Failing to convict Trump for a second time gains the Democrats nothing
This is something of a broken window argument. You aren't impeaching him because it will work to get you elected, or because you can succeed in barring him from office, or even to force all the senators who vote to not convict him to put that vote on the record.
Mostly you impeach him to show that there are still barriers that will be defended between the US Government and the next, more competent authoritarian who is waiting for that sign of surrender that is being suggested is the best course of action.
Even if none of that were true, you impeach him because it is the right thing to do, and it is good governance, and it fulfills your oath of office.
"It seems vindictive. In fact, it is vindictive. It’s as much about settling scores of the past four years as it is about what Trump said on his way out the door. [...] Trump now joins this exclusive club: presidents that everybody regards as awful, even if they don’t know why."
I don't understand this sentiment. A very large portion of the country still regards him as the best president we've ever had -- to the point where, if those in power did believe he was awful, they are still not willing to risk the blowback from admitting it. The fact that the impeachment and trial is a contentious affair at all shows the argument that "hey, time already served is justice enough, deterrence enough" is not strong. The President of the US baldly and emphatically lied about election results repeatedly and loudly and with the intent to overturn the results, to keep himself in power unelected to that power; he made grave and vehement claims of fraud with flimsy-to-nonexistent evidence. I think it was Ben Sasse who said it was like pointing a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self government, but I don't think that goes far enough. He and his fellow travelers indeed pointed that gun at the heart of legitimate self government, and then they pulled the trigger again and again until the magazine was dry. Hopefully none of the wounds are fatal.
To me, the arguments in favor of impeachment and conviction revolve around justice on the one hand and pragmatism on the other. About justice, I don't think I need to say more than I have above; however, impeachment and conviction serves a pragmatic purpose: the same purpose for which we have locks on doors.
My father likes to say "Locks exist to keep the honest people honest." You lock your doors not because it keeps you safe from the person who is strongly committed to robbing or hurting you, but to discourage those who are not fully committed to robbing or hurting you from doing so (but who might if it were convenient or not too much trouble). If a person becomes violently psychotic and decides they want you dead, those locks are worth very little. They make it harder, but not much.
The prospect of impeachment and conviction hold little deterrence for a person like Trump without some assurance he's likely to indeed be convicted, and such a failure to get impeachment and conviction emboldens such a person. That is one key risk of impeachment: if you fail to get conviction, the sociopath / narcissist sees only your weakness and their strength in that failure -- they do not consider how close it may have been. (I don't mean to suggest they are indifferent to the risk of impeachment; they merely don't care about norms and are impulsive enough that only significant and relatively certain negative consequences will deter them; to them, no matter what happens, they will always frame things as they did nothing wrong and the world is out to get them and they never feel shame.)
However, most people -- even most politicians -- do not operate at that level. They crave acceptance and approbation and dislike being painted in a negative light as most of us do; in short, they feel bound by norms and reputation. They would be ashamed to be impeached at all, let alone convicted. Impeaching Trump again and getting a conviction would be excellent, though I think it is unlikely. However, the knowledge that impeachment is very much a tool that will be used when someone acts with depraved indifference or with malevolent intent to damage our republic will deter many.
Having said that, there are risks. One I identified above if conviction fails. Mr. Kinsley points out another: the process makes it harder for the Democrats to pursue their agenda quickly -- but I think that does miss one fundamental issue: maintenance of our republic and the institutions that bind it (self-governance through elections, the primacy of facts over lies) *are* and *should be* the most urgent items on the agenda. They should be the most urgent for Republicans too, but I do recognize that it takes exceptional courage to pursue that course of action given that it virtually guarantees a strong primary challenge and a whole lot of disapproval from some of their fellow Republicans and from their constituents.
Another risk I've seen identified (elsewhere) is that it promotes disunity rather than unity. That is absurd. There can be no unity without adherence to truth and accountability. Anything else is the performance of unity rather than actual unity. Ultimately, everyone pretends they want unity, but no one is willing to make the compromises that unity entails. Unity is the club each side uses to beat the other into submission; it is mere performance. Both parties seem to think "unity" is synonymous with "capitulation."
What I see emerging is that Joe Biden believes he just won a race war, despite Trump having gained with Black and Hispanic voters. He is governing as though he has just won a war against what believes Trump's presidency was about: white supremacy. The Democrats believe this. The media appears to be believe it and this is their case against Trump, and in fact, what is driving the Biden administration overall - from COVID relief, to staffing, to antiracism policies. The problem is that the majority in this country most certainly don't see that. They see it as what it actually was: a class war that is ongoing. Biden has made it very clear he doesn't see this. The impeachment trial, therefore, is going to be one massive cancel culture moment where the crime won't be inciting an insurrection at all, but rather making congress and the country feel "unsafe" and needing to see consequences for that.
What is ironic is how no one cares when an 80 year-old man was beaten to death for trying to save his friend Sue's mattress store, or how protesters in Portland held police captive in a basement and taunted them, even taunting the female officers with threats of rape. None of this was paid any attention to, so on top of everything else, all of America is going to see the grand hypocrisy in the left finally accepting "sending in the troops" or punishing protesters; they aren't stopping at the handful of white supremacists and q'anon who are anti-government but rather the supporters of Trump who were exercising their Constitutional right to protest that day and didn't break in. It is hypocrisy -- visible hypocrisy - across the board.
