If the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump achieves one thing, it will be a lasting historical memory of the moment that the Republican Party openly embraced political violence as its brand. As Democrats lay out their case that Trump was “singularly responsible” for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, the “Grand Old Party” is on the verge of strangling American democracy.
This is the part where I’m supposed to say that it’s simply too soon to tell how the trial verdict will play out. Only it’s not too soon. Since only six Republican senators voted Tuesday in favor of moving forward with the constitutionally mandated trial, Trump’s acquittal on charges of incitement of a violent putsch are all but a forgone conclusion. A second acquittal for Trump on impeachment charges means only one thing: He will be back again in Washington. It also means there will likely be more American blood spilled over the Republican Party’s dark brand of politics in the years ahead. It is a brand that, on some days, may skew toward the “loony lies and conspiracy theories” of QAnon, as Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell put it recently. On others, it may lean more toward the “race war” openly advocated by those in Trump’s neo-Nazi fan base, like Richard Spencer and the white supremacist Daily Stormer.
Even if one or two more Republican senators reject the asinine arguments advanced by Trump’s defense lawyers about the president’s free speech rights, that won’t change the fundamentals. A majority of Republican lawmakers have already indicated by vote, speech and deed that they stand by the violent vision Trump has sold to millions of Americans. Moreover, assuming Trump successfully navigates the pending civil lawsuits and ongoing criminal investigations into his business dealings and his blatant interference in the election count in Georgia, Trump will run again in 2024. And even if he steps back from center stage, Trump has plenty of potential Republican heirs apparent waiting to take up his pugilistic mantle.