What’s Left: Win Or Lose, Trump’s Impeachment Trials Still Uphold American Democratic Principles

This past week, the Senate convened to hear evidence, and eventually, vote, in the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. The trial had been anticipated since the House formally submitted impeachment articles against Trump in the waning days of his presidency. The articles accuse Trump of “incitement of insurrection” against the US government, referring to his speech on Jan. 6 before the US Capitol riots. On Saturday, the Senate voted to acquit Trump, with a tally of 56-44. 

Both sides had compelling arguments. The Democrats, however, were always on the offensive. To impeach Trump, 17 Republican votes were required in order to fulfill the two-thirds majority needed to convict the President. For the Democrats, it wasn’t enough to show video evidence of the horrifying events of Jan. 6. Their case rested on their ability to demonstrate that Trump enabled the violence through his inflammatory rhetoric, thus endangering the safety of lawmakers in the Capitol, and as an extension, American democracy. 

Besides six swing votes, the Republicans remained loyal to Trump, even now that he’s out of office. Many alleged the hearings were unconstitutional, as Donald Trump is no longer president and thus can’t be impeached. Others dismissed the Democratic efforts of impeachment as simply unnecessary given Trump is no longer president. Finally, there are those Republicans that simply don’t believe Trump is to blame for what happened in Washington DC on Jan. 6. 

No matter the side of the aisle, one can’t help but marvel at the Democrats’ persistence in bringing down Donald Trump. A primary motivator for the Democrats to impeach Trump, even if he presently can’t do anything to damage the country, is the possibility of a campaign in 2024. If impeachment succeeded, Donald Trump would have no longer been eligible for a second term in addition to losing the benefits that former presidents have historically enjoyed, such as Secret Service protection. A Trump campaign in 2024, let alone a victory, would derail all that the Democrats have worked for in the past couple of years. However, with his acquittal, it’s possible that Trump runs again in 2024.  

Impeachment was always extremely unlikely, perhaps impossible in our current political environment. Nevertheless, the exercise in democracy that these trials represent is heartening. Holding a president accountable for his actions while in office will always be necessary for the upholding of democracy. While Trump is a private citizen now, he wasn’t on January 6. Leaving office doesn’t mean Trump escapes from accountability for his actions and words. Regardless of the result, the intentions of Democrats, and Republicans too, sustain the Democratic principles of this nation.