Anchor Staff Writer
On February 13, former President Donald Trump was acquitted for inciting a violent insurrection on the United States Capitol in an effort to prevent a peaceful transition of power after he lost the 2020 election. Seven Republican senators joined Democrats to condemn this attack on the will of the people, making it the most bipartisan impeachment trial in U.S. history. However, the other 43 GOP senators did not. Despite this, a majority of Americans find Trump to be guilty of inciting this horrific and bloody coup attempt. After the thorough argument given by House impeachment managers during his trial, it is likely history will as well.
Why then would 43 Republican senators choose to look away?
The Republican party has been operating for some time with a minority of popular support, but often controlling a majority of our government. While Democrats now control the Senate by virtue of Kamala Harris’ tiebreaker, even when the Senate was under Republican control, those senators represented a minority of Americans, not the majority. This is due to each state being granted two senators regardless of the state’s population size. California has more than sixty times the population of Wyoming and yet these states receive the same amount of representation in the Senate. The way this system was created was intentional, with the purpose of appeasing slave states. It functions now to favor rural white states at the expense of everyone else, especially people of color.
By having a Republican majority in the Senate, legislation, even with bipartisan support, was routinely blocked. Former Senate Majority leader, now Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell gleefully characterized himself as the “the Grim Reaper” of all Democratic legislation, even that with bipartisan support.
Likewise, McConnell and other Senate Republicans have used the opportunity presented by presidents Trump and George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote but won the electoral college (another system created for the benefit of slave states) to stack courts. The result is a judiciary that is astronomically far removed from the will of the people. More than half the justices on the Supreme Court were nominated by presidents who did not win the popular vote. McConnell also prioritized appointing conservative justices to lower courts instead of passing Covid-19 relief during his final months as majority leader.
Gerrymandering is another way in which Congressional Republicans have exploited our systems of government to gain power without having popular support. Gerrymandering, the act of redistricting states in a way that is politically favorable to a certain party, has functioned as a way for politicians to emerge victorious in House and state legislature races without popular support. While gerrymandering is committed by both parties, it is more often and more aggressively committed by Republicans, typically to silence the voices of voters of color. This is heightened by targeted voter purges and increasingly prevalent voter suppression legislation.
Lastly, the filibuster. The filibuster, unsurprisingly, also has a racist history. Beginning in the U.S. primarily as a tool for Southern senators to uphold slavery, it was later utilized by segregationists during the Civil Rights Era to uphold Jim Crow laws and block civil rights legislation. The filibuster usually involves a senator speaking for an extensive amount of time and thus requires a two-thirds agreement for legislation rather than a simple majority. As a result, a minority can paralyze the majority’s ability to pass necessary legislation. This can persist now even with Democrats holding a majority in the Senate, House and White House. If not abolished, the filibuster will continue to be a tool utilized to protect white supremacy.
Given the historical context, it makes sense then that the majority of Senate Republicans would vote to acquit Trump. Of course, a party that has thrived largely through systems entrenched in white supremacy would choose to look away when that white supremacy that has so benefited them comes to roost on their doorstep.
To ensure equality and justice for all Americans, we need to eradicate white supremacy from our systems of government.
There are several ways this can be accomplished. The first is abolishing the filibuster. As activist Ro Khanna wrote on Twitter if Democrats are unable to get 10 Republicans to condemn one of the most severe assaults on American democracy in modern history, how can they expect to pass anything else with the filibuster still in place? Yet Senate Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin still oppose it, choosing to prioritize their own political gains above the common good. It is also possible to abolish the electoral college, pass bills aimed at reforming the way the Senate is organized, make gerrymandering and other forms of voter suppression illegal and reform the judiciary. However, these things can be accomplished only if our legislators have the courage to act while they can.