Takeaways from Trump’s Impeachment and Acquittal

On Saturday, Donald Trump’s impeachment trial ended with the former president being acquitted of inciting an insurrection against the United States. Though a strong majority of U.S. senators voted for his guilt (57-43), the vote-count didn’t meet the two-thirds majority required for an impeachment conviction.

Here are some of my takeaways from both the impeachment and the trial:

Finding Trump innocent on procedural grounds was a cop-out

Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who voted to convict Trump, released a statement afterwards that included these remarks:

“But here’s the sad reality: If we were talking about a Democratic president, most Republicans and most Democrats would simply swap sides. Tribalism is a hell of a drug…”

He’s right, of course. If Trump were a Democrat, and everything else had been the same, none of the 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate would have found any constitutional problem whatsoever with convicting an impeached president whose trial couldn’t logistically begin until after he had left office. And they would be on the right side of that argument.

While I think there are some individuals with relevant expertise, who genuinely believe that there is a constitutional conflict with holding an impeachment trial once the defendant is a private citizen, the facts of the matter are that:

  • the vast majority of constitutional scholars and U.S. historians disagree.
  • there was already precedent for trying an impeached former federal officeholder.
  • Section 3 of Article 1 of the Constitution spells things out pretty clearly: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments” (not just the impeachments whose timing was convenient). And contrary to how some have confused the issue (in some cases on purpose), this was never about impeaching a private citizen. Trump was impeached before he left office.

In other words, the procedural position invoked by a large majority of Republican senators is very much a fringe, unqualified view — one that runs counter to a strong constitutional consensus, historical precedent, and a clear reading of the text of the U.S. Constitution.

Furthermore, if the contention of 43 Republicans was that Trump was innocent purely on procedural grounds, what’s their next move, now that he’s been acquitted?

After all, most (if not all) of these individuals conceded, at some point after the January 6th attack, that Trump bore at least a good amount of responsibility for what happened. Are they now going to censure him the way Republican state parties have been censuring the handful of congressional Republicans who voted to impeach or convict Trump? Is that not the least they could do in response to the provocation of a domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol — one that killed people?

Yes, those are rhetorical questions. The GOP isn’t going to do anything else. At this point, Trump may as well change his name to Rollo Tomassi.

The trial was worth having, even though the outcome was preordained

What was the point of holding the trial if there was no chance, under the current political landscape, of a conviction? It’s not an unreasonable question, but it’s not without solid answers.

First, to spell it out once more (since it doesn’t always seem to sink in with people), a U.S. president provoked a murderous act of domestic terrorism on the U.S. Capitol through months of aggressively lying to millions of Americans, as part of an attack on our democracy and electoral institutions, for the purpose of overturning the results of a free and fair election that he unequivocally lost.

Again, if that’s not an impeachable offense, nothing is.

Also again, even many of the Republicans who ultimately voted against impeachment/conviction (including top party leaders like Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy) have stipulated that Trump, in fact, committed these very acts. Their argument is not that Trump didn’t do these things. Instead, they qualified their vote with supposed procedural concerns.

On the other side of the GOP coin, there were enough Republicans who didn’t hide behind these disingenuous arguments to make this president’s impeachment, and trial vote, the most bipartisan in U.S history.

Next, because a whopping two-thirds vote is required in the Senate to convict an impeached official, conviction is always going to be highly unlikely… especially when that official is a U.S. president who enjoys the partisan backing of a major political party (as opposed to, let’s say, a federal judge).

Does that mean a president should never, under any circumstances, face an impeachment trial? Should evidence not be heard? Should there be no fact-finding process? Should there be no audit whatsoever of impeachable conduct?

The point of a trial is to present a case, and then let the “jurors” decide on guilt or innocence. Sure, since we’re talking about an impeachment trial and not a criminal trial, the “jurors” likely aren’t going to be objective… but that’s not a valid reason to forego the process itself. There’s a reason the framers included this mechanism in the Constitution: they saw a legitimate need for holding public servants accountable for particularly abusive conduct, including the option to bar them from serving in public office in the future.

Could they have predicted that Senate jurors wouldn’t take their responsibility seriously? Maybe. But what does that matter? The framers themselves did take it seriously.

In summary, the Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments, the offense in this case was entirely impeachable, and it was the most bipartisan impeachment of a president in U.S. history.

So, of course there should have been a trial.

