Donald Trump’s Impeachment Was A Cartoon For Adults
I was pretty easy to entertain as a child. All I needed was a TV, an irresponsible amount of sugar, and some cartoons.
It didn’t even matter which cartoon it was, because let’s face it, they’re all pretty much identical. The good guys win, the bad guys get away (so they can do battle again next week), and everybody learns a valuable lesson in the end. The details change, but the story stays the same.
Now that I’m an adult, I’ve (mostly) outgrown repetitive, predictable stories, which is why I’ve found it so painful to watch Donald Trump’s impeachment. The whole thing is a cynical (but equally predictable) reimagining of those cartoons. The good guys are going to lose, the bad guys will get away (so that they can do more damage in four years), and all we’re going to learn is that the people who most deserve to be held accountable, hardly ever are. The details change, but the story stays the same.
For those of you who haven’t been following this particular story, allow me to summarise the facts:
In mid-2020, six months before the election took place, Trump began tweeting that it would be “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history”. If he lost, the only explanation was that the election had been “stolen”. The tweets just happened to coincide with the release of polls that showed him trailing Joe Biden by as much as fifteen points.
On election night, when early results showed him leading, Trump appeared to change his mind about inaccuracies and claimed he’d won, even though the ballots were still being counted. It just so happens that he’d already admitted he planned to prematurely declare victory if the election seemed close.
As the count continued and it became clear that Biden was winning key battleground states, Trump decided that the vote was fraudulent again, launching over fifty lawsuits, all of which were dropped, ruled against, or thrown out of court for lack of evidence. The only evidence of a genuine attempt at election fraud came in early January. Trump was caught on tape trying to pressure Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, into helping him “find” 11,780 votes. Raffensperger refused.
Having lost at the polls and in the courts, and having failed to intimidate his way to the votes he needed to win, Trump scheduled a “wild” protest which just happened to be on the same day as the election results were due to be certified. It also just happened to be within walking distance of the Capitol building where the certification would take place.
Finally, Trump delivered a rousing, inflammatory speech which just happened to finish at almost the exact moment that Nancy Pelosi began the process of certifying the Electoral College, giving his mob just enough time to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and “fight like hell”.
Everybody knows all of this. It’s painfully easy to follow this sequence of events. Many of the senators presiding over Trump’s impeachment were in the building when the insurrection happened. And yet it’s almost inconceivable that Trump will be found guilty of doing what everybody knows he did. It’s almost as if it’s impossible to have a fair trial when fifty per cent of the jurors are co-conspirators.
If it comes as a surprise that the rich and powerful can get away with crimes that everybody knows they committed, you haven’t been paying attention. In fact, in one of the many scandals which punctuated his presidential campaign, Trump put it as plainly as anybody could ever ask him to:
You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
In other words, if you’re powerful enough, the basic rules of human decency, rules that most of us have been learning since we were children, don’t apply. Donald Trump has been wrong about many, many things, but he’s been proven right about this time and time again. And not just about himself.
Everybody knew that Bill Clinton had “sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky and then committed perjury, but they let him do it. Everybody knew that OJ Simpson murdered his wife, even though the infamous glove didn’t fit, but they let him do it. Everybody knows that the police officers who killed Breonna Taylor and Tamir Rice and Philando Castile are murderers, we saw it with our own eyes, but we still let them do it. The details change, but the story stays the same.
Even if you weren’t as hooked on cartoons as I was, you’ve probably heard this most famous nugget of comic-book wisdom:
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
It’s was simple enough for me to understand as a child. If you have the power to help, you should help. If somebody puts their trust in you, you shouldn’t lie to them. If you’re placed in a position of power, the standard you’re held to should be higher.
Al Gore conceded to George Bush 34 days after the election, despite winning the popular vote and being believed by many to have won the decisive state of Florida (the official margin of victory was just 537 votes out of almost six million). Hillary Clinton, who also won the popular vote, conceded to Donald Trump the day after the election, despite evidence that Russia interfered with the vote. John McCain made his concession speech to Barack Obama before polling had even closed in some states. Once the outcome was clear, he showed that he was more concerned about the desires of the American people than he was about his own.
Each of these concession speeches drew boos from the loser’s supporters. They too wanted to continue fighting. They too felt that they’d been robbed. That’s how everybody feels after a loss. But the concession of their candidate was a vital step in helping them to find closure. It allowed them to move past denial and anger, and on to acceptance.
By contrast, 101 days after his election loss, and 22 days after Joe Biden’s inauguration, Donald Trump still hasn’t conceded. It’s safe to assume he never will.
The question isn’t whether Trump’s incitement at the Capitol is worthy of impeachment (it is), it’s why his many other failures weren’t. Why wasn’t his refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power worthy of impeachment? Why his failure (and manifest unwillingness) to protect the Capitol worthy of impeachment? Why weren’t his numerous, well-documented lies about a lethal pandemic worthy of impeachment?
Why does the level of decency we expect from the world’s most powerful people decline as their power increases? Why do we look the other way when they abuse that power? If the role models in cartoons behaved this way, adults all over the world would be outraged. Why is it that when they’re stars, we let them do it?