Trump committed an impeachable offense in his incitement of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
There is no need to pander to those who want to argue that Trump did not incite an insurrection that sought to forcefully overturn the results of a free and fair election. His sedition clearly violates Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, warranting both impeachment and conviction.
But impeachment is a political process, as is conviction. In the weeks leading up to the trial, it was clear that Democrats would not be able to garner enough Republican senators’ votes to convict the former president.
Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, called impeachment “a complete waste of time.” Scott’s words reflect his loyalty to Trump, yet his sentiment was shared by voters across the political spectrum, both before and after the trial in the Senate failed to convict Trump.
Why hold a trial that will fail and take up time during which the Senate could be tackling one of the many crises the nation currently faces?
The trial was a symbolic necessity in order to uphold the rule of law in the United States, and it clearly illustrated which senators were willing to undermine this principle at the heart of all democracies.
The rule of law is the concept by which laws apply equally to all. This includes political elites. Without this, democracies regress toward autocracies, in which special groups of individuals are above the law. Restated in the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the rule of law is a pillar of American democracy.
Trump’s infamous quip that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and [he] wouldn’t lose voters,” his grotesque patronage to allies and his exploitation of his position of power for personal financial gain all demonstrate that he doesn’t believe laws apply to him. He never felt confined to the rules of the game.
Throughout his presidency, complicit Republicans who chose to aid and abet Trump in his abuse of power made it clear that political gains and the maintenance of their party’s power mattered more to them than the rule of law — the foundation of democracies.
There has not been a president in the past century who so openly and proudly broke the law and exploited his political power. This president was unprecedented in this regard, and the trial sought to keep it that way. When the 50 Democratic senators and seven Republican senators voted to convict Trump, they made clear their intolerance for those who actively seek to undermine American democracy. They reinstated the precedent that the rule of law applies to all politicians, including the president.
Additionally, after living through the insurrection and revisiting it in graphic detail when chilling, unseen surveillance videos were played at the trial, 43 Trump loyalists chose to submit to Trump one last time. They denied evidence, actively undermined the rule of law and solidified their place in history: against democracy.