The Republicans who supported impeachment demonstrated patriotism and courage

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach, and the 7 Senate Republicans who voted to convict, enjoyed absolutely no political upside from their votes. There was only a downside — a steep one — and all of them knew that going in.

The backlash, driven by a Republican base that largely still reveres Donald Trump as nothing short of a religious figure, was swift and severe. As mentioned earlier, several of these elected representatives have faced official censures from their state parties, and are already being targeted with primary challenges.

The right-wing media has piled on too, bastardizing these individuals as RINOs, liberals, and even traitors. And it’s not just being done by the regular wackos on the commentary shows and hyper-partisan websites. Everyone subscribed to Fox News’s digital news feed received the story of Trump’s acquittal this way:

No, I’m not joking.

These representatives have seen their approval ratings plummet, and their offices’ switchboards and virtual town-halls light up with over-the-top vitriol and threats. Most of them probably won’t end up serving another term because of their principled decision.

This is their penance for supporting constitutional accountability for the incitement of an insurrection that killed multiple people, and very well could have killed our then-vice president and members of congress.

It’s exactly the reason why so few of their Republican colleagues joined them. According to multiple reports, including accounts from House members, somewhere between 60 and 80 Republicans in the House believed Trump should have been impeached, but all but 10 were too scared for their families and/or political futures to put their name behind the effort. The same was assuredly true of a number of Republican senators.

Much to their credit, those who stood up for what was right are still standing by their votes, and prepared to answer for them electorally.

“If we are willing to ask our young men and women to wear the uniform and sacrifice their lives for the good of the country,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in a statement, “how can Members of Congress—the elected officials entrusted by the American people to serve them honorably—be unwilling to sacrifice their careers in order to save the country?”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski told a reporter, “If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?”

And of course, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutle felt so strongly in her convictions that she was ready to testify under oath to what Kevin McCarthy had told her about the president effectively rationalizing the insurrection… as it was playing out.

These people deserve our respect and admiration, not scorn, for putting the country and the Constitution before their party and political future.

The Democratic leadership was more interested in impeachment optics than impeachment conviction

There were some subtle indications early on that the Democrats may have been organizing Trump’s second impeachment in a way that wasn’t particularly inviting to Republicans who may have been inclined to sign on to the effort.

Some, like Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican from Texas, complained that while he truly believed Trump’s conduct was impeachable, the articles of impeachment written by the Democrats (without soliciting help from any Republicans) were too narrow in scope, because they were focused almost exclusively on incitement and insurrection.

Ahead of his vote, Rep. Kinzinger’s staff reached out to House Democrats to request seven minutes of time for the congressman to speak out in support of impeachment (a move that could have rallied more Republicans to his side). He figured he’d at least be granted five minutes. Instead, they would only agree to one, which Kinzinger decided wasn’t worth it.

After Trump was impeached, and the Democrats realized that ten Republicans had sided with them on the issue, there was a bipartisan opportunity to ask at least one of the ten to serve as a House manager during the Senate trial. But they didn’t.

At each step, it appeared more and more as if the Democrats didn’t even want Republican support, and instead were trying their best to brand the entire GOP as pro-insurrection, or at best indifferent to what had happened on January 6th, as part of a campaign strategy.

That seemed to change, at least for a couple of hours, on what was supposed to be the last day of the trial (Saturday), when a surprise Senate vote to allow witnesses was passed. This initiative came after Republican Rep. Beutle released a statement drawing attention to her aforementioned conversation with Kevin McCarthy.

At that point, Democrats could have called on McCarthy to testify under oath about the phone call. They could have called on Mike Pence to testify about Trump not contacting him at any point during the attack or in the days following. They could have called on people at the White House that day who supposedly witnessed Trump celebrating the rioting as he watched it on television, and asked them exactly what Trump was doing as events unfolded. This would all seem like very useful information if the goal were conviction.

But apparently, Senate Democrats quickly decided that calling on and questioning witnesses would take too much time, and they were about ready to leave for their scheduled vacation.

“People want to get home for Valentine‘s Day,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons reportedly told House impeachment managers.

This tweet from Politico’s Burgess Everett seemed to concur:

Thus, no witnesses were called, the Dems held the vote, they got their political narrative… and that was that.

The moral of this story…

I think the strongest conclusion that can be drawn from this impeachment experience is that while the framers of the Constitution rightly saw a genuine need for the mechanism of impeachment to hold public officials accountable for extraordinarily bad and unbecoming conduct (like that which led to what we saw on January 6th), that mechanism is no match for the intoxicating effects of partisanship and political careerism.

