How to Channel your Impeachment Anger

The next election may be far off but there are things we can do right now to make Republicans pay a price for acquitting Trump

Watching the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump has been an emotional experience. The compelling presentation of the Democratic impeachment managers and the never-before-seen video clips, transported me back to the moment on January 6th when we all watched in shock as the United States Capitol was overtaken by a murderous mob of seditionists. While most Americans feared for the lives of those inside the building and the very fabric of our democracy, Trump egged on the violence and reportedly reveled in the show of support for  his lies about the election. It was one of the darkest moments in recent American history.

While the images of insurrectionists defiling the Capitol and attacking an undermanned police force is heartbreaking, the primary emotion I feel watching the trial is pure, unadulterated rage.

Every Republican Senator sitting on the jury knows that Donald Trump is guilty. It is truly an open-and-shut case. No open-minded individual can look at those videos and the timeline of Trump’s lies and tweets and conclude anything besides the fact that he is directly responsible for the death and destruction of January 6th.

Yet, the vast majority of the Republicans will vote to acquit Trump against all the evidence and in the wake of a historically embarrassing performance from Trump’s attorneys. They will hide behind the fig leaf of due process and then claim an inability to hold a former president accountable. None of them will believe it. Most of them will barely be able to keep a straight face when they say it.

The entire spectacle is an infuriating replay of the worst political dynamic of the Trump Era. The corrupt former president is guilty of a high crime beyond reasonable doubt. Democrats (and the facts) have persuaded most of the American people that Trump committed the crime and that he should be punished. Despite the evidence, elected Republicans stick their fingers in the eyes of the American people and help Trump escape the punishment he so rightly deserves. This instance may be the most infuriating to date for two reasons. First, Trump is out of office and therefore no longer in a position to implement the plutocratic policies for which these Republicans yearn. Second, this isn’t some typical presidential scandal. The mob President Trump incited upon the Capitol arrived with the intention of murdering some of the very same people who voted for acquittal. Thanks to the video included in the Democratic presentation, we — and the Republicans — now know just how close they came to accomplishing their violent goals.

For an example of the blatant cynicism at play here, Mitch McConnell announced that he would vote to acquit Trump because he believes that an ex-president cannot be subject to removal. At no point in his statement did McConnell mention that he personally refused to hold the trial while Trump was still actually president. This was done for the express purpose of using this bullshit procedural fig leaf to acquit Trump.

When Trump was president, there were always productive places to channel our fury. Sign up for a phone bank, volunteer for a campaign, or donate to the Democrat running to defeat the Republican who was the source of your anger. The 2018 and 2020 elections were opportunities to hold Trump and his enablers accountable. But something feels different this time. It’s not obvious where to channel that anger or how to hold Republicans responsible for the deep damage they are inflicting on our democracy.

But just because there isn’t an election on the immediate horizon doesn’t mean there aren’t productive avenues for your anger. Like revenge, accountability is a dish best served cold. And there are things we can do right now to ensure that Mitch McConnell and his minions pay an appropriate price at the polls in 2022.

Don’t Submit to the Cynicism

The first step is not to submit to the cynicism. This feeling of helplessness is how the Republicans want you to feel; and generally, you never want to feel the way Mitch McConnell wants you to feel. The Republicans proudly acquitting Trump in contravention of the evidence as well as public opinion is part of their broader approach to politics. It’s part of a plan to institute a feeling of learned-helplessness among Democrats. It’s why they brazenly trample on the rules, suppress the vote, and gerrymander themselves into the majority. And it’s why they alternatively shrink the Supreme Court before one election and elect a justice onto it before the next. Republicans are a minority party, and they can only hold onto power if Democrats grow cynical and disengaged from politics. The reason Democrats won the Georgia runoffs in January is because Democrats stayed fired up after the presidential election and Republicans didn’t.

Mitch McConnell et al want to rub their disdain for the people’s will in your face in the hope that you will give up hope. If they can get away with anything, EVEN after losing an election, then perhaps it’s not worth staying involved. But if we disengage, they win.

This is a classic authoritarian tactic and we can’t let it happen.

Where to Channel Your Anger

As this past week demonstrated for the one millionth time, there is no appealing to the better angels of Republicans. There is no possibility that they will see the light and change their ways. There is only one option — beat them at the ballot box so badly that they have no choice but to reform their ways or be exiled permanently to the political wilderness.

This is a two-step process. First, we have to unrig our politics. Republicans can act with such disregard for the will of the majority because our system allows them to hold power despite representing a shrinking minority. Simultaneously, Democrats must fight back against efforts to further rig the system with new voter suppression laws and gerrymandered districts. They must take advantage of the generational opportunity to pass a huge package of democratic reforms in Congress. Here are some ways to contribute to those efforts:

  • Fair Fight is an organization started by the amazing Stacey Abrams to fight back against voter suppression in Georgia and around the country.

  • Local Indivisible chapters are organizing campaigns pushing the Senate to end the filibuster in order to pass legislation to expand voting rights, eliminate dark money, and improve democracy.

  • All on the Line is a national campaign to end gerrymandering. They offer opportunities to volunteer. You can find out how to get involved here.

The second step involves beating historical trends and holding onto the House and the Senate in 2022. This would send a powerful message to the Republicans that there is a price to pay for clinging to Trump and Trumpism. Here are some things you can do right now to make that outcome more likely:

  • Republicans are defending seats in the mostly purple states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina, and the slightly less purple state of Ohio. Democrats are defending seats in Arizona and Georgia (Kelly and Warnock won special elections and are up again). Becoming a monthly donor to the Democratic Parties in these states will help them build the organization it will take to win in 2022. The earlier they have money, the more they can invest in critical infrastructure.

    Run for Something (a Message Box fave) is an organization that recruits and trains young progressives to run for office. Running strong campaigns with strong candidates in every state and for every office is the only way to build sustainable progressive power. To learn how you can support Run for Something and for more information on running for office, click here.

  • SwingLeft is already recruiting volunteers to win in Virginia in 2021 and protect the House and Senate majority in 2022.

Remember how you feel now; right at this moment as the Republicans sneer at their Constitutional obligations. Now think about how you will feel when the votes are finally counted in 2022 and Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and Donald Trump have to reckon with a huge, unexpected defeat.

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