A Cesspool of Constitutional Nonsense-Impeachment in the Senate

Photograph Source: United States Senate – Public Domain

The process moves to the Senate. Will the mockery continue after the procedurals and pomp are put to rest and the hearing begins?  Or will there be a genuine attempt to find some truth no matter how shallow? Since the House of Representatives closed up its hearings in December 2019, the most interesting event to happen in this story of Trump’s impeachment was the interview with the fellow Parnas in which he stated that Trump knew him and knew what he and Giuliani were up to.  What they were up to was getting dirt on Joe Biden for Trump. Even the government’s Budget Office says that is illegal.

Before the opening gavel, the documents were carried to the Senate side of the Capitol in a ritualistic promenade.  Nancy Pelosi handed out pens and Mitch McConnell repeated the now familiar “the Democrats don’t like Trump and they never have” refrain.  As of Friday January 17th, there is little joy in GOPville because Megalomaniacal Mitch might not have been able to cajole and coerce enough of his party members to vote against witnesses and new documents and for immediate acquittal.  The big chief John Roberts has even suggested he may subpoena both, which means a battle against the top judge every time he calls another witness or issues another subpoena. Bad optics for a man who isn’t guilty of anything.

As the show opens, a certain uncertainty is in the air.  Will there be witnesses or will the Trumpists be able to keep the votes preventing any pretense that this thing will be anything more than an infomercial work? I’m not one of those who believes the office of the president has any special sanctity or privilege. It certainly hasn’t had any since I started paying attention in the 1960s.  So, when Donald Trump starts talking about executive privilege “for the sake of the office” I gotta’ laugh. I wonder if whichever of his advisors told him to say that did so with a straight face. If there’s one thing Donald Trump has done it would be diminishing that office.  Even Richard Nixon treated it with respect. Trump treats nothing and nobody with respect. Never did and never will. He’s incapable of it. That’s one of the reasons he uses his money to get what he wants. Even those who claim to respect him really only respect his money. Those who wish they had the sums he claims to have will grovel for his approval.  Those who already are his financial equal suck up to him in hopes they can get some of his. Capitalism is an ugly game of greed and selfishness. Trump may not play that game with refinement, but he plays it well. That’s because his entire persona embodies greed and selfishness. This impeachment trial will prove that in spades.  It will probably also prove that the Trumpists don’t give a rat’s ass about that.

Meanwhile, Trump is in the Swiss town of Davos with a bunch of other capitalist powermongers congratulating themselves about how great their economy is.  It’s enough to make you wish the earth would swallow them all up and send them to the hell they belong in. Especially when one understands that the point of the meeting is how to make themselves richer and more powerful, no matter what degree of hell that puts the rest of us in here on earth.

The eleven votes to either reject or table subpoenas and witnesses almost certainly proves the end of any chance that a real trial even of the impeachment kind is dead. It’s like playing a game with a roomful of five-year-old children, who make up and change the rules as the game progresses. Their only intention is to win. Cheating becomes a matter of perspective. When one is among people whose only motive is making money and grabbing power for themselves, their friends and those they are beholden to, the rules are made to maximize those goals. Braggarts and thugs are most likely to rule. It seems less likely by the hour that calling Trump out for his violations of an oath which favors the executive anyhow will not happen in the US Senate. The road to justice of any kind diminishes with each senatorial vote. The masters of mankind—as the capitalist theorist Adam Smith called them—are leading us all to an American form of fascism. To make the world safe for the ultimate capitalists—the banks and the investment houses. Those who make nothing but money from other people’s money.  Democracy is anathema to these humans. Their hope lies in our despair.

Speeches on the Senate floor recall the words of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. Both men were wordsmiths who fought the British crown for the right of the colonists in North America to steal land from the indigenous people, trade with whomever they wished, and exploit their expanding labor force, most of whom were slaves. Did I mention that part of the land theft involved killing the people who lived on the land? Despite this history of blood and theft, these men wrote down some pretty words and thought about the nature of freedom and human dignity—words which they applied only to propertied men like themselves at the time. Over time, these words have become universalized some. Like the words of certain French revolutionaries, they have been championed by fighters for freedom and fighters for Empire alike through the years. Yet, this is not the history we should be harkening back to.

No, the history that is relevant here is neither French nor American. If it is revolutionary, it is revolutionary only in the most reactionary sense. Its goal is not to overturn the mechanism of power but to take it over and transform it into a machine that serves one man, who together with his cadre of likeminded individuals plans on becoming a supreme leader. A leader who is above the law and who in the minds of his followers embodies the nation. A man who is like a god, an emperor and a king. In 1930s Europe there were three such men: Francisco Franco of Spain, Benito Mussolini of Italy and Adolf Hitler of Germany. Each was successful in their goal of becoming the supreme leader of their particular nation. They obtained power either by manipulating the governmental mechanisms in their nation or by sheer force and brutality. After taking power, they relied on the latter to consolidate that power.

The United States in 2020 is different, but not that different. Already, the Trumpists have destroyed or changed the nature of various departments of the governmental bureaucracy they disagree with. Environmental laws are intentionally ignored and overturned in the name of corporate greed. Thousands of immigrants sit in prisons around the country because already harsh practices have been made even harsher. Illegal wars and other military operations underway when Trump assumed power continue around the globe, with more underway and the world edging ever closer to the precipice of another major conflict. The rights of women and children are slowly being dismantled. The same is true for labor. As for Blacks and other non-whites, the despicable history of the US in that regard continues with a special vengeance. Anyhow, you get the picture.

Meanwhile, at the top the Trumpists have complete control of the US Senate. This means that—because of the way the national legislature is constructed—only that legislation backed by Trump and his backers is likely to reach a vote on that body’s floor. As for the bureaucracy of government, most key positions have either been filled by men and women pledged to Trump or are left empty. This process continues, even among the general staff of the military, as generals retire and are replaced by men and women who are already Trumpist or are willing to become such in order to get more brass on their dress uniforms. The courts are increasingly stacked with judges whose only allegiance is to unfettered capital and its rule—a rule Trump has pretty much guaranteed will continue to expand. Like the rest of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights are reconsidered in such a way that only capital and its masters have all the rights guaranteed therein.

Like the fascists mentioned above, the Trumpists are rejecting the rules of bourgeois government that don’t work for them and reinterpreting those that might. The construction of the Senate’s rules in the impeachment proceedings are a perfect example of this process. The arguments made by the opposition are, like the impeachment investigation itself, ultimately meaningless. Why? Because the opposition has assumed all along that the rules would be followed by both sides. Their assumption has not only proved to be incorrect; it might also be one of the last nails pounded into this perishing republic’s coffin.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com