Also, if you’re a good person who’s thinking of running for high office, and you suspect there might be a situation one day in which you would have to make a politically unpopular decision for the good of the country and the integrity of the Constitution, you probably shouldn’t bother running in the first place. You’ll be thrown under the bus by your peers and constituents in no time flat, and it just won’t be worth it.

God bless America.


Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

Yes, Trump Should Be Impeached and Removed

In late 2019 and early 2020, I wrote numerous columns for this website offering my thoughts on the Trump impeachment hearings and subsequent trial. While I’ve never been a fan of this president, I did not support the Democrats’ decision to pursue impeachment. This was primarily because after reading depositions from multiple witnesses, I wasn’t convinced that our president, even in attempting to extort a foreign power into digging up dirt on one of his political opponents, had committed an impeachable offense that deserved removal.

Here’s how I summed up my view in November of 2019: “Was such an attempt improper? Absolutely. An abuse of power? Undeniably. Illegal and/or impeachable? I wasn’t sure.”

Because I wasn’t sure, and because the Democrats were moving forward with impeachment anyway, I was interested in hearing more from the witnesses. I did my best to keep an open mind throughout the hearings, and felt I represented the nuances of the proceedings quite well in my writing.

Impeachment is a tricky issue to tackle because it’s a subjective political process. There isn’t a strict legal criterion that constitutes an impeachable offense. It’s largely left to the discretion of congress. But by the end of the senate trial, I had come to respect two different views.

The first one was expressed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) who conceded that Trump had done what he was accused of, that he did abuse the power of the presidency, but that the abuse didn’t rise to the level of removal.

The second came from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) who agreed that Trump committed the act, that he abused his power, and that the abuse was significant enough to warrant removal.

Frankly, if I had been in a position to have to vote on whether or not to remove the president that day, I’m not sure where I would have come down.

Following yesterday’s insurrection in the U.S. Capitol, however, I believe that President Trump should be impeached, removed, and never be allowed to run for public office again. And as I described above, I’m not someone who takes such measures lightly.

Make no mistake about it. Trump bears a tremendous amount of responsibility for what happened. He incited widespread political outrage for two months, selling millions of his faithful supporters on an endless stream of outrageous lies and conspiracy theories to subvert the results of a free and fair election that he unequivocally lost.

After weeks of failing to overturn the will of 81 million American voters, January 6th — according to Trump — was to be the day of reckoning. It was the date that Trump had set as America’s last chance for all the alleged electoral wrongdoings to be righted. It was the day on which Vice President Mike Pence supposedly had an ethical and patriotic duty to stop the certification of the nation’s electoral votes (a measure that was never going to happen, nor would it have made any difference). It was the last chance for the republic to be saved.

Trump delivered a rambling speech earlier that day in front of the White House, whipping up the crowd with his long list of election lies and calls to “stop the steal.” Thousands in attendance then made their way to the U.S. Capitol, as Trump had directed.

We saw on television what happened next. Protesters became rioters. They knocked over barriers, assaulted police officers, scaled walls, broke windows, and pounded through doors as they entered the Capitol.

Outside, tear gas was used. Inside, proceedings were halted and elected representatives were evacuated for their safety. Offices were vandalized. Secret Service agents blocked doors with furniture, guns drawn to protect trapped staffers. Public servants, some fitted with gas masks, hid behind desks in their offices. Others were ushered out through an underground tunnel.

Pipe bombs were found. Police officers are in the hospital. Five people are dead.

What we saw yesterday was an act of domestic terrorism. And the chaos would have never come to fruition without President Trump’s two-month-long, conspiracy-fueled efforts to convince millions of Americans that our nation’s democracy had in fact been hijacked.

But that wasn’t the end of it, as editors of The Dispatch (who are also calling for impeachment and removal) pointed out this morning. As the violence was still being carried out, Trump continued to fuel the fire:

“Yet even then—even with bloodshed in the halls of the Capitol and Congress itself under attack—the president still stoked rage and division. He tweeted his anger at Vice President Mike Pence for failing to hand him the election. Even when he called for calm and asked rioters to go home, he repeated his false claims about a stolen election. In one of the lowest moments of a very dark day, he told the rioters who stormed the Capitol, ‘We love you.’ ‘You’re very special,’ he said. ‘Law and order for thee, but not for me,’ seems to be the rule for this fundamentally disordered and lawless president.”

