“A REPUBLIC, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT”

Adam Schiff

The headline quotes Benjamin Franklin, who, upon being asked by a lady curious to know what sort of government he and his fellow Constitutional Convention delegates had created, responded with those seven words.

“A republic, if you can keep it.”

Franklin might well find that today, we have tossed aside the “if.” The chances are, given what has already happened in the impeachment record, and what is about to happen, that we no longer have a republic. That we no longer have a Constitution, at least not one that means anything. That we now have an anarchy of lawless power in which unrestrained zealots and arrogant oligarchs contend to see which of them can win Thrasymachus’s game (from Plato’s Republic) : that justice is the will of the stronger.

At first it seemed to me that impeachment of Mr Trump would be a serious matter that might well lead to his removal, as it would have done in the case of Richard Nixon 45 years ago. But now there can be no doubt that this impeachment has never had any chance of being taken seriously by anyone except the Congress that filed it; nor can any of the impeachers have any doubt any longer that the accused doesn’t give a damn what they do by the book, because he doesn’t play by the book — by the Constitution — and could care less what consequences his outlawry brings.

It was saddening enough to watch the House’ s impeachment hearings in which the Republican members all, to a man, took Mr. Trump’s side, disregarding the evidence, poo-pooing it, denying it happened, sometimes justifying it and in many cases behaving like rude-bully sandbox kids. I say it was sad enough because at that stage it had not yet become apparent to me — nor to most of us, I dare say — that the Republican plan even then was to sabotage and subvert the Constitution itself, which includes an impeachment provision and sets forth its reasons and its guidelines.

Because I did not then see that the entire Republican plan was to say “f the Constitution,” I was disappointed to hear Congressman Will Hurd describe Mr. Trump’s shakedown of the Ukraine President as merely inappropriate — but not cause for impeachment,. I was disappointed , too, to see Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who knows better, say the same thing though more aggressively. I was shocked to see Congresswoman Elise Stefanik , who had seemed a sensible Republican until then, suddenly become a female Sean Hannity, a shill for sabotage. And what of Congresssmen Francis Rooney, and Mike Turner, who both at first expressed anger at Mr. Trump’s extortion, in the end both vote not to impeach ? What was that about ? I had no answer. But now I do have one.

The proceedings in the Senate  make it clear. Mr. Trump is to be acquitted, with no witnesses, no documents — because Mr. trump won’;t allow them — and though it may seem to some unprecedented, it is not. This is the consequence — the magnification — of Senator McConnell’s stonewalling President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. Just as McConnell spat upon the Constitution’s  direction that, upon Presidential nominations, the senate is to give “advice and consent” — if you don’t even allow the nomination to be brought forward, how can advice and consent be given ? — so the Republicans in the Senate are now spitting upon the Constitution’s impeachment clauses, and upon the rule of law itself by locking the impeachment trial up and throwing away the key.

It is possible that Senators Romney, Collins, and Murkowski may vote to allow witnesses into the trial (and maybe Lamar Alexander as well)  but already the McConnell group has poisoned that initiative by insisting that if the Romney group’s witnesses be called, so must Joe Biden and his son, who were the intended victims of Mr. Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine. Of course this demand is not serious, and it removes all doubt that the Republican plan is, and has been since Day one, to say “f you” to the Constitution and its defenders.

It has made me want to cry, to watch Congressman Schiff deliver his impassioned, eloquent, heart-rending embrace of the Constitution and its intentions, knowing, as he must — as I know — that he is speaking to a body of saboteurs who are laughing at his earnestness, dissing — by snoring in their seats or playing with their cell phones — his naivete in thinking there is any interest on their part in a document they only give a damn about if it can advantage their schemes.

What I still do not understand — and to me it is the heart of the matter — is why the Republicans, who know what Mr. Trump is and who, most of them, despise him, are n’t ready, willing and eager to remove him and make Mike Pence President. Pence would support all the issues they care about and without the corruption, the brutality, the vulgarity, the incompetence. Why not have President Pence ? But perhaps there is an answer. Perhaps they prefer Mr. Trump’s criminality, his lawlessness, his bigotry and his sabotage of everything we have held dear but now consider an inconvenience. Perhaps they do not want President Pence because Pence is a decent fellow, a rule of law man, an obeyer of rules who would govern “by the book.” THAT, I am thinking, is what the Republicans no longer want. They want sabotage. They want subversion. They want lawlessness and all that goes with it because they feel that by waging total guerrilla war they can defeat the Democrats, who refrain from total war.

After all, look at who the Republican “base” voters now are : religious zealots who demand to impose their sex and propagation rules upon the entire nation; nativist bigots who hate brown people, especially brown immigrants; racists afraid of the coming to power of women and people of color; dinosaur industrialists who want to poison the earth if they have to, to squeeze extra gelt out of their products. (You don’t have to be angry Greta to detest the I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude of too many in the fossil fuel industry. It’s right there for all to smell.) The “base” doesn’t stop at lobbying for its policy preferences. Oh no, lobbying is too civil. Rather, say the base, let’s unleash shock and awe upon them.

Well ? It is in fact shock and awe to watch Mr. Trump and his clique explode the Constitution as if it were an Army Humvee and they an IED. It Is shock and awe to watch the impeachment trial be, basically. the opening gambit in the 2020 election — for what other good can Adam Schiff’s great speeches, falling on deaf Senate ears, be if not an argument to the people ? The people, who are our republic’s last line of defense ? And the same is true of Mr,. Trump’s lawyers whose speeches begin today. Full of blather and bullshit, fantasy and fakery, are they not the Mr. Trump method of campaigning to his people ? And so we are moving on to the election even as the actors in Washington pretend that they are carrying out the impeachment trial prescribed by the now scoffed Constitution. Will the rule of law ever revive ? Will the Constitution ever again be honored by those who might chafe at its checks and balances ? I doubt it. I very much doubt it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere