why — in that case, the Democrats were complicit in Bush’s wars, and it wasn’t like pro-war protesters were smashing up their offices in the Capitol over a timetable to leave Iraq. Trump similarly got some stern lectures on family separation — still the most impeachable thing he’s done in his presidency — but faced nothing resembling actual consequences. Even his call to Ukraine, which resulted in his first impeachment, was basically never mentioned again after he was acquitted.
When a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, on the other hand, it brought the reality of the fascist right’s rise in this country to Congress’s front steps, its offices, and its Senate chambers. And it appears to have accelerated quite a bit the prioritization of accountability over another cursed attempt to unify a country that very clearly wants to be divided right now.
Uniting with the GOP was always going to be a fool’s errand for Joe Biden, but what has transpired over the past two months should make it abundantly clear: the vast majority of the Republican Party will never, ever work with him and will punish those who do. Understanding this sets aside the crocodile tears of people like Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan, for whom “unity” always means adapting to his brand of extreme right-wing conservatism. It also dismisses the concerns of conservative Democrats, whose concerns should always be dismissed.
The sentiment of “unity and healing means never doing anything I hate” won’t stop at impeachment, and wouldn’t stop even if January 6 had never happened. Every single proposal and piece of legislation that doesn’t align with the political tradition of the John Birch Society is going to be labeled as divisive and a slight against real Americans. It is bullshit, and it’s good to get a head start on calling it that.
And they shouldn’t be fooled by the Republicans voting for impeachment, led so far by #3 House Republican and neocon faildaughter Liz Cheney. These people aren’t driven by political courage, but rather political self-interest and a desire to keep the corporate money flowing. Cue Mitch McConnell, according to the New York Times:
But the Senate Republican leader has made clear in private discussions that he believes now is the moment to move on from the weakened lame duck, whom he blames for causing Republicans to lose the Senate. Mr. McConnell has not spoken to Mr. Trump since mid-December, when the senator informed the president he would be recognizing Mr. Biden as president-elect after the meeting of the Electoral College.
It may be wishful thinking, but the Democrats should take the hint and this energy beyond impeachment and into the next Congress—on COVID relief, judges, and everything in between. Soon-to-be-Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said again Tuesday that a new round of pandemic relief, including $2,000 checks, would be at the top of the new Senate’s agenda.
And Sen. Bernie Sanders, the incoming Senate Budget chair, laid down a useful marker in an interview with the New York Times (emphasis mine):
“I believe that the crisis is of enormous severity and we’ve got to move as rapidly as we can,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview.
“Underline the word aggressive,” he said. “Start out there.”
Mr. Sanders said in the interview that he wanted an initial, emergency stimulus package to be “big.” He thinks it must include an additional $1,400 in direct payments for adults and children, on top of the $600 that Congress just passed, along with money for states and cities to fund coronavirus vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing. He also wants to create an emergency universal health care program, so that anyone can get medical treatment during the pandemic, whether they currently have insurance or not.
American voters have proven time and again over the past four years that while the talk of unity might be nice, what they really want is a government that actually does something for them every once in a while. Being useful and effective cannot co-exist with unity and healing as long as the far-right controls the Republican Party, and the sooner the Democrats grasp that, the better off they’ll be.