I worry for this country because we don't seem able to distinguish reality from hysteria anymore. This is vindictive, but it is also a terrible use of time, money and energy when our country is barely holding together. They're doing it to prevent Trump from running again in 2024. What they're really afraid of, I would imagine, is not Trump running but Trump winning.
The "logical problem with impeachment" lies not with the Democrats but with this writer. Why can't Trump have incited the mob and various smaller elements within it planned an assault. Why can't both be true? All evidence points to that being exactly the case.
There is no "logical problem" with the impeachment charges. Trump, while serving as President of the United States (!), spent two months lying about the election results, strong-arming state election officials, authorizing crackpot lawsuits, encouraging the idea that Congress and the Vice-President could reverse the election results, and encouraging people to come to D.C. on January 6 for a "wild" time. Trump's conduct would have been impeachable even if he hadn't spoken himself on January 6. Likewise, the fact that he did encourage violence in the January 6 speech is hardly excused by the reality that he already had stirred up insurrectionist forces. There's nothing that says his January 6 speech must be the sole cause of the storming of the Capitol.
This article was a dispiriting read. As other commenters have pointed out, this impeachment is about drawing lines between right and wrong, and true and false. Save the nuanced political calculations for another day.
Whether or not Democrats (or Republicans) benefit from the impeachment trial is beside the point. Surely, the picture frame of what took place and the characters involved needs to be much bigger than the day we are in. Just, may be, we could all learn something to help us in the future -- if not us, our children possibly.
Agreed, it's dammed inconvenient and a chore, but the risk of not coming to grips with these dangerous and horrific events will leave us vulnerable to them happening again. Vindictive emotions will surface (as in the first impeachment) but this side consequence can be managed surely.
One big reason for having the trial is to open all the boxes and clearly see what we have inside. People, evidence and circumstances can be sought, collected and presented. Having the whole episode and series documented gives it a better chance of being seen and understood at a later date. This is independent of what verdict turns up.
It's very difficult to move on without an accountable past.
Trump has already been impeached by the House. I believe he should be convicted by the Senate and prevented from running again for the good of the country. He created the environment that brought about the events of Jan 6 with his lies and refusal to accept his obvious defeat in Nov. He violated his oath to the constitution. He won't just go away, and yes, some are even more sympathetic to him (members of my own family included). Time to close the book on Trump.
"Justice be done or the whole world will perish"
Is the US President above the law? It certainly seems so. Congress needs to test the limits of current statutory and constitutional law so it can craft whatever legislation is needed to hold the President accountable. If it fails in this American democracy is doomed. It's really not about Trump at all.
I would have preferred that Congress used the 14th amendment to prevent Trump from holding elective office, but one always has to stand up to bullies or they keep going. Think Chamberlain appeasement of Hitler. Timothy Synder's work on Autocracy confirms the importance of using the rule of law to address those who incite violence. I am not sure this impeachment will serve the Democrats, but it will serve our Democracy..
Every point in this piece can be true, and yet for me, "it's the principle of the thing" would still be more persuasive.
The rampage was planned. Trump actively and seditiously supported the insurrection. There is no argument; these are facts.
The perception of impeachment as a "partisan exercise" is irrelevant. This is a matter of duty. Trump fueled lies, sedition, insurrection, and corruption the likes of which have been unseen since the events that presaged World War Two.
What is the point of rubbing the bully’s nose in the dirt? Would you also ask, what is the point of holding a criminal accountable for his crimes?
Justice and accountability both strengthen civility.
The practical effect of impeachment is that, if convicted, yes, Trump cannot hold office ever again. But, importantly, he will also be denied (under the former president's act) yearly payments of $219,200 for a pension, $150,000 yearly for office staff, secret service protection, and free medical insurance.
Michael Kinsley, please don't go the way of Rudy Giuliani.
Precisely. It is a waste of time and resources and generates gratuitous resentment among Trump supporters. I detest the guy, too, but rationality not emotion should be what drives the Democrats right now. They have an opportunity to seize the mantle of the apolitical "greatest good for the greatest number" party.
Brilliant man, wonderfully written, fundamentally flawed. Impeaching Trump is the only way to salvage the Republican Party. Impeachment and conviction is not for the sake of saving the Entitlement party but to save the Rights party. The Republican Party. The biggest distinction between Republicans and Democrats is their very different view of Natural Rights. For Democrats rights are a utilitarian gift from the government since rights are essentially only a convenient Romantic myth. As human tastes change our rights change for Democrats. But Republicans, true Republicans, not the laser beam lunatics nor the Trumpist paramilitary crackpots, nor the cynical frauds like Cruz and Hawley, but real Republicans, disagree with the Democrats on rights. We believe that rights are real. They come from a well ordered universe, from Nature's God perhaps. And the role of the government is to protect our individual natural rights, and the natural rights of others across the world. So I disagree deeply with Mr. Kinsley. We must suffer our diagnosis bravely, recognize we are a sick party at the moment, and proudly take the bitter pill that will heal us. Impeach and convict Trump to save the Republican Party protect Western Liberalism from the the tastes of those who would gladly Cancel the great men and women and fantastic life embracing feats of Western Civilization.