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Second chance: Donald Trump impeached

His divisive political legacy was potent enough to attract 74 million votes in the last presidential election
Donald Trump.

The Editorial Board   |     |   Published 18.01.21, 12:43 AM

Once may be an accident, but twice need not be a coincidence. Donald Trump now bears the double ignominy of being the first president of the United States of America to have faced impeachment proceedings twice, but there can be no doubt about the fact that he fully deserves to bear this burden of shame. In 2019, Mr Trump had faced impeachment over allegations of impropriety in his conduct with Ukraine as well as for attempting to obstruct the Congress’s enquiries into the matter. On that occasion, he had been saved by an acquittal in the Senate that was under a firmer grip of the Republicans. The fate of the second impeachment — the outgoing president’s shocking complicity in the mob insurrection that led to the vandalization of the Capitol is the cause — may turn out to be a different affair. The vote to initiate impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives witnessed bipartisan unity — a rare occurrence in recent times — with as many as 10 members of the Republican Party demonstrating the courage to cross the line, as it were. This could create further momentum and embolden a larger number of Republicans to join Democrats in holding Mr Trump accountable for his misconduct. The growing consensus would certainly encourage Senate Democrats to press for not only Mr Trump’s conviction for his incendiary role in the recent disturbance but also an embargo preventing him from holding public office. There seems to be a view gaining ground across the political spectrum that unless Mr Trump and his dangerous vision are neutered, he may continue to pose a threat to the architecture of American democracy, its ethics and institutions.

The anxiety is not unwarranted. Mr Trump enjoys considerable support in the US: his divisive political legacy was potent enough to attract 74 million votes in the last presidential election. The quandary for Republicans concerns their fidelity to morals vis-à-vis populism. But the choice, equally, is between constitutionalism, republicanism and probity in contest against anti-institutionalism, demagoguery and divisiveness — the hallmarks of Trumpism.  Making the right decision — it would lead to the effacement of Mr Trump the politician — could go a long way in eroding the public endorsement of Mr Trump. History has shown that a shift at the Centre can, at times, take the fringe — even a politically robust fringe — along with it.

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