President Trump has proven to be a significant danger to this country. As we saw yesterday, the damage he has caused is no longer confined to the abuses of power, bad decisions, and unbecoming conduct we’ve debated over the last four years. It has produced domestic terrorism. Trump is a danger, and our nation deserves what protection we can responsibly and legally give it against any further damage he may cause.

I don’t care that there are only two weeks left in his term. The House should move to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors. The Senate should vote to convict and remove, and then use its power under Article 1, Section 3 to keep him from ever holding public office again.

The time to act is now.

Editor’s Note (1/8): The death toll above was updated to reflect the passing Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day from injuries sustained during the attack.


Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

What Trump Gets From Denying Defeat

It’s been a month since election night, and after weeks of lawsuits, recounts, wild allegations, baseless conspiracy theories, fired election officials, and fervent denials, nothing has drawn into question whether Joe Biden will be sworn in as president on January 20th. He will.

I suspect Donald Trump is fully aware of this, but don’t expect him to concede defeat… ever.

This isn’t simply about his ego, though that’s a pretty big part of it. Trump and his loyal followers are faithfully invested in the theme that he is a consummate “winner.” That’s a tough narrative to reconcile after he lost the election by 74 electoral votes and lost the popular vote by a whopping 7 million… especially considering he was running against a candidate as unimpressive as Joe Biden.

Some may recall that Trump did this same type of thing back in 2016, attributing state primary losses to corrupt officials and “rigged” systems. Heck, he even did it after he won the general election, claiming without proof that he lost the popular vote because 3 million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary.

This is what he does. Thus, the denials will continue.

But again, this is about more than ego. While Trump’s actions and rhetoric are bad for the country, they’re pretty helpful to his political future, should he decide to have one. Because so many Republican voters don’t buy the results of the election (between 70 and 80 percent, according to the polls), it appears he’ll manage to escape personal accountability — at least among the Republican base — for having lost.

John McCain and Mitt Romney were cut no such break. When they lost their respective presidential bids in 2008 and 2012, it didn’t matter that both had run against a very strong, historically important opponent. It didn’t matter that McCain had the unpopularity of the Bush administration, years of war-weariness, and a 30-year mortgage crisis working against him. It didn’t matter that Romney had a big political disadvantage in running against an incumbent, landmark president. The sentiment among the GOP base, later tapped into and amplified by Donald Trump, was that they were losers. Thus, the party needed to get behind a much different type of candidate.

In 2016, Trump was that guy. A plurality of Republican voters saw fire in Trump’s belly. He was someone who would say anything and fight anyone. It didn’t really matter what was the battle or who was the opponent.

Trump also had luck on his side.

Whoever won the Republican nomination that year was going to have the historical advantage that comes with running against an opposition party that’s held the White House for two consecutive terms. But Trump also got to face a uniquely bad and broadly disliked opponent in Hillary Clinton, whose email scandal had been brought back into the spotlight (just days before the election) by an announcement of new developments from FBI directory James Comey. Despite losing the popular vote to Clinton by 3 million ballots, Trump won the electoral college and therefore the presidency.

With victory came the bragging rights, and boy did he brag.

Four years later, Trump also had a number of things working in his favor. He was the incumbent. The economy had been very strong under his watch, right up until the pandemic hit. The Democratic primary had come off like a political clown-show during every debate, producing one radical and ridiculous idea after another. That contest’s winner, Joe Biden, enjoyed little enthusiasm and drew serious doubts about his cognitive sharpness. Even with a global health crisis turning countless lives and livelihoods upside-down, state governors who took charge and exuded leadership saw their job-approval ratings rise; Trump did too, for a while.

But ultimately, Trump lost. And he lost by quite a bit. He was defeated by the same electoral-vote margin that he called a “historical landslide” four years earlier. 7 million more voters chose his Democratic opponent. In fact, as was the case in 2016, Trump won a smaller portion of the electorate than Mitt Romney in 2012, once again falling short of the 47% mark. Also, as in 2016, Trump under-performed congressional Republicans almost across the board.

By Trump’s own standards, as well as those of the Republican base in recent years, Trump is “a loser.” He’s a man who “choked.” A “total disgrace” who was “beaten like a dog.”

Yet, in the wake of the November election, few in the GOP seem to see it that way. By and large, Republicans aren’t placing blame on Trump. They’re blaming pretty much everyone else (Attorney General Bill Barr being the latest), but not him.

