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Bill Lueders is editor of The Progressive magazine. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project and distributed by Tribune News Service.
There are so many good reasons to side against Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial that it would be a shame to do so for a truly bad one: to keep the disgraced former president from ever again facing the nation’s voters.
“One of the other purposes of impeachment in this case is to make sure that President Trump is not able to run for federal office again, that he’s not able to seek the presidency,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said during a recent television appearance.
Whether or not a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate votes to convict Trump, it could take a second, separate vote, decided by a simple majority vote, to bar him from holding any future federal office.
Or a majority in both houses could vote under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to keep Trump from federal office for having “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the Constitution. (This section was last invoked in 1919 to block Victor Berger, a duly elected socialist from Wisconsin who opposed the U.S. entry into World War I, from taking his seat in Congress.)
But just because Democrats, who control both houses of Congress, have the power to end Trump’s future political ambitions doesn’t mean they should. Besides the inevitable legal challenges, it would feed the mindset of victimhood that Trump and his followers crave. Their arsenal of lies would be expanded to include claims that he would have won in a landslide, if only he had been allowed to run.
First of all, Donald Trump is not going to be elected to anything, ever again. He got trounced by Joe Biden in the last election, losing the popular vote by more than 7 million and the Electoral College vote by about the same margin that Trump won by in 2016. And that was before he incited a mob into a murderous rampage at the Capitol.
A poll taken just after this insurrection put Trump’s approval rating at 29 percent, an all-time low. That’s right: even after four years of incompetence, malfeasance, corruption and now active sedition, Trump is still seen favorably by between a quarter and a third of U.S. citizens. That’s horrifying, and a stain on our nation — but it’s not enough for Trump to win an election.
Mitch McConnell, the former Senate majority leader turned minority leader, is reportedly glad about Trump’s second impeachment, believing this will help to end his toxic impact.
The Republican Party cannot so easily avoid being the party of Trump. It was subservient to him throughout his presidency, and it shouldn’t be able to get rid of him now that he has tainted the party and proposed splitting it by starting his own.
There is no need to invoke rarely used constitutional clauses to keep Trump from running. A single felony conviction, from among the many criminal charges he is likely to face, will bring about the same result. Add in that Trump clearly no longer wants to be president — he stopped even pretending to do the job in his final months — and the logic of barring him from office collapses.
Let Trump run again. Let him answer to the will of the voters. If a majority of them reject him, again, it will be because he deserves to lose. If a majority of Americans still vote for Trump, then this nation deserves him. That is the essence of our democracy, the thing Trump tried so desperately to destroy.