The Senate voted to acquit Donald Trump for the second time, telling the world that the United States will not hold its elected leaders accountable for criminal behavior. We are in a shameful period in our history. The Republican Party has degenerated into an authoritarian cult loyal to one man, devoid of core principles, and beholden to an anti-intellectual base dominated by White nationalists and conspiracy theorists.
North Carolina Senator Richard Burr stood with seven of his Republican colleagues to vote to convict. I applaud Senator Burr for standing by his convictions and standing up for the truth. I wish he had done so when Trump was impeached the first time, but I’m glad he found his spine. I am sure his vote was difficult and I’m also sure he understands the implications of his vote in the minds of a majority of Republicans. He put country above party and, in today’s world, that’s no small gesture. Senator Burr proved that he’s a patriot.
Trump’s guilt was never in question, even among those who voted to acquit. Several Republican Senators, including Mitch McConnell argued that impeachment was the wrong venue to punish Trump and that he should be held accountable in a court of law. They claim a president cannot be impeached after he’s left of office. Legal scholars of all political persuasions have debunked that notion. Those Senators are merely cowards looking for an excuse not to alienate their Trumpist base.
Senator Thom Tillis’ press release on his vote for acquittal was classic Tillis, a word salad full of innuendo, faulty logic, and misleading information. He clearly believes Trump was guilty, but he lacks the courage to convict because he also lacks the courage of his convictions. As always, Tillis is trying to have it both ways—come across as a serious person while avoiding taking a serious stand. He’s what’s wrong with our politics today, because his driving principle is his own political self-interest, not the country or his constituents. In other words, he’s a coward.
In response to his vote, the North Carolina Republican Party will censure Senator Burr tonight. You can be sure that Thom Tillis will say nothing or somehow say that it is both the right and the wrong thing to do. To put the disciplinary action in perspective, reporter Jonah Kaplan reminded us that last year, Representative David Lewis resigned after pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws, former chair Robin Hayes pled guilty in a bribery scandal, and Lieutenant Governor posted blatantly anti-Semitic and homophobic comments and memes on social media. They have not been censured. Senator Burr will be. That should tell you what you need to know about the values of today’s GOP.
Republicans created this mess by filling their base with falsehoods for decades and never disavowing or contradicting the alternative reality created by talk radio and Fox News. Now, more than a third of the nation, people lacking critical thinking skills, believes the election was stolen through the Big Lie of massive, systematic voter fraud. The only people who can possibly help them find their way back to reality are Republican leaders. Unfortunately, they are more concerned with the next election than finding the truth.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >