The Heart of America
“We need some reinforcements up here now. They’re starting to pull the gates down. They’re pulling metal poles at us.” On Jan. 6th, a police officer reported an irate mob of Trump supporters tearing into the Capitol building. Over the course of twelve hours, the insurrectionist mob defiled the heart of American democracy in a violent and unsuccessful coup. As the GOP defended the 45th President’s actions, a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and some Republicans called for accountability.
The day of the riot, Trump gave a speech that parroted many erroneous claims about the 2020 Presidential Election. “The states got defrauded, They were given false information. They voted on it. Now they want to recertify. They want it back. All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.” Mike Pence would have to give a certification of the electoral votes as Congress has counted them. Trump asserted that Pence, as Vice President, could choose to not certify the electoral votes as Congress counts them. In Trump’s mind, that would equate to the vote being either recounted or the election being declared a loss for Biden, which is not accurate due to the Electoral Count Act of 1887.
The Electoral Count Act states that the Vice President is only there to preside over the counting of electoral votes; he or she does not determine their legitimacy. This fallacy, which Trump believed and spread, caused an outburst among a number of constituents of the GOP. These people, in believing that the election had been “stolen,” took it upon themselves to correct what they thought needed to be corrected. This correlation, one which was drawn by the House Impeachment Managers, was a foundation of the impeachment case. In it, the House Impeachment Managers correlated Trump’s words with actions taken by his supporters in a comprehensive look at how his words became the actions of the insurrectionist mob. Many Senators, however, were of the opinion that the trial itself was unconstitutional, and voted to acquit Trump based on that assessment.
An anonymous Terra Linda High School Senior stated, “I mean it was obvious that he was gonna be acquitted from the get go. I don’t have strong feelings that the D.C. riots were his fault fully, but I see why people would say that and I do agree that [the insurrection] was horrendous. He was leaving office already, it did not matter that much and I would rather see him on trial for the sexual assault cases than [the insurrection].” Trump had recently been acquitted in his previous impeachment on Jan. 16, 2020. Given how the Senators had voted previously and the Republican allegiance to the GOP, it was safe to assume that Trump would be acquitted.
The Senate voted 57-43 to convict Trump, but because a two-thirds majority is needed to convict in an impeachment trial, the vote fell short. Fifty Democrats and left-leaning Independents, along with 7 Republicans voted to convict Trump, while the remaining 43 Senators, all of whom are Republicans, voted to acquit Trump. AP Government and Politics teacher Mr. Baker stated, “Those Republican Senators who voted not to convict Trump said that it wasn’t necessary since he lost the election. In other words, they ignored the insurrection on January 6th and his involvement in it. The loss of the November 2020 presidential election, they believed, was worse than impeachment.” Mr. Baker also detailed how impeachment is a check that the Legislative Branch can make against the Executive Branch. This check, designed to strengthen American democracy, was overlooked by the Republican Senators who voted to acquit Trump. In rationalizing their votes by asserting that the election loss would curb Trump’s actions, those Senators left the proverbial door wide open for Trump to run for office again, which could lead to the creation of another situation where his supporters refuse to accept that he lost an election.
The U.S. Constitution was written to provide posterity with insights into how American Democracy should function; the checks and balances that are inherent to this government are designed to ease the country away from partisanship and towards unity. When Donald Trump was sworn into office in 2016, his supporters berated the left, telling Democrats that they would survive 4 years of Trump. As the U.S.A. was poised to accept Joe Biden into the White House, Trump’s assertion of election fraud created a rift between two drastically different Americas. One side views politicians as public servants, while the other side worships and idolizes “their” politician. One values compassion, the other only cares for their own political power. One America accepted a peaceful transition while the other brutalized the heart of our democracy.