Trump’s super-power has long been his ability to alter reality, at least in the minds of many of his supporters, through righteous indignation and rhetorical repetition. All he’s had to do, post-election, is insist, over and over again, that he won. Well, that and cloud the airwaves and Internet with anecdotes, misinformation, and conspiratorial nonsense framed as massive, coordinated corruption.

It doesn’t matter that his case keeps falling apart even under the slightest bit of scrutiny. It matters even less what the news media is reporting, because they’re “fake news.” By continuing to “fight,” and refusing to concede defeat, Trump never really lost.

This will prove to be a huge political advantage for him, should he decide to run for president again in four years (which he’s rumored to announce during Joe Biden’s inauguration). Heck, it will be great for him no matter what he decides to do, whether it’s buying a cable-news network, starting a podcast, or taking his arena-show on the road as a private citizen. He’s already raised a ton of money off of the “rigged election” angle, much of which has gone toward paying down his campaign debt.

What it won’t do is help the GOP, as we’re already seeing indications of.

It was initially believed that Republican senate candidates would have a pretty easy time winning their Georgia run-off races, and keeping the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate. But after a month of Trump and his crew (including a number of media conservatives) baselessly declaring a massive election-fraud operation in the state, led by Republican officials (who are receiving death threats thanks to the bogus charges), there are now very real concerns that Republican turnout will be low enough, because of voter disenfranchisement, to hand the victories (and control of the Senate) to the Democrats.

This could be a lasting problem, and it’s not good for democracy. If Trump continues to press this theme from the sidelines over the next few years, other elections may be affected as well (not just in regard to turnout but also voters refusing to accept their outcomes).

And if you think Trump will feel even the slightest bit bad about any of the artificial chaos he has created, you haven’t been paying attention over the past five years. What Trump does, he does for himself. As long as it benefits him personally, he’ll never stop fueling unrest.

Note from John: I’ve been writing a weekly non-political newsletter since October, covering topics like art, music, humor, travel, society and culture. I’ve been surprised by, and thankful for, how many people have been signing up for it. If it sounds interesting to you, I’d love for you to subscribe (it’s free).

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

Forever Trump?

On Monday, in a joint statement, Georgia Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue called on their state’s secretary of state to resign, arguing that there have been “too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems.”

The public denunciation and request for termination was remarkable for a couple of reasons. Not only did the senators fail to provide specific evidence supporting their claims, but Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, is a fellow Republican.

There certainly has been some electoral drama in Georgia over the past week, but not so much with the voting process. Sure, like everywhere else in the country, huge turnout amounted to long lines and a few problems at individual polling places, but it was nothing of particular note or consequence.

The real drama has been political. Georgia is a traditionally red state, but President Trump lost there by over 12,000 votes (they’re still being counted, but Trump’s loss is only widening). Additionally, while the Republican Senate candidates (which included both Loeffler and Perdue) outperformed their Democratic opponents (and also Trump), none of them reached Georgia’s 50% threshold required to win. Thus, there will be a runoff election in January, where the Republican incumbents will face their individual Democratic opponents in one-on-one contests, with a majority in the U.S. Senate on the line.

“Georgians are outraged,” Loeffler and Perdue included in their statement, and on that they’re right… at least among those who really wanted Trump to remain president. But without evidence pointing to these alleged “many failures” supposedly attributable to Raffensperger, it’s pretty clear that the angst is coming from the efforts of President Trump (along with his toadies in the conservative media) who has been doing everything he can to stoke doubt in the election results (something he’s been doing since even before election night), by alleging mass corruption.

Unfortunately, Trump’s endeavor has been rhetorically effective not only in Georgia, but throughout the country. In fact, new polling suggests that 7 out of 10 Republicans voters believe the election was not free and fair.

To be clear, voting problems occur in every election. So does voter fraud, to a very small extent. Yet, as conservative commentator Erick Erickson pointed out the other day, it almost never rises to the level of affecting the outcomes of even very local races, and there hasn’t been evidence of anything unique or systemic in this year’s election.

Back to Georgia…

Anger and distrust without evidence of wrongdoing isn’t grounds for a state’s highest-ranking election official to resign. Such sentiment apparently is grounds, however, for two GOP incumbent senators scoring points with President Trump, and throwing one of their own to the MAGA wolves in hopes of it generating an extra bump for them in the runoff election.

One would think that once Trump is gone from office (early next year), a lot of these tasteless, tribal political stunts would fall by the wayside. It stands to reason that Republican leaders who’ve debased themselves for the president’s ego, political standing, and tribal lock on the party for the past four years would rediscover some independence, and perhaps even return to some of the prior ideological principles that got them elected in the first place. But a recent (and sobering) interview with former RNC chairman and White House Chief of Staff for Donald Trump, Reince Priebus, suggests otherwise.

