The Grand Old Party took one last gasp on Feb. 13 in full view of a worldwide audience, when it proved incapable of governing itself, let alone the United States. A vast majority of Republicans aligned in support of insurrectionist Donald Trump, obstructionist Mitch McConnell, anarchist Josh Hawley and, by association, QAnon conspiracy theorist Margorie Taylor Greene.
The Senate’s impeachment duty was to decide if Donald Trump incited a treasonous riot to violently overthrow the United States government based on his ongoing “Big Lie” about losing the election to fraud. A lie he and others in his party have yet to retract despite factual reality. The insurrection resulted in death and injury, with intent to harm the vice president, the speaker of the house and further divide America. Despite the seriousness of the lie and the charges, Republicans flaunted their disrespect for the truth, the evidence, their Senate colleagues and their constitutional oath.
Fifteen Republican senators failed to attend trial presentations that might have informed their ultimate decision — begging the question if they should have even been allowed to vote. Although improbable that the Party of Trump could devolve to yet more immature behavior, several Republican senators behaved like bullies blatantly ignoring colleagues’ testimony, displaying recalcitrant behaviors inappropriate in high school classrooms, let alone the floor of the United States Senate.
To their credit, a few Republicans — including Lisa Murkowski — behaved like adults, asked coherent questions, understood the overwhelming importance of the testimony and voted on the merits of evidence to convict. All others hid behind claims that the trial was unconstitutional (an issue that had been resolved) and voted on constitutionality (which was not the question at hand.) They didn’t show up, didn’t listen and didn’t vote about the relevant issue.
The impeachment trial was possibly the last chance for the Republican Party to break ties with Donald Trump and return to a semblance of rational governing. They blocked the indictment with a purely partisan vote but lost any semblance of credibility.
According to a recent voting records review, 140,000 voters in 25 states changed their Republican Party affiliation to Democrat or undeclared since the Jan. 6 insurrection. Even pro-life Christians are backing away from a party that thinks physical violence is acceptable. Some say these defections are the tip of the iceberg. We can only hope.
What can the future possibly hold for a political party aligned with outrageous lies, Proud Boys, far-right militias, white supremacists and deplorable elected officials who behave like backstreet hoodlums now feeling empowered?
The problem with the Republican Party implosion is that democracy works best with at least two political groups with defined public policy philosophies and an ability to compromise in the best interest of constituents. Competent leaders embrace opposing views to inform decision-making so that all aspects of an issue are considered. The elegant design of our democratic system of government was abandoned for the last four years while Republicans ran roughshod toward enriching the wealthy and pandering to the lowest echelon of their base.
One hopes that rational Republicans will reform under a new banner or leadership. Either way, Trump-supported violence remains a grave concern. The FBI warns that white supremacist groups and militias — the very rioters loudly proclaiming their undying loyalty to Trump on live television as they ravaged the Capitol — remain the most concerning domestic threat to the United States.
The 2020 election should have been a warning red flag for Republicans as the outcome was clear. Democrats now control the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Democrats remain functional, hoping to work with colleagues across the aisle, with a president embracing the democratic process. The world is breathing a collective, hopefully not temporary, sigh of relief for the United States.
It’s sad that the party of Lincoln has fallen so low, failed so miserably and completely lost sight of its historical ideals and duty to faithfully serve. Behaviorists often suggest one has to “hit bottom” before starting the road to recovery. Republicans have hit bottom. It could be a long road back or simply a self-inflicted demise.
After the last four years, though, the chaos won’t be missed. RIP.
• Deborah Craig resides in Juneau.