Republicans falter, yet again, on Trump | HT Editorial
Donald Trump will go down in history as the only United States (US) president to have faced impeachment proceedings twice, and the only one to have been subject to impeachment even after demitting office. The Senate acquitted him on Saturday — a conviction would have disqualified him from running for public office — but this was a function of Republican senators unwilling to antagonise their hardline pro-Trump base. Fifty-seven senators, including seven Republicans, found Mr Trump guilty of “incitement of insurrection”, but this fell short of the required two-thirds majority.
There was a view that since Mr Trump was no longer in office, the impeachment was a distraction, and it was time to look ahead. But this takes away from the fact that holding Mr Trump accountable for undermining the sacred democratic tenet of peaceful transfer of power, and then encouraging a violent attack on the home of US democracy, was an ethical and political imperative. It also offered an opportunity to the Republican leadership to make a decisive break with Mr Trump; send a signal to supporters that political contestation must take place within democratic rules of the game; and chart out a new political trajectory of moderate Right-of-Centre politics — rather than the far-Right politics represented by Mr Trump.
But clearly, the Republican leadership did not want to take the risk. It wanted to hold on to Mr Trump’s base while pretending to wash its hands of his actions. The costs of this strategy have already become clear, and a clean break was essential to bring America back to normal politics and boost the faith of the world in US democracy. The Republicans failed, yet again.