Speaking to The Dispatch’s Stephen Hayes on Monday, Priebus made no bones about the GOP remaining beholden to Donald Trump, even after the president has left office.

“I think, in the near future, Republican leadership is going to have to be Trump acceptable,” said Priebus. “In other words, there is not going to be immediate leadership within the Republican party that Donald Trump doesn’t find to be an acceptable person to be a leader of a particular… whether it be the Senate, the House… They have to be acceptable to Donald Trump if they’re going to be able to survive in this Republican party.”

Priebus qualified his remarks by pointing out how popular Trump is within the party, despite many Republicans, who ran for congress this year, outperforming Trump on the ballot.

When pressed by Hayes to define what the Republican Party currently stands for, beyond deference to Trump, Priebus had some trouble iterating a vision, ultimately settling on past GOP tenets like “limited government” and “morals.” Hayes rightly pushed back on the narrative, citing Trump-era spending levels ($7 trillion added to the national debt) and the extensive moral allowances Republicans have made for the president.

On the issue of the national debt, and how it was the driving force behind much of the GOP’s efforts against President Obama over eight years (before completely disappearing under Trump), Preibus made a glaring — I would say astonishing — admission.

“On both sides of the aisle, it’s a big lie,” said Preibus, referring to concerns over the national debt. “People don’t want to tackle debt and deficits, because they really don’t want to tackle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. You know that. Everyone in congress says, ‘Oh we’re going to get rid of the debt. We’re going to get rid of the deficit.’ It’s been going on since I was a teenager, we’ve been talking about this… No one wants to get serious about it, because they really don’t want to do what you actually have to do to get that kind of spending curve under control. It isn’t going to happen. It will happen when things get so bad that no one’s going to know what to do about it.”

Preibus alluded to that event being a debt crisis, which he described as inevitable. He even went as far as saying that the elected representatives who’ve sounded the alarm on the national debt (a Tea Party fueled, GOP war cry during the Obama years that earned the GOP a ton of congressional seats) are basically full of crap.

“I find it to be the most insincere, hypocritical, commentary… from politics in general… I don’t think there are three or four people that actually believe it enough to do anything about it. Believing it, and doing something are two different things. I think we’re going to face a major problem in the country in 20 years.”

Preibus did concede that one of the very few people who actually did believe in what he was saying about spending and the debt, and risked a lot of political capital to actually do something about it, was Paul Ryan.

Ryan, as we all know, was essentially chased out of the Republican party for not being sufficiently loyal to President Trump.

In summary, if one is to believe what Preibus says, the GOP has effectively washed its hands of any premise of fiscal responsibility, and Republican voters just need to accept that. Also (as has been further demonstrated by the conduct of people like Loeffler and Perdue), the party’s leadership, for the foreseeable future, is completely reliant on (and must remain loyal to) the instincts and ego of a single individual who won’t even be in public office in a little over two months.

If Trumpism truly is the path forward for Republicans, even after Donald Trump was decisively voted out of office last week, I can’t think of a more abysmal testament to the glaring weaknesses, spinelessness, and lack of vision of the Grand Old Party.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

Live by the Binary, Die by the Binary

As anyone who’s read my columns over the past few years probably could have guessed, I won’t be voting for Donald Trump this year (nor did I last time). He has proven himself glaringly unfit for his job at just about every opportunity, and I’m not interested in helping him retain power to continue to disgrace the office.

That said, I have liked some of the things he has done over the past four years, specifically with initiatives that any Republican president would have pursued (including on the judiciary, tax reform, and regulation relief). But he has been a disastrously incompetent and destructive force in other areas. Beyond his narcissism, pettiness, chronic dishonesty, and complete disinterest in growing into one of our nation’s most important roles, he has treated the presidency as a reality-show spectacle that has worsened our divisions and grievances, and caused perhaps insurmountable damage to important institutions and the conservative movement.

I also won’t be voting for Joe Biden. As a conservative, I think he has had the wrong ideas, and been wrong on policy after policy (domestic, fiscal, foreign… you name it), over his long, largely unimpressive career in government. Prior to Donald Trump entering the political scene, Biden was perhaps the most gaffe-prone, confidently-spoken furnisher of rhetorical b.s. in all of American politics. I think he has very poor judgement, and I do worry about his mental fitness and capacity for the job.

