1) Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, “Democrats consider one-week impeachment trial, censure resolution after GOP signals likely acquittal of Trump,” Washington Post, January 27, 2021Jan. 27, 2021 (8:00 p.m. EST).
2) Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the twentieth century, Chapter 1.
3) “Unity with fascists? NEVER!” The Trenchant Observer, January 26, 2021.
Timothy Snyder in On Tyranny describes how democrats in any country can make concessions to tyrants that even the latter could not imagine possible. This is a phenomenon he calls “anticipatory obedience”.
In Chapter 1 of On Tyranny, Snyder writes:
Chapter 1 Do not obey in advance
Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.
Anticipatory obedience is a political tragedy. Perhaps rulers did not initially know that citizens were willing to compromise this value or that principle. Perhaps a new regime did not at first have the direct means of influencing citizens one way or another….
The Democrats in Congress now propose to hold a quick trial in the Senate which will neither convict ex-President Trump nor educate the American people as to the nature of his crimes, and his attempted coup d’état.
What will future authoritarian leaders learn from the Senate trial, and the zeal with which the Democrats prosecute the case against Trump?
The Republicans’ greatest weapon over the years has been the stupidity and cowardice of their Democratic opponents, who never seem to lose an opportunity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Any Democrat who supports a motion of censure against Trump to hold him to account for his attempted coup, and the numerous crimes that it involved, should never be re-nominated or re-elected to legislative office.
Real Democrats need to stand up and call out the stupidity and cowardice of Democratic colleagues who support censure or a quickie trial that fails to present the evidence, educate the American people, and burst Trump’s propaganda bubble.
They need to call out this stupidity and cowardice for what it is: Appeasement of the fascists* in our midst.
They need to band together and pledge their sacred honor to never vote for, support, or endorse any Democratic Senator who votes for censure or who fails to use the trial of Donald Trump to educate the electorate, and to hold Trump’s Republican co-conspirators in his attempted coup, and his apologists, to account.
They must pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to upholding the Constitution and defending American democracy from the Republican fascist threat.
They must take on Trump and his fascist supporters, frontally, in what may be a life-or-death struggle to defend a world built on facts and truth, the Constitution, and the Rule of Law.
Democrats need to understand that what is at stake is not whether or not Trump is convicted in the Senate impeachment trial, but rather whether that trial can be used to lay out all the facts of his treasonous attempt to overthrow the Constitution and the goverment. They must fight tooth and nail for his conviction for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” he has committed, in the Senate itself if possible.
But if conviction with the help of decent, principled Republican Senators is not possible in the Senate, they must nonetheless strive to achieve conviction at least in the court of public opinion and in the longer time frames of history and future electoral cycles.
My greatest fear has always been that Biden, in his Quixotic quest for bipartisanship in a world that has radically changed, would be too soft, too forgiving, and in effect pursue an illusory “Munich Pact” with American fascists which places our democracy in great peril.
In the spring and summer of 2019, the House Democrats were too afraid of Trump and his supporters to conduct a broad impeachment inquiry into his many crimes. These included the obstruction of justice cases laid out in exquisite detail in the Mueller Report, which many appeared never to have read in close detail.
They knowingly sent narrow articles of impeachment relating to the Ukraine to the Senate and to certain acquittal in the impeachment trial. This narrow and doomed effort enabled them to avoid taking on Trump, frontally, for the broad range of crimes he had committed and was committing. He was only emboldened by his acquittal.
We all saw how that worked out.
If not only Trump but the fascist appeal of Trumpism are to be defeated, the Democrats in both the Senate and the House must resolve to use every ounce of their energy to convict Trump, in the Senate if possible, and in any event in the court of public opinion and in future elections if not.
Biden and the Democrats are suffering from a fatal illusion if they think, for a moment, that they will more quickly advance their programs by going into the impeachment trial in the Senate with the expectation of defeat.
The Trenchant Observer
*Definition of “fascist”:
1) Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::
fascist /ˈfæʃɪst/(sometimes capital)
1. an adherent or practitioner of fascism
2. any person regarded as having right-wing authoritarian views
Also: fascistic /fəˈʃɪstɪk/
characteristic of or relating to fascism
2) WordReference Random House Unabridged Dictionary of American English © 2020
1. a person who believes in or sympathizes with fascism.
2. (often cap.) a member of a fascist movement or party.
3. a person who is dictatorial or has extreme right-wing views.
Also, fa•scis•tic (fash′ist), of or like fascism or fascists.