On being … on the record

By Ingrid Sapona

As I sit here on Valentines Day 2021, I suspect I’m not alone in saying my heart is broken.

A few days ago, as I was thinking about what today’s column might be about, I had a couple different ideas. But the results of the second impeachment trial and Mitch McConnell’s pathetic attempt at saving face by putting on the record his rationale for voting not guilty made me realize that I too want to be on the record about the events of February 13, 2021.

Like House Impeachment Manager Joe Neguse, who admitted in his closing remarks that perhaps he was being naïve in hoping that the necessary 67 Senators would do the right thing, I clung to that same hope. I wanted to believe that at least 2/3 of the senators would realize that – as Lead House Impeachment Manager Jamie Raskin said – the trial wasn’t about who Trump is, it was about who Congress is. I also wanted to believe that every senator would render impartial justice because they realized, as Neguse said, that the stakes could not be any higher. Indeed, I believe nothing less than the fate of the United States of America was on the table. Given the outcome of the trial, I believe the vote on February 13th will prove to be the pivotal moment in U.S. history.

I found it insulting that Mitch McConnell had at the ready a scathing rebuke of Trump that he delivered after the trial vote. It was quite a display of hubris. Of course, few historians will disagree with his assessment of Trump’s “disgraceful dereliction of duty” on January 6th. But I think the dereliction of duty of the senators who voted to acquit Trump on February 13th will cast a shadow that will loom much larger in history.

Having grown up in the U.S. and having studied the Constitution at law school, I was in awe at the system the Founding Fathers put in place. The contingencies they anticipated and tried to mitigate with a brilliant set of checks and balances aimed at ensuring the separation of powers was truly revolutionary. In fact, it lasted for 230+ years.

But any system is only as strong as those who believe in it and who agree to abide by it. The system – the noble experiment – the Founding Fathers put in place had been pushed and pulled in different directions for over 200 years. There have been many dark episodes in U.S. history, but ultimately those in power chose the values of the Constitution over political gain. Sadly, on February 13, 2021, those in power chose to invoke the Constitution in name only, rather than to ensure it applies to all.

I know that many commentators and people who might have been disappointed with the outcome of the trial have chosen to focus on the few positives they see. They herald the seven Republican senators who broke ranks with their party leadership and found Trump guilty. They point to the fact that Trump’s attorneys seemed to have admitted that Trump lost the election. They even point to the fact that McConnell excoriated Trump after the trial as a positive. Sure – let’s take solace in all those things….

But – for the record – I believe that on February 13, 2021 the whole world heard the death knell that rang out for America democracy. Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic about what will rise in its place.

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona



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