Rather than choosing to vote for the lesser of two evils, I’ll be choosing not to vote for evil. Instead, I’ll be writing in a candidate — a conservative with integrity, competence, and admittedly zero chance of winning.

Still, I sincerely understand and respect the belief of a lot of my fellow conservatives (and an overwhelming majority of voters of all persuasions) that this election, and every general election for that matter, is a binary choice between two viable (aka major-party) candidates. It’s the argument both sides resoundingly use to garnish support for their preferred candidate. I don’t personally subscribe to the doctrine, but the position is absolutely defensible.

And because I respect the methodology (like I did in 2016), I’m not going to think any less of those who choose to vote for Trump… or for his 2020 Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. That includes conservatives.

The mere notion that conservatives would choose to vote for Biden seems to mystify a lot of righties, including one conservative writer in particular who’s near and dear to me. But it shouldn’t be all that confusing to anyone who subscribes to elections being a binary choice. If you believe that’s how voters should approach these contests, there is indeed a legitimate case for genuine conservatives choosing to support the Democratic nominee, at least on election day.

I’m using the word “genuine” to clarify that I’m not talking about people like the Washington Post’s “conservative” columnist, Jennifer Rubin, or some of the folks affiliated with The Lincoln Project. Their Trump Derangement Syndrome has compelled them to reverse long-held political and ideological positions to align with the Democratic Party’s… purely for the purpose of opening up more angles from which to assail Trump, and impress his liberal detractors.

No, I’m talking about individuals with strongly held conservative principles: fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, constitutional conservatives, etc., who haven’t abandoned those principles for the sake of either supporting or opposing Trump.

I know a number of these people. Their choice does not stem from TDS, but rather an earnest belief that more harm will come to this country from four more years of Trumpism than four new years of a Democrat of Biden’s ilk in the Oval Office.

It’s a nuanced position for sure, and reasonable people can of course disagree, but there are some compelling arguments that bolster their stance.

Let’s take things from a fiscally conservative point of view…

When looking at the national debt accumulated under President Trump, fiscal conservatives see a dollar figure that nearly matches, in just four years, what they saw (and protested from the high heavens) under President Obama in eight years! Trump-era spending was made possible by a GOP majority in the House for Trump’s first two years in office, and a GOP majority in the Senate for Trump’s full, four-year term… most of it at a time when the economy was very strong and tax revenue was very high.

It’s an observation that has led many to justifiably conclude that the only time Republicans in Congress are interested in even trying to reduce (or even reduce the rate of) government spending is when a Democratic president is in power.

Think about that for a second. Had things gone differently in 2016, would the GOP House and Senate have ever allowed our national debt to surpass $27 trillion before the end of President Hillary Clinton’s first term in office? I don’t think anyone believes they would have. Yet, it happened under Trump because our president has never cared about fiscal responsibility (he was on pace to outspend Obama even before a single cent was allocated for COVID-19 relief), and the Republican base, in their intoxication over Trump’s charisma and propensity to “fight” anyone and everyone, has refused to hold him accountable on the issue.

Under these circumstances, does supporting Biden, in order to compel Republicans in the House and Senate to wake up and return to their regularly scheduled programming, seem all that deranged from a fiscally-conservative point of view?

How about on trade? Free-trade conservatives have watched Trump start completely unnecessary trade wars that have raised taxes on Americans, closed off foreign markets, sent U.S. farm subsidies through the roof, shut down a number of U.S. manufacturing plants and family-owned farms, increased U.S. trade deficits, and earned approval from the likes of Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders. Furthermore, they’ve seen the president threaten and even impose tariffs over mere personal slights, burning through the good will of our allies.

Under these circumstances, and out of fear of another four years of self-harming trade conflicts, do free-trade conservatives, and U.S. industries that rely on cheap foreign materials, see the situation getting worse under Biden? I kind of doubt it.

Let’s look at things from a socially conservative point of view…

Many social conservatives certainly feel as though they’ve been getting some wins under President Trump, most notably in the form of three conservative Supreme Court nominations that they hope will produce rulings favorable to them and the country for years to come. Though that assumption has proven somewhat faulty in the past (a number of “conservative” justices over the years ended up not being reliably conservative, even in the constitutional sense), many conservatives feel validated by their vote for Trump in 2016, based on his judicial picks.

