The next few days are not as dark in the capital as last week – which ended on the 6th. The month of January was marked by a horrific reinstatement of terror on Capitol Hill by the leaders of the House impeachment process – they will be even more critical of the nation’s short-term fate. Biden now has the full attention of Congress and the public as he tries to push through his aid program and end the pandemic. He will be making his first official trip from Washington since being sworn in.
But Trump’s acquittal by a majority of Republican senators on Saturday also proved that the cult of personality makes him a dominant force in the internal civil war engulfing the party ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Therefore, even though he is no longer in office, his tenure will have a major impact on the mood in Washington and on Biden’s ability to unite the nation.
Prominent Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Nikki Haley, the potential 2024 presidential candidate, are already maneuvering to steer the party in a different direction. Only time will tell if Trump’s influence will be as pervasive when he is miles away from the action at his luxurious resort in Florida and Congress is no longer debating his political fate. And the wave of legal troubles stemming from his past business practices and his attempts to steal last year’s election could further damage the future political prospects of a former president willing to destroy American democracy to stay in power.
The process showed that the Republican Party is pretty much where it’s been since Trump’s descent down the Golden Escalator in 2015. Many of the establishment’s most prominent leaders despise the former president but avoid confronting him because of his almost mystical ties to the conservative base. This has recently prompted the GOP to legitimize its extremist and conspiratorial wing by attacking the opposition Marjorie Taylor Greene, a strategy that threatens to scare away more centrist voters. Members of the House and Senate who voted to reject Trump faced rejection from state parties and the reaction of voters in their states.
For those who want to host a party in the post-Trumpette sense, there are the smallest openings. Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, used the interview with Politico magazine to distance herself from the former president before he was exonerated last week. And Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, another potential 2024 presidential candidate, called for change on Sunday.
It’s not over yet. In the coming years, we will decide the fate of Donald Trump and the Republican Party, Hogan told Jake Tapper during CNN’s State of the Union.
Trump sees his escape from justice as a political victory and promises to be in the spotlight soon. The former president plans to use the upcoming midterm elections to get revenge on the Republicans who turned against him and prove that he remains the de facto leader of the GOP.
But he has other concerns. CNN reported that the former president feared he was involved in mafia sedition on the 6th. Janvier could face criminal charges. And the court’s legacy and what it revealed could permanently damage Trump. Amazing video evidence showed how close Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were to danger. A CNN report on Friday night about the new details of Trump’s phone call with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Jan. 6 raised serious questions about what the president knew and when. While it is conceivable that Mr. Trump will be a strong presidential candidate in 2024, given the extreme methods he has used to stay in power, he is unlikely to be strong enough in 2020 to consider him a viable national candidate.
Republicans’ refusal to rein in Trump led to two impeachment hearings, the loss of the White House, House and Senate, numerous instances of abuse of power and Trump’s incompetent handling of a pandemic that killed nearly half a million Americans. But the party’s demographic base means the only path to power still depends on the participation of Trump’s most loyal supporters.
This conflict between power and principle is best reflected in McConnell’s controversial behavior in the courts. The Kentucky Republican voted to acquit Trump on the dubious grounds that the Constitution prohibits attempts to impeach the president after he leaves office.
But just after the vote, the GOP leader criticized Trump in a speech in the Senate, saying his actions in support of the uprising were a shameful and disgraceful dereliction of duty. By trolling, McConnell was accused of hypocrisy and extreme political opportunism, especially for creating a constitutional excuse for senators to embarrassingly face Trump’s crimes by refusing to hold a trial while Trump was still in the military.
But everything McConnell does stems from his desire to keep the conference in the service of retaining or restoring power – in this case, by the middle of next year.
McConnell saw Assemblywoman Liz Cheney fighting for her third term as Republican House leader after she voted to remove Trump from office. If he had voted that way, he would have undoubtedly faced a battle for leadership, or at the very least shaken his credibility at the conference.
McConnell exposed the naked pragmatism of his thinking in an interview with Politico magazine, effectively signaling an effort to remove Trump’s influence – unless he needs pro-Trump candidates to take over the Senate.
All I care about is appropriateness, McConnell said.
It is this cynical strategy that has made McConnell one of the most influential leaders in Congress since Lyndon Johnson. It has also brought the Republican Party to a point where it can no longer be called upon to punish a former president who led an effective coup after losing the election.
chance of Biden
The end of the impeachment process means that for the first time since becoming president last month, Biden can use the power of his cabinet as he redoubles his efforts to pass his $1.9 trillion pandemic aid plan through the 50-member Senate, which Democrats control thanks to the ability of Vice President Kamala Harris. The president begins leaving Washington this week – a rite of passage for the new administration previously arranged by Covid-19 – and will visit a CNN Town Hall in Wisconsin on Tuesday night. On Friday, Biden will try to reclaim US global leadership in another outing by the Trump administration by participating in a virtual meeting of G7 leaders to discuss the pandemic.
Sen. Chris Murphy said Sunday that Democrats effectively led the process, appointing Biden to the Cabinet and negotiating the Covid-19 aid package.
We did three things at once, the Connecticut Democrat said. But that balance would be upset if the process drags on – the factor being that Democratic senators opposed a surprise request from the House leadership to call witnesses on Saturday.
There is no time to lose, because the success of a Biden presidency – and the country itself – will depend on his ability to stop the pandemic and save the economy. And the crisis is at a turning point. The number of cases of the virus is rapidly decreasing and the deaths that usually delay new infections will soon do the same. But new variants of Covid-19, which appear more contagious, are spreading. In this context, the new vaccination tools that are part of the conference package are becoming increasingly important. As the extension of unemployment benefits expires in March, millions of Americans are counting on Congress. The bill also includes billions of dollars for the safe reopening of schools, a political issue of growing concern to the White House and a major concern for desperate parents.
The U.S. stimulus package has the resources – $130 billion – to make things easier and help schools reach the goal, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the State of the Union on Sunday.
His comments reflect the new reality that, with Trump’s departure, Biden will now be able to devote his full attention to the pandemic, the economy and any other unresolved national issues that land on the president’s desk.