Republicans are trying another extortion play — but Democrats refuse to pay the ransom

Republicans are trying another extortion play — but Democrats refuse to pay the ransom
Teargas outside United States Capitol Building, January 6, 2021, Tyler Merbler

If there's any doubt about the impact of Donald Trump being impeached for the second time in two years, consider this. Some House Republicans sent a letter to Joe Biden asking him to get Nancy Pelosi to back off. "A presidential impeachment should not occur in the heat of the moment, but rather after great deliberation," they said. They added that Impeachment Vol. II "would undermine [Biden's] priority of unifying Americans, and would be a further distraction to our nation at a time when millions of our fellow citizens are hurting because of the pandemic and the economic fallout."

To their credit, these Republicans are not among the 147 Republicans in the United States Congress who planned to vote to overturn the results of the presidential election before a gang of insurgents stormed the Capitol. They are not among the 60 percent of elected Republicans who actually voted to overturn the election after the insurgents, some of whom erected a gallows and chanted "Hang Mike Pence," came close to breaching the room where lawmakers were. These are not the Republicans working with confederates who beat to death a Capitol police officer. These are not the people who stand with murder being a legitimate alternative to democracy.

Nice unity you have here. Shame if something happened to it.

These Republicans are OK with extortion, though. That's what the Republican appeal for unity is. What they are really saying is that if the Democrats move forward with impeaching Trump with just days left in his term, they can expect even more defiance on the part of the president and his confederates inside and outside the Republican Party. Nice unity, these Republicans are really saying. Shame if something happened to it. It's not reasonable. It's certainly not principled. It's a threat of more political violence.

Some might say there's enough bad behavior to go around. Last summer, some Black Lives Matter protests got out of hand. Didn't some "leftists" riot, loot and vandalize? True, some did, but these are categorically different acts of violence. Smashing the windows of the Express Mart is not the same thing as smashing the windows of the US Capitol at the direction of a president during a joint-session of the Congress to finalize an election's results. Anyone saying they are the same, as Fox's Brian Kilmeade did, is expressing sympathy for right-wing terrorists and rationalizing their attempted coup.

Fortunately, the House Democrats seem to understand they can't give in to extortion. Pelosi introduced one article of impeachment this morning, accusing the president of "incitement of insurrection." The House Republicans blocked a resolution calling on the vice president to invoke the 25th Amendment. That set up a vote for Wednesday. Pelosi doesn't fire blanks. Trump is going to be the only president impeached twice.

There's some question about when the impeachment trial would take place in the Senate. Jim Clyburn suggested the House might hold on to the article until after Joe Biden's agenda is up and running after the first 100 days. I'm less concerned about the timing than I am about the Democrats' commitment to convicting the president and making an example of him. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a key vote in the next Congress, said Trump deserves impeachment. That suggests that his party is all-in.

Why? The Democrats are pissed. This time for good, I think. Before the siege, it was still possible to see a gallows erected on Capitol Hill as mere symbolism. Not after, though. It was still possible to believe the president's confederates really did believe Blue Lives Matters. Not after beating a cop to death. Before 147 Republicans went on record supporting the insurrection, it was still possible to believe not all Republicans act like separatists. It was still possible to believe the Republican Party's fascist turn would end after Trump left. It was still possible to believe the Republicans had more to offer the republic than disloyalty, sabotage and treachery.

They don't. So the Democrats are acting accordingly. Pelosi made sure Trump cannot start a nuclear war. House Democrats plan on freezing out their traitorous colleagues, not allowing them to introduce or co-sponsor any bills, even plain-vanilla ones. Civil society seems to be piling on. One CNN anchor is now outwardly, and gloriously, hostile toward Fox. Expect others in the press corps to follow suit. Twitter and Facebook banned Trump. Apple and Google deplatformed Parler, the fascist Twitter. Corporate donors are pulling out. Big-dollar individuals are adding to calls for resignation, sanction or expulsion. Meanwhile, according to CBS News, right-wing violence is spreading across the country, like a virus, after last week's MAGAttack.

The Republicans have held democracy, the economy and democratic norms for ransom for at least a decade. Take that way, and what leverage does the party have? None.

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