Their reasoning makes sense. However, one could also make the argument that now that conservatives have gotten three of their own on the Supreme Court (with the safe assumption that Amy Coney Barrett will be confirmed), and they’re comfortable with the perceived balance it has brought, Trump is less useful to them now than he was four years ago.

A lot of people who consider themselves social conservatives have had to make incredible allowances for Trump, routinely exempting him from even the most minimum standards of morality and basic decency that they continue to apply to others. While some have performed this duty without shame or apparent regret, and have even adopted some of Trump’s poorest character traits for themselves, others are tired of all the dishonesty, cruelty, bigotry, and callousness that make a mockery of their belief system. They’re tired of looking like hypocrites for dismissing and even defending our president’s worst instincts.

In Biden, they see a man who is wrong on abortion. They see a man whose coyness on court-packing and certain far-left themes brings them concern, even if they suspect there wouldn’t be follow-through. They see a blowhard with a history of getting too handsy with women.

But unlike with Trump, they also see someone who is dedicated to his family, cordial and kind to others, even in temperament, and has a seemingly genuine relationship with God.

Under these circumstances, under the binary choice philosophy and the current make-up of the Supreme Court, is Biden an acceptable alternative? I don’t think it’s a deranged to believe so.

Here’s a personal story to assist with one last point:

Last week, I joked on Facebook that there’s “a disproportionately high number of anti-maskers in steakhouse lobbies.” This came from some personal observations, as my family has done a lot of carry-out ordering from restaurants during the health crisis.

At most restaurants, at least in my town, everyone in the lobby wears a mask (per state guidelines). This includes the employees, and patrons entering the building (they can take off their masks once they are seated at their table). But in steakhouse lobbies, when I walk in to pick up my order, it’s pretty clear that the other patrons no longer care about wearing masks (despite the sign on the door still stating that they’re required). Fewer and fewer people have been wearing them, and when I went in to pick up an order last week, the lobby was overflowing with mask-less individuals, standing and sitting just inches apart, laughing and talking while waiting to be seated.

It was as if the pandemic was over.

I haven’t seen that level of disregard at Asian restaurants, or fast-food restaurants, or pizza places. Just steakhouses. Hence, I presented my anecdote on Facebook… which I figured would be good for a couple of laughs.

Well, this struck a few people I know as some kind of political statement (apparently “steak” is a dog whistle in some circles), in which they made the point that “conservatives” like them are tired of this “mask b.s.”

After reminding them that I too am a conservative, that conservatives have traditionally stood for the protection of innocent life, and that nearly a quarter of a million Americans have already died from COVID-19, I was met with laughter emojis, and the insistence that those deaths were statistically insignificant, and that people’s immune systems were doing just fine in resolving the situation.

Furthermore, at least a couple of the individuals weren’t even familiar with the basic science behind mask-wearing, believing, as one of them stated, that the “decision to not wear a mask doesn’t affect anyone else.”

In reality, if someone is unknowingly infected with COVID-19, their decision not to wear a mask absolutely affects others… potentially in some very bad ways. And based on some of the other comments I read, I’m not convinced these people — friends of mine — even understand that one can be asymptomatic and still infect people.

How is such denseness even possible eight months into this health crisis, and why is there a political stigma overshadowing it? The answer is failed messaging and failed leadership.

When the leader of the free world — a man who carries a tremendous amount of weight with his political base — regularly disseminates misinformation about a deadly virus, stokes baseless doubt in the best tools and simple practices available to mitigate that virus, and actually facilitates additional spread of that virus by organizing big social events, those who’ve placed trust and faith in him will do the same.

This is the most consequential failure of the Trump administration, on an extraordinarily important issue that should (and would, in normal times) transcend politics. For all of Biden’s faults (and there are plenty), virtually no one believes he would be spending his time in office, during the current health crisis, pretending the virus isn’t dangerous, stoking COVID-19 conspiracy theories, ridiculing mask wearing, undermining and mocking his medical professionals and scientists, calling on states to “liberate,” and holding huge in-person events in his honor.

On that difference alone, it’s not deranged or even unreasonable for conservatives subscribing to the binary choice belief to view crisis management as a transcending issue for the foreseeable future, and deciding that a Biden administration would be far better equipped to deal with it.

As the old saying goes, live by the sword, die by the sword. If the insistence is that a voter must choose a candidate from a pool of exactly two, then that voter’s decision must be respected, accepted, and not held against them on grounds of moral or ideological principle.

Again, I don’t subscribe to the binary choice. But those who do need to own it, regardless of the results.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!