The Show Trial of Donald J. Trump

On the one hand, President Trump’s impeachment trial can be seen as the culmination of a years–long attempt to finally get to Trump.

If there is a defining trend of the Donald Trump’s political career, it is the constant speculation that whatever latest error or hideous utterance Trump committed, would surely lead to his downfall. Indeed, this began right from the off, when Trump famously declared that people from Mexico coming into the United States  were bringing crime and were rapists. During the 2016 presidential campaign, there were a plethora of moments that were going to finally bring Trump down, perhaps most intensely the Access Hollywood video in which he spoke of having his way with Arianne Zucker. Then, of course, the likes of Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen, and the Mueller Report. There was his callous remarks after Charlottesville, his disgusting treatment of refugees at the border, and most recently, the Ukraine scandal.
On the one hand, President Trump’s impeachment trial can be seen as the culmination of a years–long attempt to finally get to Trump. He became the third President in history to be impeached by the House, as Democrats laid out a perfectly solid case as to why he needed to be impeached, and removed from office. However, as the case moved into the Senate, we see the situation more clearly. This is not a nadir for Trump, but rather a zenith. The height of his power on full display. As the minions in the Senate that are in his full control race through nothing short of a show trial, Trump is surely basking over his domination over American institutions of power.
Ironically, this very reality is what many in the Republican Party, at least gave the lip service of concern toward, as Trump mauled his opponents in the 2016 Republican Primary. By election night, it was clear that the Republican Party was now the Party of Trump. As his volatile and incompetent presidency has unfolded, he’s ultimately been shielded from anything like consequences by the brute force of his control, which has given spineless Republicans the perfect out whenever the conscience may attempt to be called. Time and again, pundits have guffawed at Republican office–holders. How can there be no noble people among them? How can they so willingly reject the reality staring right at them? And, it’s allowed a lot of pretenders to lean on the notion of political expedience. That they can somehow help to temper this insanity, by being party to it, instead of getting themselves kicked out by Trump’s delirious supporters. Yet, still there are those who hold out some sort of deranged hope for someone in this party to ‘stand up’.

At the time of writing, the pressing question is whether or not witnesses should be called in the trial. Yes, amazingly, that is up for debate. And, usual suspects like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins are hemming and hawing about what to do. It creates a truly incredible atmosphere. One in which, before this show trial can be wrapped up, and a victory delivered to President Trump, these Senators have to publicly discuss just how showy this show trial should be.
And so, the American system of checks and balances gleefully revels in the fact that it has no clothes. It is fitting that it is precisely the Republicans in the Senate that must do this dance. It is more telling than a failure of courage, or an abdication of responsibility. Instead, it’s a masterclass in self-destruction. The willful surrender of power and authority, to a man who has shown time and again that he holds no loyalty to any of the people who feel that loyalty to him is the best course of action.
Trump aside, this is the inevitable result of a broken political system that has gladly handed more and more power and influence to the executive branch throughout modern American history. The other branches of government simply need the president more than the president needs them. Trump was an accelerator to this end, to be sure, but he has only laid bare that which has been unfolding for a long time now.
There are plenty of people around the world who insist, that despite everything, Trump is somehow a sort of political genius. They point to his manipulation of the media, his ability to make others fall in line, and his ability to escape accountability. But, it seems far less plausible that these characteristics exist due to the acumen of a man who yells about windmills and light bulbs. Rather, Trump is the benefactor of the greater political forces at work. It seems that he can manipulate the media, but in fact it’s the media that manipulates itself, at the mercy of profit and sensationalism. It seems that he rules with an iron fist over his party, but rather it’s that the party wants to lay down. It seems that he can somehow avoid consequences, but instead it’s precisely that there’s no consequences to be had. V

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