veteran calypsonian Singing Francine (Francine Edwards) long ago advised women in abusive relationships to “put two wheels on yuh heels”. And some did, in extreme cases leaving everything behind. There’s real, unimaginable trauma and pain—physical, mental and emotional.
Few things compare to it, and we shouldn’t trivialise those experiences. But the caucus of cowardice that is US senate Republicans acted as if by running away from their duty to convict Donald Trump, they were suffering the real, actual pain of the abused.
The former president was clearly guilty of breaches of the law, and of his oath of office. The belongings the senators left behind were their principles, their self-respect and their cojones.
The last, egregious acts of Trump’s norms-shattering presidency were his attempts to steal an election in plain sight. How so? Let me count the ways, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote of stuff far more wholesome.
Long after the state of Georgia had repeatedly recounted and certified a vote that Trump lost and the courts had dismissed his challenges, Trump rang Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on January 2, to pressure him into vote-padding.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes,” he said, alternately pleading and bullying. Biden’s margin of victory was 11,779.
The president invited a delegation of Republican state election officials to a private meeting at the White House to try to persuade them to overturn results that showed Democratic nominee Joe Biden winning. Trump improperly dialed into another meeting of election officials for the same purpose.
In his last roll of the dice during the ceremonial counting of electors at a joint session of Congress on January 6, he tried to get vice-president Mike Pence to toss the already officially certified votes of certain states.
The storming of the Capitol occurred in part because Trump egged on his supporters to intimidate Pence and the other lawmakers into doing his bidding.
One of the justifications for letting the ex-president off was that he had only two weeks left on his term anyway.
Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, one of seven out of 50 Republican senators who voted to convict, was scornful. “If the end of a president’s term meant he or she would never be held politically liable for high crimes or misdemeanours committed while in office, the lame-duck period (between election in early November and inauguration in late-mid January) would pose a serious danger to the stability of the country,” she argued.
Impeachment in the House of Representatives and a trial in the Senate are political rather than legal acts. The courts of law, for attempted electoral fraud, are another matter. Trump should face the law.
For five months last year, Guyana’s then-president David Granger tried to claim victory in an election that he had lost. But when he ran out of road to stop the elections commission chair from certifying the results of the recount, Granger had no choice but to accept them. Not even he acted as blatantly anti-democratically as has Trump, who still has not accepted the fact that he lost.
The former president had described developing states he disdains as “s---hole countries”. But even despots from those countries wouldn’t have the nerve to go to the lengths that he did to steal an election.
Then secretary of state Mike Pompeo led the State Department in consistently calling on Granger to do the right thing and concede; yet Pompeo dodged the question of who won the November 2020 elections in his own country.
He must have known Trump had lost, but what was striking was his cowardice, and the irony that the government he represented did the exact thing that he has decried in other countries.
Makes you wonder how far he was prepared to travel, as a matter of principle, if Trump had succeeded in overturning the will of the majority.
This isn’t some anti-American screed. I love the country, I think its anthem is the most soul-stirring one of them all, and my mother is a citizen and a resident. Things could easily have turned out the same for me.
While Pompeo’s hypocrisy has to be called out, it’s important to note he and the State Department got it right on Guyana.
Hopes are riding high on his successor Antony Blinken helping to restore some of the moral authority that Trump and Pompeo squandered, although students of American foreign and hemispheric politics should be in no doubt that US administrations of both stripes act in America’s self-interests, even where they clash with its principles.
That said, the venerated founding fathers reached two questionable compromises in 1787, shortly after independence.
The first was that for the purposes of elections, folks who looked like me counted for only three-fifths of a person.
The other was the Electoral College, in which two of the last six winners of the presidency got millions fewer votes than the candidate they beat.
There have been amendments to the constitution over the more than two centuries since, including full suffrage for negroes and women, but key parts such as the Electoral College and its arcane accompaniments have stood firm.
This is the thing through which Trump tried to drive a coach and horses. In defence of the constitution, you could say the guardrails held; but once Trump has corruption-tested the system, someone better prepared and better positioned would probably do so again. And beat it.