American Fascism on Trial
Updated: Feb 10
An insurrectionist at the Capitol holding the battle flag for the Confederates during the Civil War (Photo by Reuters)
Former United States President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial marks a moral reckoning for the country, which the world is watching, a month after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.
The House of Representatives, the lower legislative chamber, charged Trump on January 13 with “incitement of insurrection” that endangered the lives of hundreds of lawmakers and left five people, including a police officer, dead. The Senate, the upper chamber, began proceedings on February 9 to either acquit or convict the 45th president.
“American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand by the K.K.K. type of demagoguery,” said Henry Agard Wallace, who served as a vice president under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was a presidential nominee of the left-wing Progressive Party in 1948.
That dangerous time in the United States is now.
If not Trump, it will be someone else.
However, fascism is nothing new. It is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Mussolini) Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
During his political career, Wallace saw Adolf Hitler come into power in Germany in 1933 and authoritarian governments in many countries, including Portugal, Spain and Italy.
There is comfort in knowing that we have been here before. We have plummeted to hellish depths, and we have triumphed by reaching up for our better selves.
Today’s prosecution began with a 13-minute film, which spliced together wrenching scenes of the four-hour insurrection, Trump’s addresses to his followers and his tweets that day.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” Trump wrote in a message that was later deleted by Twitter. He added, “Go home with love & love in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Representative Joe Neguse (Democrat-Colorado), one of nine impeachment managers, said that the Senate not only has the authority, under the Constitution, to convict Trump, it has the duty.
“If Congress were to stand completely aside in the face of such an extraordinary crime against the republic, it would invite future presidents to use their power without any fear of accountability,” said Neguse. “None of us, no matter our party or our politics, wants that.”
Representative Jamie Raskin (Democrat-Maryland), lead impeachment manager, spoke of his experience at the Capitol that day. He said that his family was there with him and he promised his daughter that it would not be like this again the next time she came back. She responded: “Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.”
Raskin choked up: “Of all the terrible brutal things I heard and saw that day, that one hit me the hardest.”
Bruce Castor and David Schoen, Trump’s counsel, argued a series of scattered technicalities that were united only in the attempt to separate the defendant from the heinous acts committed on January 6: that the proceedings were unconstitutional as
Trump is not in office and, therefore, cannot be impeached; that he was not given due process as the House action was too swift, and that he is entitled to freedom of speech.
The defense also argued that humans naturally need to blame someone for the insurrection and also have an emotional response to it. Finally, the defense argued that if the
prosecution wins, 74 million Americans, who voted for Trump, would be disenfranchised.
Schoen even held up Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book as emblematic of a country where snap judgments are made unlike in the United States.
After the arguments from both sides were heard, Senator Joseph Leahy, (Democrat-Vermont), called for votes on the constitutionality of the trial. The senators voted: Yea 56; Nay 44.
The body recessed until tomorrow at noon (EST).
At the end of the trial, the Senate will vote on whether Trump is guilty. A two-thirds majority is needed for conviction in the Senate, which comprises 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Thus far, voting has been somewhat along partisan lines.